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Editorial: We don’t need parasites like Serco in our lives

“CHINLESS wonder Tory MP hosts Commons feast for corporate fat cats” is the kind of story that in normal circumstances would barely make it to the pages of the Morning Star on a slow news day.

That a newbie MP with a precarious hold on his constituency is busy building a network of corporate connections is routine. 

That this character won this seat was something of a surprise, having previously contested it and finishing third. And who can predict the future career prospects of a Tory MP in these tumultuous times? 

This one is a bit unusual in being something of an arriviste number-cruncher, having gone to a comprehensive school and graduated from an estimable but unfashionable university before making his career at Tesco and Sainsbury’s. 

The boy needs all the help he can get in a party where a private education and personal connections with the haut bourgeoisie are still the best guarantee of a seat at the top table.

Parliament is a notorious nest of private patronage and business lobbyists, lubricated by subsidised drink and vittals and the kind of corporate cuddling that sees ministers and MPs in each other’s intimate company. It is, regrettably, not the exclusive practice of Tory MPs.

But when Perthshire MP Luke Graham is outed wining and dining Serco it is newsworthy precisely because Serco exemplifies the kind of commercial practice that would give casino capitalism a bad name if it hadn’t already acquired one.

Serco is most definitely in your life, even if you are not detained at her Majesty’s indefinite pleasure in one of its detention facilities. 

Bike it in London on a Santander cycle and your money drops into Serco’s bank account, take a rail journey in many parts, wear an electronic tag, stay in hospital in Norwich, Leicester or Plymouth and the NHS, and thus you, pay Serco. 

In the Midlands your children’s school is likely inspected by Serco and in many places your council pays it for collecting refuse.

This is but an partial summary of its current British operations. Serco, of course, also makes money abroad and for a while operated airports in Iraq under the highly lucrative US and British military occupation of that country. 

And the list of contracts it has cocked up, enterprises it has disorganised and functions in which its over-hyped expertise proved grossly inadequate for the tasks in hand provides an exhaustive topography of public services handed over to the private sector.

Serco is but one of these service companies that claims expertise in everything but instead offers off-the-shelf solutions to complex problems of social organisation and public service. 

Future generations will ask in incredulity how we allowed vital public services, functions like the administration of justice, border security, our transport systems, water, gas and electricity — without which civilised existence on our intermittently cold and damp islands is impossible — to end up in the hands of a bunch of unaccountable corporates.

They will want to know how it is that instead of the revenues that accrue from many of these utilities returning to improve Britain’s infrastructure, raise standards of public service, improve our transport and administer our civil services more effectively that they are appropriated as a revenue stream for a bunch of parasitic capitalists and financial oligarchs.

Part of the answer lies in the imperatives emanating from the EU, principally since the Maastricht Treaty that public expenditure be limited arbitrarily and policed by the European Commission. But the root is capitalism’s increasing inability to make profits any other way.

It is time to get these parasitic entities out of our lives.


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