About Me

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I am an East Riding of Yorkshire and Bridlington Town Councillor elected to represent Bridlington South Ward. The views and posts on this site are my personal views and are not those of East Riding of Yorkshire Council or Bridlington Town Council. If you become a member of this Blog I will expect you to adhere to posting comments that are not offensive or illegal.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Glass Ceiling - the myth of Lady Thatcher

Interesting debate about how the glass ceiling was supposedly broken. It was indicated to me that the Conservatives choose on ability and Labour on quotas. Well in that case this would indicate that not many Conservative/LibDem women have ability. Or was the ceiling not really broken?
Party keyConservative 
Liberal Democrat
Cabinet of the United Kingdom[9][10]
Prime Minister
First Lord of the Treasury
Minister for the Civil Service
The Rt Hon. David Cameron MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Lord President of the Council
The Rt Hon. Nick Clegg MP
First Secretary of State
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Rt Hon. William Hague MP
Chancellor of the ExchequerThe Rt Hon. George Osborne MP
Chief Secretary to the TreasuryThe Rt Hon. Danny Alexander MP
Secretary of State for the Home DepartmentThe Rt Hon. Theresa May MP
Secretary of State for DefenceThe Rt Hon. Philip Hammond MP
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
President of the Board of Trade
The Rt Hon. Dr Vince Cable MP
Secretary of State for Work and PensionsThe Rt Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP
Lord Chancellor
Secretary of State for Justice
The Rt Hon. Chris Grayling MP
Secretary of State for EducationThe Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local GovernmentThe Rt Hon. Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for HealthThe Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP
Leader of the House of Lords
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Rt Hon. The Lord Hill of Oareford PC
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsThe Rt Hon. Owen Paterson MP
Secretary of State for International DevelopmentThe Rt Hon. Justine Greening MP
Secretary of State for ScotlandThe Rt Hon. Michael Moore MP
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate ChangeThe Rt Hon. Ed Davey MP
Secretary of State for TransportThe Rt Hon. Patrick McLoughlin MP
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Minister for Women and Equality
The Rt Hon. Maria Miller MP
Secretary of State for Northern IrelandThe Rt Hon. Theresa Villiers MP
Secretary of State for WalesThe Rt Hon. David Jones MP
Also attending Cabinet meetings
Minister without PortfolioThe Rt Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC MP
Leader of the House of Commons
Lord Privy Seal
The Rt Hon. Andrew Lansley CBE MP
Chief Whip in the House of Commons
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
The Rt Hon. Sir George Young Bt CH MP
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Paymaster General
The Rt Hon. Francis Maude MP
Minister of State for Government PolicyThe Rt Hon. Oliver Letwin MP
Minister of State for the Cabinet Office
Minister of State for Schools
The Rt Hon. David Laws MP
Minister without Portfolio
Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party
The Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP
Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Senior Minister of State for Faith and Communities
The Rt Hon. The Baroness Warsi PC
Minister of State for Universities and ScienceThe Rt Hon. David Willetts MP
Also attends Cabinet when ministerial responsibilities are on the agenda
Attorney GeneralThe Rt Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The New Right - 1979 or 2013?

1979 or 2013? I wrote this in 1995

In what ways has the New Right criticised the nature of democratic decision making?  How do these criticisms compare with the marxist critique of democratic decision making?

            When the Thatcher Government came into power in 1979  there was a distinct shift from a corporatist style of government which had been in place for most of the 60s and 70s.  This was seen as a move in the 'right' direction by the members of the New Right who were concerned about how and by whom decisions were being made. The New Right were critical of the way that interested groups were being given a privileged position in the decision making which they felt should be left to the democratically elected representatives. They further felt that there were processes in the democratic decision making that were instrumental in contributing to the stagnation of the economy by their over interference.  This, coupled with what they saw as an encroachment of their individual freedoms and the over bureaucratic unelected state machine,  made them look hard at areas which could be brought into line with their liberal ideas.  Those who followed the marxist tradition of thought on the other hand saw the nature of democratic decision making predominantly in the light of capitalism and how it  effected the proletariat. They further looked at  how decision making  seemed to be working in the interests of capitalists.  The undermining of local government, deregulation, and QUANGOs were also areas which are criticised both by the New Right and Marxists but for very different reasons.

            The way that Central Government was being influenced by a minority of powerful interest groups was the first area of criticism by the New Right.  They felt that the economy was being stifled by the corporatist style of government which enable groups like the TUC and CBI to influence government policy making.  The liberal thinkers of the New Right felt that the markets should decide how the economy performed and not government intervention.  The tendency of allowing minority groups to influence the way that regulations were formulated which would effect the economy were also criticised by the New Right who put in place union controls to counterbalance the favoured status enjoyed in the 60s and 70s. By curbing trade union power, introducing ballot voting and the decline in a strong manufacturing base , the New Right were able, to a certain extent,  to follow their liberal instincts and allow the economy a free rein.

            The marxist view on the nature of democratic decision making does, like most of the marxist views, have its roots firmly planted in the economy and how the existing capitalistic economy remains in place.  The interaction between the government and interested groups, especially the TUC seem to indicate that the working class would have a voice in the decision making.  This was not found to be so as the economy went into recession and world events came in to play  the welfare plans seem to be scaled down.   The fundamental aspects of a capitalistic society remained as did the inequalities and it was noted by marxist thinkers that the concessions that were made in the corporatist style of government did nothing to redress the balance. This was illustrated by Arblaster in 1987 who gave details of an incident whereby the Labour government in 1975 allowed a foreign oil company to build a refinery on Canvey Islands in Essex despite the local opposition.  This incident showed to the marxist thinkers that the capitalistic concerns  seem to have great bearing on decisions made by democratically elected governments.  So as the end of the 70s approached both the New Right and the Marxists looked towards a different style of government 

            The next area of decision making which was attacked by the New Right was what they saw as an over bureaucratic unelected state machine, run by the civil service.  The New Right felt that this unelected body was incapable of  acting in the public interest but were more concerned with the building of power bases which needed ever increasing number of staff to maintain. By building up their own 'empires' and complicating the workings of government the New Right felt that the necessary changes needed to rectify the economy and society as a whole would best be done by the democratically voted in representatives and not entrenched civil servants. The criticism of the civil service went further as the New Right felt that they employed compromise and consensus when decisions were being made instead of positive action.  The emphasis on a minority representation was not something that the New Right wanted but what they saw as an elected majority making decisions. With the need to free the economy and allow the individual to attain his own potential whilst curbing the excesses of the state seemed to the New Right paramount.

            Those with a marxist view did not see the New Right's  criticism of unelected bodies involved in running the state in quite the same way.  Whilst the New Right went ahead with dismantling many of the QUANGOs which they saw as unelected bodies regulating and inhibiting liberal freedom, the Marxists criticised the placement of  New Right thinkers in senior positions in the QUANGOs which remained.  This further illustrated to them that capitalist interests would be at the forefront and plurality of interests would be ignored.


            The New Right  next turned its attention to democratic decision making by the elected representatives.  The New Right, in liberal tradition, felt that by voting for a certain individual to represent them (on a reduced scale) this would  leave the individual to determine his own destiny with the resources he has (voting with their pockets).


            " The free enterprise economy is the true counterpart of democracy:..."

            (Powell, 1969, p.33)


            The New Right felt that the elected Government should restrict itself to maintaining individual rights, (especially to own capital),  law, order and defence, and maintain a limited welfare state designed to help not permanently maintain the less able. The New Right were disappointed during the 80s with the increase of state spending on welfare provision and remained critical of  what they saw as the 'Nanny State'. 

            Although unable to curb what they saw as representatives placating the voters by increasing welfare provision, the New Right were able to change some functions of democratic decision making . By combining the liberal traditional view of 'rolling back the state' with the conservative tradition of strong central government the New Right aimed its next criticism at the nature of local government decision making.  With the scaling down of local housing provision, and the right to buy policy one area of local control was taken out of local hands and placed in central government hands.  The move to reduce the local government involvement in education by the introduction of grant maintained schools and a National Curriculum allowed the New Right to curb what they saw as excessive democracy by the masses.  By removing areas of democratically elected local representatives the New Right had followed their principle that 'democracy is to adults what chocolate is to children: endlessly tempting; harmless in small doses; sickening in excess' (Marquand 1988, p78)

            This  move from local control of the education system and the introduction of a National Curriculum led to some writers in the marxist tradition to look at how the central government would be making decisions on what would be best for the future capitalistic workforce.  The idea that the government, who would look to the interests of the capitalists,   would be able to determine what working class children would learn which in turn would then enable them to produce workers that would benefit the capitalist economy. They saw this as another way in which the interests of capitalists were being catered for to the detriment or even exploitation of the masses.

             The nature of democratic decision making in Britain has come in for criticism from both the New Right and from the perspective of the marxist tradition.  The New Right see the state as something which needs to be dismantle in part and reassembled in a way which would lead to less interference in individual rights whilst maintaining law order and defence.  They further wanted to see the economy operating from a more  liberal than conservative tradition, unhindered by regulation. It was also important to them to reduce the welfare state provision to more of a safety net than a way of life.  Those who think in the marxist tradition criticised  the democratic decision making but cited different areas which they felt had tipped the balance further toward capitalism. The deregulation of industry which left the worker vulnerable and the centralisation of government which reduced the power of local government.  The New Right and Marxist both looked at the unelected bodies and saw different things, the New Right wanted  a scaling down, the marxist saw the placement in senior positions of New Right thinkers, which they see as a further move to the right with the gap between the haves and the have nots.  Many of the criticisms that have been put forward by the New Right have been acted upon but some areas like welfare provision appear to be a target to be aimed at.   


What has changed?

I wrote this essay in 1995 as part of a Foundation Degree in Social Science. While thinking about the death of Lady Thatcher I decided to read it again all these years later. It is still as relevant today as it was then.

A dose of market reform 

Can market-orientated reforms bring about better efficiency within the public services and what are the drawbacks which would negate any gains made?  By looking at the article in the light of two different models of competition, Schumpeter's dynamic model of competition and the neoclassical model of perfect competition the gains and losses can be seen as certain parts of the public services move from public to private.

 Joseph Schumpeter looked at the capitalistic  market as an ever moving, ever changing entity fuelled by innovation and technological advances.  As a new means of production was created the old was destroyed. This Creative Destruction was seen in a biological way in that the market was constantly evolving into something more efficient, cost effective with better quality products.    The entrepreneur is always looking for a new development ahead of his rival which will improve efficiency and ultimately reduce costs.   Efficiency would also be gained from economies of scale which would involve enlarging the area of operations to produce more output whilst keeping overheads (buildings, equipment) fixed.

The neoclassical model of perfect competition looks for efficiency in a very different way to Schumpeter's model.  Unlike Schumpeter's model of dynamic competition  this market works on the principle of perfect balance or equilibrium which is achieved when supply is equal to demand and the markets are left to determine the price as supply and demand fluctuates.  The market is said to be productively efficient when the unit costs are at a minimum given the technology available.

 Given the two models of competitive markets outline above, how have certain parts of the public services exposed to market-orientated reforms achieved gains in efficiency?  The  health authorities, who Julian le Grand first mentions, have made some efficiency gains within their cleaning services which have been put out to commercial tender.  Bradford Area Health Authority tended out it cleaning contract in the 80s and after first failing in a bid, the contract was eventually awarded to a Taylor plan, an Australian Company, who held contracts  cleaning hospitals around the world.  By working on a global scale, efficiency gains have been made on a local scale, through almost Fordism practices of work, with the knowledge of scientific management and  economies of scale in bulk purchase of machinery and raw materials. By keeping the costs to the minimum given the technology available the company can be productively efficient as well.

 Efficiencies could be made in community care, but as suggested by le Grand, the voluntary organisations used in preference to less informed providers are not using their advantageous position and lack motivation to make a profit.

Julian le Grand moves on in his article to two areas of the public services which seem to have improved efficiency.  The grant maintained schools have, through competition, begun to amass a surplus in finances with the balance being maintained between provider and supplier.  Whilst the GP fund holder has been able to make use of his substantial knowledge to capitalise on the market and use his funds more efficiently.

 All the areas of public services which have show a marked improvement in efficiency or a potential for efficiency seem to indicate that market-orientated reforms have had a measure of success. But,  Julian le Grand also argued in his article that for each success in efficiency there has been a price to pay.

 he  health authorities who tendering out the cleaning contracts may still maintain that cleanliness within their hospitals meets their standards but the workforce found that the re-negotiation of their contracts with Taylorplan meant that their rates of pay remained the same but their terms of contract and hours differed greatly under their new employer. 

 Julian le Grand also showed in his article his concern over the possible 'cream-skimming' that might occur in both grant maintained schools and GP fund-holding practices.  Grant maintained schools seem to be heading for success in terms of efficiency but by setting up another tier to the education system, fee paying (private),  grant maintained  and public domain schools there could be a tendency to select pupils who are academically bright to influence league tables in order  to remain competitive.  Children who are perceived to have behaviour problems may  be 'de-selected' as they would be seen as taking up teacher time.

GP fund holders have been cited in the article as another area of possible 'cream-skimming'.  Doctors could refuse to take patients with a poor medical history, the elderly or potential health risk patients (smokers, the obese).  They could also been seen to be adding another tier to the private/public heath care we have now,  aiming to compete with the private sector whilst leaving behind the public sector to inferior medical care.  Although Julian le Grand points out in his article that this form of selection is not at present happening, as the market reforms become more widespread the need to become productively efficient and   eliminate drains on the fund-holders resources, could mean that  the temptation becomes irresistible.

 Externalities, or social costs, are another area which left Julian le Grand unable, in his article to determine if  provision of welfare services are better kept out of a quasi-market situation.  With the presence of externalities  within the welfare service, it (the welfare service), could  never be efficient because the social cost would outweigh the benefits. One area were the externalities seem to be evident was is in the contracted out cleaning.  Not only have the workers suffered by possible loses by being made to work shorter hours they could find themselves unable to claim sickness benefit, maternity benefit and unemployment benefit and in the long run pensions.  The patients also appear to be the losers as the staff are tied to strict work practices and tender loving care doesn't seem to have been budgeted for when tenders were made. Another area of social cost not counted in the efficiency equation is the amount of unpaid work done in the private domain as state provision of community care is reduced or put on the market. This is especially prominent in the area of looking after the elderly and sick who are no longer nursed in  state homes but are placed back into the community.

Other areas of the market-orientated reforms in the public services could also be cause for concern as the markets are left to decided who should benefit from it. Professor Amartya Sen argued that markets generally reflect the unequal balance of power in society and it could be said that by putting public services in the competitive market place it becomes open to inequalities.  The three tier system of education and selection can indeed inhibit life chances of children who are not able to benefit from the financial surpluses that are mentioned in the article.  The patient who attends clinic at a non-fundholding practice may be denied certain treatments or be put to the bottom of the list at a hospital as fund-holders are able to buy into the system quicker or indeed use private clinics for their patients. The inequalities of the benefits of market reform may also be more evident regionally as some areas would be privileged to better services.

The article by Julian le Grand  stated that the changes to public services have not as yet failed but it does seems that any efficiency gains have been made at a cost.  In the case of the health authorities the workers have suffered through new work practices introduced by the global corporation Taylorplan along with the patients who no longer received unbudgeted services.  Any gains to be made in community care have been negated by the use of  volunteer groups unmotivated by profit.  The article does go on to concede that efficiency and savings have been made in two areas, education and GP fund-holders but  reservation was show at possible 'cream-skimming' which could slowly creep in as market competition bites.  Areas of creative destruction and areas of equilibrium within the public services may causing efficiency but the externalities and inequalities  could tip the balance. The article 'A dose of market reforms' seems to indicate that reform in the public services may indeed turn out to be a bitter pill.