Monday, October 6, 2008

Brown and Blair were not the first.

Gordon Brown, and Tony Blair, were not the first Labour leaders to continue Thatcher-like policies after they replaced a Tory leader. In fact Thatcher-like policies didn't start with Thatcher but were a throwback to a much earlier age.

For some reason UK TV is going through a period of re-examining Doctor Richard Beeching's destruction of the postwar nationalized British railways. It's about 45 years since his first report that started the axing of so much of the railway infrastructure. The Wilson government of 1964 continued his policies although in their election statements they said they would save the axed lines.

Beeching was a appointed as the highest paid UK civil servant of the time, 1961, by the conservative Minister of Transport and crook, Ernest Marples. Marples had interests in road building companies that he moved into his wife's name while as Minister of Transport, he did his best to increase road transport and decrease that on rail. He had to live the last few years of his life in the tax shelter of Monaco on the run from the UK tax authorities and various court cases started against him. He was a typical Thacherite conservative long before Thatcher's takeover of the party came about.

The person who most resembles Marples today is actually the US vice-president. I wonder if Dick Cheney will spend the last few years of his life in the tax shelter of Dubai, the new head office town of Haliburton, on the run from the US legal system?

The lesson from the Beeching reports, which led to the closure of 25% of the UK's railway mileage and 50% of the stations, were not learnt by governments up until this day. If you close basic infrastructure for purely economic reasons without taking any public need into account, it is very hard to get it back later. Whether it's railways or national health services, profit should not be the governing force. The needs of the public should have the highest priority.

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