End this privatisation la-la land and renationalise the railways

Comment

Opinion Digest: Buy back the railways, pandering to northerners and embracing the mentally ill

LAST UPDATED AT 10:48 ON Wed 29 Aug 2012

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RENATIONALISE THE RAILWAYS
SEUMAS MILNE ON OUTSOURCING LA-LA LAND
Barely a month since private security firm G4S crashed and burned in the run-up to the London Olympics, we're back in outsourcing la-la land again, says Seumas Milne in The Guardian. This time, the battle is over our railways. As Richard Branson rages over the government’s decision to hand bus operator FirstGroup control of the west coast mainline, we are reminded of just how irrational our system has become. Privatisation was supposed to cut public subsidy by boosting competition, investment and innovation. Instead, costs have spiralled and contractors have grown rich. The solution is obvious: rebuild a publicly owned and integrated railway. This low-cost option will save on the £1.2bn-a-year costs of privatisation, representing a first break from the neoliberal model of the New Labour and coalition years.

FORGET THE SOUTH EAST: PANDER TO NORTHERNERS
PAUL GOODMAN ON HOW CAMERON CAN WIN THE NEXT ELECTION
Blue-collar workers in the North and Midlands hold the key to a Conservative victory, writes Paul Goodman in The Daily Telegraph. Politicians are missing a trick as they frantically debate the future of the greater South East, hurling insults at each other over the prospect of a bigger greenbelt or a third runway. But despite fears, southern Tory seats are safer than they think. Two years ago, David Cameron’s party won 88 per cent of the South East’s seats (excluding London), a figure which has scarcely shifted since 1951. Goodman counsels Cameron to shift his focus, as the election will be won or lost in the blue-collar heartlands of the Midlands and the North. Many of these voters will be ethnic minorities and women. They will be public sector workers. And what do they want? Controlled immigration, tougher court sentences and a reduced focus on green policies. The Prime Minister has ample resources within his cabinet to pander to these views. But is this southerner capable of making such a pitch to the North? Time will tell.

CHEER THE PARALYMPICS AND EMBRACE THE MENTALLY ILL
ALICE THOMSON ON THE LAST OUTSIDERS
The Paralympics may reveal that our desire to be ‘inclusive’ has come a long way, but sufferers of mental illness are still left out in the cold, says Alice Thomson in The Times. Today, we accept and admire difference; as the Paralympics show, those who have been affected by cerebral palsy, dwarfism, or spina bifida are becoming heroes to us. Yet we still have old-fashioned views about the mentally ill, believing that their problems taint us and fearing that they sully our society. In fact, many sufferers are simply struggling to establish a grasp on the realities of our complex world and surveys show that they are far more likely to self-harm than to hurt others. The problem may be hidden, but it is not as rare as we would like to think. A third of families have a member suffering from a mental illness. If we manage to achieve greater acceptance in this Olympic year then we can truly claim to have inspired a generation. · 

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