This timely book by Polly Toynbee and David Walker chronicles the ongoing war on the state, conducted by successive governments over the past four decades. The dismantling of state functions, whilst also outsourcing much of the work to the private sector.
The writers expose the lunacy of a growing population, requiring ever more from state structures, like the NHS, education and care services, whilst government continues to cut away at the base. The small state obsession of the Tories has seen spending on the state reduce from 45% to 39% between 2010 and 2017. The intention is that this will reduce to 36% over the next three years.
Toynbee and Walker offer some praise for the role of previous Labour governments concerning the spending they put into public services. However, they criticise them for not putting a more positive spin on the vital role that the state plays in people’s lives.
A recurrent theme of the book is the need for the crucial work of the state, and those who work in that structure, to be articulated and recognised.
The authors encourage state employees to be more vocal and speak out when they see things going wrong. There is though a failure to highlight the important role that trade unions could play in enabling such vocal contributions. People who feel under attack but remain dependent on the employer for their livelihoods need back up.
“Dismembered” makes a powerful case in favour of the state. Statistics abound, as to how education, care, prisons, the police and the health service have all been dismembered. However, there are also positive stories such as Thurrock Council where services have begun to be taken back in house. A tendency that is, ironically, growing as local government suffers more from the austerity agenda.
This book provides a good analysis of the decimation that has gone on, whilst pointing toward ways that things could be improved in the future. However, whilst pouring opprobrium on successive Tory governments for their idealogical dogmatism in dismantling the state, there is a failure anywhere to mention how the best chance for realising the goals set out would be the election of a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government. But reality check time, this is a book co-authored by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee let’s not forget.
- Dismembered - published by Faber price - £9.99