On Monday, a post from Martin Gannon, Labour leader of Gateshead Council, dropped into my Facebook feed. He asked:
"Got to ask the question. What part does ATC privatisation play here? Just wondering."
It's an interesting question, given the airline chaos of the day caused by a faulty system that came close to grounding the nation's entire air transport. Martin's reference to ATC (Air Traffic Control) is actually a reference to National Air Traffic Services wholly owned by NATS Holdings. This is a public-private partnership and was proposed by Labour in government in 1998 and implemented in 2001. The public sector retains 49% of the ownership. Though a minority, it is the biggest individual shareholder and the government retains a golden share.
Martin has had a number of political incarnations over the past 40 years I have known him. In the 1980s, he was militant Martin. In the 1990s he could out-Blair Tony Blair. From 2010 to 2015, he at least on the surface was comfortable with Ed Miliband. From 2015, his views on Corbyn were difficult to pin down (in public at least).
Martin's FB post seems to hint at privatisation being the cause of the problems that blew up on Monday. Given that NATS has been in the private sector for 20 years, privatisation as the cause seems very unlikely. He also overlooks who was responsible for the sell off - his Blairite government of which he was a super fan.
Maybe Martin has a need to shore up his support on Gateshead Council with the left of the Labour party. Attacking privatistion, or at least raising questions about its suitability to operate important infrastrucutre, could bolster his support among those Labour councillors who still pine after Corbyn. Quite what those same councillors think about Martin's pursuit of the privatisation of the management of Gateshead Council's leisure facilities would be interesting to know.