I hear that the government want to sell off public forests. I guess we should have known that the Tories are still hell bent on privatising the entire planet. Surprisingly, Julian Glover in The Guardian seems to think this is a good idea.
Mr. Glover’s case rests on the the assertion that “The Forestry Commission only controls 18% of Britain’s woodlands and has by no means been the best guardian of them”. In other words, we haven’t got much left and the people who are supposed to be doing it are crap.
Julian Glover is TALKING BOLLOCKS!
Firstly we should be startled to discover that the state only owns 18% of woodland and ask why and who the hell owns the rest of it? A little hunting around reveals that the owners are the same people who own the Tory party. i.e. The British aristocracy. According to an articles in The Independent and the Daily Mail it seems that 36,000 individuals, that’s 0.6 per cent of the British people, own 69 per cent of the land and if we are talking about rural land those 0.6 per cent own 50 per cent of land.
As hopeless as New Labour were it seems that they were attempting to get an understanding of who owns the land. It seems that land that has not been sold or mortgaged does not need to be registered and so land owned by aristocratic families does not appear on public records. – One has to wonder about the tax implications for the wealthy land owners!
The argument that because the aristocracy have managed to hang on to the land which they expropriate hundreds of years ago we should therefore give them ownership of the rest is farcical. Its rarity value means that we should prize it even more.
I’d go further, rather than flogging off more land, the government should be completing the survey initiated under New Labour, figuring out who owns the land and asking the question: Why, in the 21st Century, a lot of people descended from the Normans still own Britain and how they could possibly be paying correct tax if their assets were not fully disclosed.
As for the argument that the Forestry Commission are doing a bad job, well perhaps they are. But if your garage does a bad job to you sell your car? If you plumber is hopeless do you sell your house?
The fashion these days is for outsourcing and this could easily be done with all sorts of functions where the government considers privatisation the only option. If the Forestry commission are not up to scratch and there is a private company that think that they can do a better job then fine; draw up a fixed term contract, have the two organisation submit tenders and allocate the contract as you would any other. It’s not rocket science.
But to lurch to the conclusion that the land must be sold merely reveals that the Tories have the same idiotic obsession with privatisation which Britain has endured under both Tory and Labour since the rise of Thatcher. When Thatcher came to power the state owned and incompetently managed far too much. There was an argument for privatisation back then but continuing this simplistic doctrine when there’s nothing left to sell but the land itself is vandalism.
The land should stay in public ownership because it belongs to the people of this country, because we treasure it and because we want our children to own and treasure it.
Of course the government will argue that they will put in place safeguards which will ensure public access and, no doubt, in the first decade or so, this will be true.
But private capital thinks long term and has patience. I’m now old enough to understand the modus operandi of big money. They will agree to all sorts of conditions just to get their hands on the deeds. Then they will work slowly and quietly over the years. Governments will fall, MPs will leave, new people will be appointed who are unaware that the land was ever publicly owned and who are completely uninterested in some fusty old rules protecting ramblers. Political donations will be made, young naïve MPs will rise to cabinet ministers.
One day some poor rural area will be shouting for jobs and a large corporation will be looking for a place to build its latest factory and if only it were not for those silly out of date restrictions on public access. The people will be too worried about their jobs and the politicians too eager to bring unemployment figures down and bit by bit the “safeguards” will be dismantled and the only people to remember that we, the people, ever owned our country will be historians.
Not that the people will lose access completely. The marketing industry will kick in and the little patches of woodland remaining will be converted to forest themed entertainment parks complete with visitors centres, car parks with wheel chair access, pay toilets and a shopping mall with a handful of trees dotted around between the Pret-a-bloody-Mange and Star Bucks.
To continue on the topic of who owns the land the situation in London is no better. The metropolis is largely owned by the Duke of Westminster, the Earl of Cadogan, Viscountess Townshend and Viscount Portman and his family.
If we started wondering who owns the Bank of England the situation becomes even murkier. Like a fool I had assumed that it was me, the tax payer, but according The Tap not only am I mistaken but the official owners are a state secret.