Silence of the Wolves

By refusing to engage with its critics, the government makes reason redundant.

George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 11th September 2001

This is a day like no other. For perhaps the first time since his election in 1997, Tony Blair will be forced to respond directly to our complaints. At the TUC conference he must defend the creeping privatisation of public services. For a prime minister who has managed to disregard most of the public criticism his government has attracted, it will be a traumatic experience.

Discussing an issue like this in public offends every principle of modern news management. Blair will speak only because there are millions of pounds of Labour Party contributions at stake. Otherwise, the government has learnt, the best means of dealing with your critics is to ignore them, in the hope that they will go away. It’s a policy which presents grave dangers to democracy.

The strategy has been, until now, especially effective when applied to the issue Tony Blair will confront today: the private finance initiative, or PFI. I must confess to a certain personal frustration here. A year ago, the first edition of my book Captive State was published. It showed, I think for the first time, that under PFI, hospital modernisation schemes are being rejected because they’re too cheap. Perfectly viable hospitals are being demolished and rebuilt elsewhere, solely because that’s more expensive, and hence more profitable for the private backers.

The only way the NHS can afford this is by cutting the numbers of both beds and staff: every pounds200 million spent under PFI will lead to the loss of 1,000 doctors and nurses. I showed that PFI has survived only because of institutional corruption at the heart of both the Department of Health and the Treasury.

These findings were, I fondly imagined, enough to bring down Alan Milburn, the secretary of state for health, and to cause Gordon Brown a few sleepless nights. With a certain trepidation, I waited for the backlash. And waited. The Guardian diary’s subsequent campaign to force Milburn to respond to the news that Britain’s first PFI hospital was falling apart even before it opened has also been tackled with silence. The government has discovered that the best means of deflecting unhelpful responses is not to spin them but to bin them.

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HOW TO GENERATE PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE AND ENTHUSIASM FOR THE MASS SLAUGHTER THAT IS WAR

Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy.

All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

–HERMANN GOERING, ADOLF HITLER’S #2 MAN–CHECK OUT VETERANS’ SPEAKERS ALLIANCE! http://www.vsasf.org/

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