Advertisement

Union Canutes Cannot Halt PFI

The Reporting of Private Finance in British Public Services in 2002 and 2007
  • Gary James MerrillEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was one of the most contentious policies of Tony Blair’s government. In the first four years of his Labour administration, some 450 contracts had been signed for new schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other projects. Supporters argued that private finance would help rejuvenate public services and quickly compensate for decades of under-investment, while still allowing strict public sector spending targets to be achieved. Opponents of PFI, however, believed long-term cost far outstripped short-term benefit. There were also concerns about private companies becoming directly involved in health, education, defence and other parts of the British public sector. The competing arguments were forced into the open at the Labour Party Conference in September 2002. Over the period of analysis, the Guardian/Observer sided with the PFI sceptics, whereas the Daily and Sunday Telegraph favoured PFI. Although the quantitative analysis suggests the BBC gave equal exposure to both sides, its dominant discourse supported the government’s position. In a second sample period five years later, there was scant sign of mediated debate. Across all three news organisations, private finance was invariably presented in plain, descriptive terms and was framed as inevitable and non-problematic.

References

  1. Addley, E., & Fleming, A. (2002, October 2). One Think-Tank Sent 50 Staff and Closed Its Offices, the BBC Sent 200, and Even the Tories Turned Up. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, P., & Mann, N. (1997). Safety First: The Making of New Labour. London: Granta.Google Scholar
  3. Assinder, N. (2002a, September 27). Same Old Story for Blair. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2284904.stm. Accessed April 14, 2011.
  4. Assinder, N. (2002b, September 30). Blair’s Not for Turning. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2288999.stm. Accessed April 14, 2011.
  5. Assinder, N. (2002c, October 1). Blair Leaves Doubters Behind. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2290036.stm. Accessed April 14, 2011.
  6. Assinder, N. (2002d, October 1). Blair: Time to Speed Up Reform. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2289296.stm. Accessed April 14, 2011.
  7. Assinder, N. (2002e, October 3). Blair’s Turning Point. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2295789.stm. Accessed April 14, 2011.
  8. Assinder, N. (2002f, September 30). Blair Suffers Conference Defeat. BBC News Website. Retrieved from news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2288632.stm. Accessed May 7, 2010.
  9. Batt, C. (2002a, October 4). Balfour Beatty Rejects PFI Workforce Jibe. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  10. Batt, C. (2002b, October 2). Public Works the Private Way. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  11. BBC. (2001, September 3). Private Company Bonanza. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/business/2001/ppp/1504247.stm. Accessed July 5, 2011.
  12. BBC. (2002a, September 26). Brown and Prescott Maul the Unions. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2282328.stm. Accessed April 20, 2011.
  13. BBC. (2002b, September 30). What Is PFI? BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2284758.stm. Accessed April 20, 2011.
  14. BBC. (2002c, September 6). Union Leaders’ Demands. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2240692.stm. Accessed May 25, 2011.
  15. BBC. (2002d, September 27). NHS’s Private Plans. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/business/2001/ppp/1493328.stm. Accessed June 24, 2011.
  16. BBC. (2002e, February 3). Blair Takes on Public Service “Wreckers”. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1798234.stm. Accessed July 1, 2011.
  17. BBC. (2002f, October 21). Llew Smith. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2053938.stm. Accessed July 1, 2011.
  18. BBC. (2003a, February 12). In Depth—Private Profit, Public Gain? BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/business/2001/ppp/default.stm. Accessed June 15, 2011.
  19. BBC. (2003b, February 12). What Are Public Private Partnerships? BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1518523.stm. Accessed June 15, 2011.
  20. BBC. (2007a, April 18). Legionella Bug Closes School Pool. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/sussex/6568153.stm. Accessed April 22, 2011.
  21. BBC. (2007b, May 21). County to Get New Fire Stations. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/suffolk/6677507.stm. Accessed April 22, 2011.
  22. BBC. (2007c, April 17). SNP Denies Private Funding U-Turn. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6561845.stm. Accessed June 24, 2011.
  23. BBC. (2007d, May 11). Blair and the NHS: Viewpoints. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6610911.stm. Accessed June 24, 2011.
  24. BBC. (2007e, May 18). ‘£1bn Rise’ in Tube Overhaul Bill. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6667865.stm. Accessed June 24, 2011.
  25. Benn, T. (2002). Free at Last: Diaries 1991–2001. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  26. Benn, T. (2007). More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001–2007. London: Arrow.Google Scholar
  27. Blair, T. (2002a, October 1). Speech to Labour Party Conference. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2290454.stm. Accessed April 20, 2011.
  28. Blair, T. (2002b, September 27). The Courage of Our Convictions: Why Reform of the Public Services Is the Route to Social Justice. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  29. Brogan, B. (2002, September 30). Unions Poised to Embarrass PM Over Public Finance Deals. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  30. Cohen, N. (2002, September 22). Our Sky-High Arms Fiasco. The Observer.Google Scholar
  31. Cohen, N. (2007, June 10). So Much Money, but Where Are the Vaccines? The Observer.Google Scholar
  32. Craig, D., & Brooks, R. (2006). Plundering the Public Sector. London: Constable.Google Scholar
  33. D’Ancona, M. (2002, October 6). What Bill Clinton Told Me in McDonald’s at Blackpool. Sunday Telegraph.Google Scholar
  34. Daily Telegraph. (2002a, October 2). Former Chancellor Urges PFI Inquiry. Leader.Google Scholar
  35. Daily Telegraph. (2002b, October 1). Blair’s Day of Judgment. Leader.Google Scholar
  36. Daily Telegraph. (2002c, October 2). Not so Bold. Leader.Google Scholar
  37. Daley, J. (2002, October 2). How Will Blair Give Power to Patients and Parents? Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  38. Davies, B. (2002, September 8). Morris: Payback Time for the Unions. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2235846.stm. Accessed June 30, 2011.
  39. Davies, M. (2002, October 1). Blair Promises to Be Bolder. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2289788.stm. Accessed June 24, 2011.
  40. Donnelly, L. (2007a, May 6). NHS May Pay Firms for Failed PFI Bids. Sunday Telegraph.Google Scholar
  41. Donnelly, L. (2007b, May 20). Revealed: Land Clauses That Could Lose NHS Millions on Private Finance Deals. Sunday Telegraph.Google Scholar
  42. Elliott, L., & Atkinson, D. (2007). Fantasy Island: Waking Up to the Incredible Economic, Political and Social Illusions of the Blair Legacy. London: Constable.Google Scholar
  43. Elliott, L., & Wintour, P. (2002, September 30). Trust Me on Funding, Says Brown: No Retreat on PFI, Unions Are Warned. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  44. Gould, P. (2002, September 26). Liverpool’s Profitable Prison. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/business/2001/ppp/1529482.stm. Accessed July 6, 2011.
  45. Gow, D. (2002a, September 10). Pier Pressure: PFI ‘Fat Cat’ Salaries Attacked. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  46. Gow, D. (2002b, October 25). Amey Rejects Break-Up. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  47. Gow, D. (2002c, September 12). Unions Give Green Light to Early Vote on Euro. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  48. Graham, P. (2002, October 2). Heckling Our Ministers Signals That Old Labour Is Still Around. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  49. Guardian. (2001, May 16). Labour Launches ‘Ambitious’ Manifesto. Leader.Google Scholar
  50. Guardian. (2002a, September 30). Crunch Conference: Labour Finds the Going Tougher. Leader.Google Scholar
  51. Guardian. (2002b, October 1). The PFI Needs a Review: Tony Blair Must Address Party Concerns. Leader.Google Scholar
  52. Halligan, L., & Russell, J. (2007, May 20). Private Finance Initiative or Punish Freeloading Investors? Sunday Telegraph.Google Scholar
  53. Hencke, D. (2007, May 15). Sharp Business People Outwitting Whitehall Over PFI Refinancing Deals, Say MPs. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  54. Henry, J. (2007, April 29). Super-School Pupils ‘Will Be Disaffected’. Sunday Telegraph.Google Scholar
  55. House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts [HCCPA]. (2007, May 15). Update on PFI Debt Refinancing and the PFI Equity Market. Retrieved from www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmpubacc/158/158.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2010.
  56. House of Commons Library. (2001, December 18). The Private Finance Initiative: Research Paper 01/117. Retrieved from http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp2001/rp01-117.pdf. Accessed April 17, 2011.
  57. Hutton, W. (2002). The World We’re In. London: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  58. Johnson, B. (2002, October 3). I Refuse to Discuss the Currie and Major Affair: The Thursday Column. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  59. Jones, D. (2002, September 30). Union Canutes Cannot Halt PFI Tide. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  60. Jones, G. (2002a, September 30). 2 in 3 Voters Lose Faith in Blair Reform. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  61. Jones, G. (2002b, September 28). Blair Faces Union Anger on Private Finance Deals. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  62. Jones, G. (2002c, September 20). Brown Dismisses Unions’ Anger at Private Financing. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  63. Jones, G. (2002d, October 2). Blair Calls for Bold Action to Boost Services. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  64. Labour Party. (2001). Ambitions for Britain. General Election Manifesto. London: Labour Party.Google Scholar
  65. Le Fanu, J. (2007, May 21). Doctor’s Diary: James Le Fanu on the Dangers of Financing the NHS with ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ Policies. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  66. Macalister, T. (2002a, September 12). Carillion Looks at Amey’s Discards. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  67. Macalister, T. (2002b, September 12). NHS to Hand over 4,800 Acres for Housing. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  68. Maguire, K. (2002a, September 6). Unions to Take on Labour over PFI. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  69. Maguire, K. (2002b, September 11). Blair Lashes Left as He Calls for Partnership. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  70. Maguire, K. (2002c, September 8). Unions Square Up to Brown for Fight on PFI. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  71. Maguire, K., & Kettle, M. (2002, September 5). Monks Warns Blair Over ‘Bottling Out’. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  72. Marr, A. (2002, September 27). Labour’s Unity Challenge. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2284516.stm. Accessed June 24, 2011.
  73. Mathiason, N. (2002, September 15). Universities ‘Must Sell Off Assets’. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  74. Millward, D. (2002, September 10). ‘Privatisation Pay Pirates’ Cost Public Millions. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  75. Monbiot, G. (2001). Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain. London: Pan Books.Google Scholar
  76. Monbiot, G. (2002a, September 10). Our Real Opposition: We All Depend on the Unions to Confront Privatisation and the Advance of Corporate Power. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  77. Monbiot, G. (2002b, October 29). Do as We Say, Not as We Do: While Lula’s Brazil Kowtows to the Free Market, Blairs Britain Only Pretends to Do So. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  78. Monbiot, G. (2007, September 4). This Great Free-Market Experiment Is More Like a Corporate Welfare Scheme. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  79. Morris, B. (2002, September 29). This Knife in Our Heart. The Observer.Google Scholar
  80. Osler, D. (2002). Labour Party PLC: New Labour as a Party of Business. Edinburgh: Mainstream.Google Scholar
  81. Osler, D. (2011, January 25). Private Finance Initiative: An Idiot’s Guide. Retrieved from http://www.davidosler.com/2011/01/private-finance-initiativean-idiots-guide/. Accessed April 17, 2011.
  82. Pollock, A. (2005). NHS Plc: The Privatisation of Our Health Care. London: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  83. Pollock, A., Dunnigan, M., Gaffney, D., Macfarlane, A., & Majeed, F. (1997). What Happens When the Private Sector Plans Hospital Services for the NHS: Three Case Studies Under the Private Finance Initiative. British Medical Journal, 314, 1620: 1266. Google Scholar
  84. Ramsay, R. (1998). Prawn Cocktail Party: The Hidden Power Behind New Labour. London: Vision.Google Scholar
  85. Rawnsley, A., & Ahmed, K. (2002, September 29). The Blair Interview. The Observer.Google Scholar
  86. Roberts, D., Halligan, L., Hennessy, P., Watts, R., Pfeifer, S., & Garside, J. (2007, May 6). Does Brown Have a Trick Up His Sleeve? Sunday Telegraph.Google Scholar
  87. Schifferes, S. (2002a, September 30). Labour’s Public Row Over Privatisation. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2287783.stm. Accessed April 20, 2011.
  88. Schifferes, S. (2002b, September 19). Unions to Tackle Blair on Privatisation. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2268042.stm. Accessed June 23, 2011.
  89. Schifferes, S. (2002c, September 12). Unions Flex Their Muscles. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2251651.stm. Accessed July 3, 2011.
  90. Scott, J. (2001). Is PFI a Good Deal? BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/business/2001/ppp/1496562.stm. Accessed June 16, 2011.
  91. Smith, C. (1999). Making Sense of the Private Finance Initiative. Abingdon: Radcliffe.Google Scholar
  92. Sopel, J. (1995). Tony Blair: The Moderniser. London: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  93. Sparrow, A. (2002, September 27). Brown Defies Unions on Private Cash for Hospitals and Schools. Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  94. Stone-Lee, O. (2002, October 1). Delegates Cheer Public Service Drive. BBC News Website. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2290515.stm. Accessed June 28, 2011.
  95. Toynbee, P. (2002, September 27). If You’re so Sure, Prove It. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  96. Travis, A., & Maguire, K. (2002, September 26). Majority Backs Fire Strikes and Wants PFI Halted. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  97. Unison. (2011). Private Finance Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.unison.org.uk/pfi/index.asp. Accessed April 17, 2011.
  98. White, M. (2002, September 28). Unions Rebuff Blair on Services: Last Ditch Talks to Avoid Public Sector Defeat at Conference. Guardian.Google Scholar
  99. White, M., & Walker, D. (2002, September 27). Blair Warns on Public Services. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  100. Whitfield, D. (2001, June). Private Finance Initiative and Public Private Partnerships: What Future for Public Services? Centre for Public Services. Retrieved from www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/…/pfi/pfi…ppp/what-future-pfi-ppp.doc. Accessed June 24, 2011.
  101. Wintour, P. (2007, May 14). Brown Brands Rivals’ Policies Unaffordable. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  102. Woodward, W., & Inman, P. (2007, June 6). Brown Cheers Union with Vow on Private Equity Tax Loopholes. The Guardian.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of RoehamptonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations