We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“Planet Earth calling Conservative Party!”

The story so far: The Labour government which promised to nationalize the railways in 1996 has regulated (with massive public support) the private railway companies to the verge of bankrupcy. History repeating itself in other words, as this is exactly what happened between the 1880s and 1945.

What is new is the Conservative Party’s reaction? If I understand this correctly, the Conservatives believe the following:

  1. The government may have acted illegally in bankrupting Railtrack and in the accounting rules which allow the debt of the new company to remain outside the national debt.
  2. Costs are spiralling out of control in the absence of any shareholder value or accountability.
  3. Therefore the Conservative Party promises to leave things as they are for the foreseeable future.

I note that the world’s best railway is privately owned (Japan) and that the French government is likely to move towards privatisation soon. Having pioneered privatisation the Conservative loss of nerve means that we could soon live in the only country in the developed world without a capitalist railway system. Unless of course that the Labour government decides to re-privatise, as it is doing with the Channel Rail link.

Conservative ‘spokesperson’ Tim Collins also has this dire threat for the government:

“When there were future accidents, he would not be calling automatically for a public inquiry or saying it was the fault of the government.”

The government must be quaking in its boots with mirth. The railway fiasco of its own making will not be challenged by the opposition. The Tories are committed to matching Labour’s wasted billions.

And this is the first transport policy of that new leader with the nervous cough the Tories elected a year ago… what compromises would they make if they actually won? (aargh!)

4 comments to “Planet Earth calling Conservative Party!”

  • qsi

    The French still haven’t gotten around to finishing the first round of privatizations of companies like Air France, Gaz de France and various car manufacturers (I think the state still holds a big stake in Renault). The militant public sector unions will have to be defeated first before any privatization of the SNCF can be contemplated.

    The unions have also been sabotaging the Dutch railways, which had been privatized a few years ago. Punctuality is suffering and there is a lot of griping about the railways, with constant interference from politicians too. However, the Tories’ stance on the railways is unsurprisingly gutless. I do wonder whether they’ll ever recover their sense of purpose.

    (Disclaimer: I never use the railways. I hate trains.)

  • Your Conservatives are painful to watch.

  • I read this story on a Virgin train going from Penrith to Edinburgh. It was running 30 minutes late. When I went to the shop to buy a beer and two sandwiches, the very working-class Glaswegian attendant who would certainly have been a union militant twenty years ago said: “The sandwiches are complimentary for you today sir. It’s the least we can do to make up for the late-running train”.

    Bring back British Rail?

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Clarke is pointing to the real difference between now and the the 1970’s.

    In the 1970’s there was a statist Labour government (although after 1976 it was possibly less statist than the government we have now), but then the Conservative party OPPOSED the government.

    The terrible depression and hopelessness in the Conservative party is the real problem.