THE BLOG
05/10/2015 12:02 BST | Updated 05/10/2016 06:12 BST

We Need a People's Britain

So today we're focusing on the Royal Mail - what should be the People's Post. But let's also talk about the people's NHS, the people's schools, and yes, even the people's prisons - run with proper accountability, proper pay and conditions for staff, and the quality of services that we need - and could afford to pay for, if we weren't shovelling public money into private hands through privatisation, and allowing multinational corporations and rich individuals to skip their obligations to pay their fair share of taxes.

Tonight I'm delighted to be speaking at the CWU's People's Post event in Manchester.

Royal Mail is a critically important institution. It must continue to provide the basic services on which individuals, businesses and our society depends - daily deliveries, local post offices and new services as technology develops.

The private owners, who benefited from the fire-sale sell-off of the public asset must be forced to maintain this.

As we saw with the short-lived private competitor Whistl (and G4S during the Olympic debacle that saw the government forced to call in the military to provide security, and the NHS having to take back Hitchingbrooke Hospital from multinational Circle because it couldn't make money out of it), the private sector cannot be relied upon to provide such essential services. The state is always going to have to be the provider of last resort - and whenever 'sufficient' profits can't be milked from cutting the pay and conditions of workers and slashing the quality of services.

An essential public service should be provided through public ownership, but before that is returned, in the shorter term protecting a workers' and public voice in its running is critically important. That's true for the Royal Mail, and for other public services and national institutions.

And as a major national institution, the standard of workers' pay and conditions must be fair and decent - not insecure zero-hours contracts and low pay as too many of those who are providing this essential service currently are forced to endure.

We've seen the result of a great victory today - won by the PCS Union and the brave and determined workers at the National Gallery. They couldn't overturn a contract for privatisation already signed, but they did win full protection for workers' pay and conditions, and a reinstatement of a union representative unfairly sacked over the dispute, so today they returned to work after a long strike.

Consequently our national treasures will be guarded by people receiving at least basically decent pay and conditions. I've met many of them on the picket lines. They're dedicated to their jobs, love the artworks they're protecting, and are expert at advising visitors on just what they might want to see - treasures themselves.

But today I hope we'll be thinking beyond the people's post, thinking even beyond the National Gallery, and thinking about the need to turn around a totally failed, ideologically driven, extreme position.

Of course our government, which lacks the mandate to make any real changes at all with the backing of just 24% of eligible voters, is pushing even further ahead in its privatisation extremism.

Michael Gove, not content with creating havoc in our schools, is now starting on prisons - planning further privatisations, even though private prisons have been, among many privatisation disaster stories, one of the standout ones.

That despite the fact that of all privatisations, the privatisation of the coercive power of the state is particularly pernicious, taking away the essential democratic controls, the democratic accountability, that should apply whenever the state is taking away the liberty of citizens or residents. Just look what happened with the tragic death of Jimmy Mubenga - G4S again.

So today we're focusing on the Royal Mail - what should be the People's Post.

But let's also talk about the people's NHS, the people's schools, and yes, even the people's prisons - run with proper accountability, proper pay and conditions for staff, and the quality of services that we need - and could afford to pay for, if we weren't shovelling public money into private hands through privatisation, and allowing multinational corporations and rich individuals to skip their obligations to pay their fair share of taxes.