Sunday, October 05, 2014

James Meek in Farageland

Meek goes to Thanet in a tremendous essay in the current London Review of Books:
There’s plenty of evidence in Thanet to support Ukip’s general proposition that local power is being diminished while the power of remote, faceless authorities is growing. But the overwhelming might of those remote, faceless authorities has little to do with Brussels. It has to do with global business and chainification. It has to do with the neoliberal political agenda: privatisation, jurisdiction-hopping, protection of inherited wealth and a shift of taxation from rich to poor. 
The Ellington and Hereson School supposedly belongs to Kent County Council, but in fact, until 2032, the premises are owned, maintained and controlled by a Luxembourg-based investment vehicle called Bilfinger Berger Global Infrastructure, which also owns hospitals in Canada and prisons in Australia. Bilfinger Berger, in turn, subcontracts the job of running the school to the outsourcing company Mitie, which, among its many other deals, has the government contract for the forced removal of immigrants through Heathrow. The school is obliged to rent its own buildings, and to pay Mitie’s charges for maintenance or alterations. ‘Every time we want to change a light bulb, it costs £25,’ Colin Harris, the deputy head, told me. 
Ellington and Hereson has been trying to break away from Kent’s traditional selective education system – the county retains the 11-plus – by becoming an academy, which would result in its being funded directly from central government. But it would still have Bilfinger Berger as its landlord. Ellington and Hereson’s bid for academy status has been held up because Whitehall and Kent County can’t agree on who should pay the rent and service charge to Bilfinger Berger’s diffuse cloud of global investors.

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