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Saturday 3 January 2015

George Galloway - You’re A Clown

One politician who is not backward at coming forward to expound his views is George Galloway, at present representing Bradford West for the Respect Party. He would probably not dissent from being characterised as an unreconstructed socialist, unashamedly on the left, and in favour of some parts of the economy operating under state control. One area where he favours state control appears to be transport.
George Galloway MP

That would be the transport that once upon a time was wholly controlled by Government bodies, so Galloway’s targets are the rail industry, and air traffic control. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, what has been sold off is not the whole of what was publicly owned, and in the case of Network Rail (NR) the company is now unequivocally back on the Government’s books.
That does not deter Respect’s sole representative in the Commons, who took to Twitter yesterday to berate anyone even considering sell-offs to be anything but A Very Bad Idea Indeed: “Some things are too important to be left to the private sector: air traffic control and railways are among them. £5bn in tax money to spivs”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. So do go on.
And on the subject of the railways, he does indeed go on: “time for a change on Britain’s railways. Public ownership, investment, price control, diversion of freight from road to rail. Common sense”. But NR is already in public ownership, most investment in the railways is done by NR, many fares are regulated - or controlled, if you like - and an expansion of rail freight is under way. Perhaps he has another card to deploy?
Well, yes he has, and the ultimate Galloway trump card is safety: “we pay 5 billion to private operators to run a service we used to own and they run it more expensively, less efficiently, and more dangerously”. Hold it right there. We can debate costs and measures of efficiency, but “more dangerously”? Someone is having a laugh here. We need only to look at the last decade’s safety performance for air and rail.

The expectation for any rail or air passenger is that they will complete their journey in safety. So let’s look at rail first: in the past ten years, there has been just one on-train accident fatality, in the Lambrigg derailment of 2007. There were none in the two years before that, and there have been none in the seven years since. For the past decade, rail travel in the UK has been exceptionally safe.

Perhaps Galloway has a better case when it comes to Air Traffic Control (ATC)? After all, there was the recent shambles when part of the country’s airspace had to be closed after a computer problem. There was indeed, but safety was not compromised. We haven’t had a serious air crash in the UK for many years, and certainly not one where ATC was at fault. Methinks the Respect MP protests too much.

Private sector involvement is always up for debate. Safety is not. End of story.


ejh said...

But NR is already in public ownership, most investment in the railways is done by NR, many fares are regulated - or controlled, if you like

What's your point? Are you happy that the rail companies remain in private hands? Is this a proper way to run a national rail service? Is there nothing to complain about regarding fare increses by these private companies? What?

Tim Fenton said...

My point is that Galloway has not done his homework.

I note that you make no mention of safety, which was his main point, and mine.

Grumpy Old Liberal said...

Selective dates. If you'd taken a date from 10 years after privatisation then you would have come up with a hugely higher number (80+). It was precisely this disastrous safety record that led to the u turn about the infrastructure being privatised. The government renationalised it because the private sector could not deliver a safe railway.

Tim Fenton said...


Had I gone back to the ten years before the sell-offs, that would have included Clapham and several other rail accidents that included fatalities.

In fact, that too gives 80+ fatalities, or 85 to be precise.

SteveB said...

The government renationalised Network Rail last year because it had to due to an accounting issue which not only broke EU rules but affected UK Credit Ratings and exchange rates all over the world. In it's previous "not for profit" company status the debt was guaranteed by the state but not included in national debt figures. There was so much it could have affected the markets if properly declared.

And that previous "not for profit" Network Rail came about because Railtrack PLC went bust.

Both financially based decisions.

Railway Safety is actually managed and enforced mostly by government agencies such as RAIB and ORR (often with the help of Trade Union reps/ whistle blowers). If the senior managers of Network Rail were the last line in safety I wouldn't want to live near a railway never mind travel on it!

ejh said...

I note that you make no mention of safety, which was his main point

Not in the section which I was dealing with it wasn't, a section after which you yourself stated: "Perhaps he has another card to deploy?". So we were both well aware that it was not the safety issue being addressed there.

Tim Fenton said...


And your point is?

Galloway still hasn't done his homework. Much of his wish list is already in place, although no doubt he would like to see cheaper fares - how that gets paid for is not told - and the banishment of private sector operators.

But ideological purity is never a good way to proceed, whether from a left or right wing perspective.

ejh said...

My point is that your response to his argument wasn't really the entirely convincing dismissal you may have hoped, because you were waving it away rather than addressing it. Incidentally, when you say "much of his wish list is already in place" - what's the meaning of "already" in that sentence?

Tim Fenton said...


What's the meaning of "already"? What's the meaning of "meaning"? What's the meaning of "arguing the toss for the sheer hell of it"?

This is becoming pointless and will be treated accordingly.