The public are being left without a positive vision of the state

Disengagement from the state is aiding the rise of UKIP.

Disengagement from the state is aiding the rise of UKIP

If the government was a shop it would be in the process of limiting its opening hours, selling-off the interior furnishings and doing everything in its power to put-off potential customers.

Last week the NHS took a step-closer towards being completely siphoned off to the private sector as firms were allowed to bid for £1.2bn worth of outsourced services. The delivery of welfare has already started being sold-off to the fate of the market, putting peoples’ lives and dignity at risk. Education is increasingly being left in the hands of free schools and their business-backers.

The message from the government is loud and clear: we’re no longer open for business.

None of this has led to an improved deal for the public. The shambolic handling of work-capability assessments by Atos has provided us with plenty of horror stories about what can happen when you take a vital public service out of the hands of state and hand it to a company motivated by profit rather than meeting the needs of the people it is supposed to serve.

This is not the line the government takes however. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove are public ministers given how frequently they try to tell us that the departments they have spent four years managing are failing institutions that need shutting down and selling off to be managed by yet another unaccountable private provider.

Whilst the government hopes this rhetoric will increase the public’s confidence in the ability of private companies to manage public services, the corollary is that it is also undermining public confidence in the ability of the state to do, well, anything. This is a problem that all politicians have to face-up to – whether they be private-sector evangelists or committed statists.

By cutting funding to community projects, libraries, museums, training colleges, and local councils and slashing £20bn from the NHS budget, the government is getting rid of the opportunities the public previously had to interact positively with publicly-owned, or at least government-funded services.

The result is that people are increasingly wondering how it is exactly that the state can have a constructive impact on their lives. To the public it seems that the only interaction they have with the government is on a monthly basis when taxes are taken out of their pay-check .

Without physical manifestations of the positive role that the government can play in their lives, people are feeling increasingly isolated from the state and disenfranchised. It’s not just that people don’t trust politicians anymore – they’re not even sure what it is they are for.

And now this is coming to bite the traditional parties on the backside. Analysis of the elections of the 2000s and 2010s suggests that the disengagement of the state from people’s lives has been one of the contributory factors in the rise of UKIP and of the stay-at-home-protest-voter. If traditional political parties can’t offer a progressive blueprint for the role of government then it hardly seems to matter who they vote into office.

This is in sharp contrast to the old certainties of the pre-privatisation era. Back then the public knew why their taxes were important because it was obvious: utilities and public transport were managed and delivered by the government. The state could even plan your summer holiday.

These common ties between citizen and government have since been severed and the loss of state involvement in providing vital public services has undoubtedly contributed to political apathy. It has also made it harder to defend the role of the welfare state because it is no longer quite so obvious how everyone benefits from paying into the common pot.

To revitalise the public’s engagement with the political establishment and protect the crucial pillars of government support is going to require political parties to offer up a progressive vision for the role of the state. Unfortunately for the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labour that’s going to involve completely reversing four decades of evangelising about the private sector which all began in 1971.

Talking-up privatisation has meant talking-down the government, a trend that has to end. The place this is needed most urgently is with the welfare state – before the queues at the food-banks become too long for even Iain Duncan Smith to ignore.

18 Responses to “The public are being left without a positive vision of the state”

  1. James Matthews

    Excellent analysis, Why will the Nation pay taxes if public services are so restricted and more and more private corporations are taking huge profits from these services.

  2. Leon Wolfeson

    “The Human eye is a most marvelous device, with very little effort it can overlook even the most grave injustice”

  3. Frippertronics

    This is the usual contradiction that democrats and statists engage in regularly. If democracy is such a good system because the will of the people is expressed through it, then we should all rejoice Cameron (or Blair, or Brown) is in charge and if the state is by definition an entity full of benevolence and acts motivated by the welfare of the citizens, then whatever decision the government takes is good for us all.
    You can’t tell people they must abide by the result of elections and that government orders are good only when your party wins and at the same time say the system is good whichever party wins.
    If you’re married to the idea of democracy and government and then don’t like the results, your conclusion should be that they are not fit for purpose and they should go. After all, those who say that capitalism is bad, never argue that it could be better if we changed the managers of private companies, they say that capitalism should be scrapped altogether because the system is inherently unjust.

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    So in your world, governments must not be criticised outside general elections.

    Erm….

  5. Frippertronics

    Once you’ve said that governments are needed because they act in the best interests of the people, you’re committed to that idea regardless of who is in government. If you don’t like it, it’s the whole idea of government you don’t like.

  6. Leon Wolfeson

    You’re making up false assertions.

    Moreover, you practice what you preach and live in Somalia, right?

  7. Frippertronics

    Look moron, I’m making a serious point here, so pay some attention. What exactly is my false assertion? Don’t just blab stuff.
    What has Somalia has to do with anything? I don’t think governments are legitimate and I’m telling you why, if you think differently give your reasons don’t just spout irrelevant things.

  8. Guest

    And the anti-disabled bigotry come out to play with itself, spewing hate.

    Somalia is the sort of governmentless utopia you want, fanatic.

  9. Frippertronics

    Yeah, yeah PC crap and displacement arguments. I wrote a post containing logical arguments none of them defending Somalia or any other utopia you might have in mind. You haven’t refuted any single point I made. It’s difficult to tell who’s more empty of ideas, the UKIP lot or the left wing lot.

  10. Frippertronics

    And by the way, it’s beautiful how you democrats treat ideas. If you agree, then that proves the wonders of democracy, if you don’t that proves others are fanatic.

  11. Guest

    Yes, exactly, the stuff you’re using. Your “logic” of “DO NOT CRITICISE THE GOVERNMENT”, UKIPer…you haven’t said anything of substance beyond that.

    As you then spout PC…

  12. Guest

    Keep making excuses for your bigotry.

  13. Frippertronics

    I’d like to stay and enjoy your tantrum but I have to go. You’re not only empty of arguments you’re a (let me think of another non PC insult, ah yes) retard and just as retarded as the UKIP lot.

  14. Guest

    Yes yes, of course you see pointing out your bigotry as a tantrum, run along running dog, you need to srew more hate elsewhere. UKIPers like you are just trolling.

  15. Frippertronics

    Why have you deleted your name from your replies to me below? Don’t you stand by your words. Who’s hiding now? I say there’s a contradiction in statist thinking and you call this hate. That’s democracy for you. Pathetic.

  16. Guest

    You. You’re hiding behind insults. You *actually* said the state should be absolute between elections, as you try and whitewash your bigotry away.

    Your hatred for democracy, UKIPer, is obvious.

    Thanks for signing your post appropriately – “Pathetic” – you are.

  17. Frippertronics

    Show my exactly where I said the state should be absolute. This is nowhere in my post, it’s all in your head pal, and I’m not hiding, I made a reasoned comment and you NEVER refuted any of my points and started getting snippy remarks so you deserve to be insulted arsehole. By the way, when UKIP won the election, did you celebrate the outcome of the voting? You should have as you worship democracy.
    And no, I couldn’t be further from UKIP, it’s just loons like you who think that anyone who doesn’t think like them must be crazy.
    Go fuck yourself.

  18. Guest

    That’d be your post.

    Why would I follow your practices? You keep screaming at me that your post does not exist, as you claim magical rights to be an abusive ass.

    And why would I celebrate your electoral success? They’re not my party, and I unlike you don’t worship your Dear Leader, or have to put everything into religious terms as you evidently do.

    You’re a rock-solid, core, pure UKIP voter as far as I can see. Keep screaming everyone outside their values, which you’ve espoused, is crazy. Loudly and repeatedly.

    You’re doing a “good” PR job for your party, mouse.

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