Posts Tagged ‘Brian Gould’

Tories Planning Possible Temporary Nationalisation of Energy and Railways

September 28, 2021

This is very, very interesting. After Conference voted yesterday for the nationalisation of the electricity companies, it seems that the Tories are considering a similar measure, if only as a temporary solution to the energy crisis. Johnson’s government is considering intervening to ensure that no customers are cut off as firms fail. According to the Independent, the business secretary, Kwesi Kwarteng, is not only holding talks with the energy companies and has spoken to Ofgem, the energy regulator, he has also indicated that he is prepared to appoint a temporary administrator for firms the government may take into public ownership as a temporary solution to the crisis.

And the government has also taken over Southeast Trains. Well, the government has been briefly taking over failing train companies for the past ten years or so, because John Major’s privatisation of British Rail is a far greater disaster than anything served up in the former company’s cafes. This latest nationalisation is also going to be temporary, but it shows how much of a failure privatisation has been. The only solution is to nationalisation the utilities permanently.

But Starmer’s Labour leadership really doesn’t want to do that. Mike’s article quotes a tweet by the mighty Aaron Bastani parodying a statement by the ghastly Rachel Reeves as saying that it’s not the right time for nationalisation and that the demand for it is ‘ideological’. As Bastani says, it’s precisely the moment. And as Mike says, it shows that Labour is now more right-wing than the Tories. He goes on to say:

‘Reeves made herself and her boss sound like idiots – which, of course, they are.

Their protestations – her yesterday (September 27), him on Sunday (September 26) – weren’t pragmatic, no matter how often they tried to shoehorn that word into their comments.

They were ideological – exactly what Reeves and Starmer were trying to deny.

But it’s a stupid ideology.

Starmer’s entire policy is: butter up the business bosses. He is convinced that if he sucks up to the fat cats, they’ll support him into government after the next election. He is wrong for a very obvious reason.

Business leaders really are pragmatic. They can see that Brexit has created serious issues for the energy firms, for fuel supply and in other areas due to knock-on effects, and they acknowledge that their firms would be better-off under government control for the duration of the problem.

In other words: by lurching leftwards towards privatisation, Boris Johnson has done the right thing.

And where does this leave Starmer (and Reeves)?

Absolutely nowhere. Not only are they out of touch with party members; they are out of touch with the entire United Kingdom.

Absolutely. I remember talking to a co-worker years ago when the Financial Times was still a Liberal paper. It had run an article which definitely supported a publicly-owned NHS. I found this odd considering that the FT is the paper of financial capitalism, and so I’d expected it to be in favour of privatisation. My co-worker explained to me that the firms supplying the NHS would not want the Health Service broken up, because dealing with a single, large company is much easier for them.

There was absolutely no opposition from the Tories when Labour nationalised electricity in 1945, or indeed any of the utilities, because they knew very well it made absolute, perfect sense. It was nonsense having Britain’s electricity produced by a number of separate, competing companies.

And Ken Loach’s magnificent documentary, The Spirit of 45, shows that the same problems existed when the railways were split up into different companies. The trains running from the different companies along their separately owned pieces of track frequently intersected with each other and caused delays. And the first thing that was got rid of after nationalisation was the massive clearing house which consisted of well over a hundred different clerks passing chits to each other. These were representatives of the different railway companies passing notes billing each other for the use of their different pieces of track and train services.

Privatisation is a mess. It doesn’t work, and has been repeatedly shown not to work.

But Starmer and the appalling Reeves don’t want to admit that. Part of this comes from the fear they’ll get from the right-wing press, with whom Starmer is desperate to ingratiate himself. And much of it is ideological. I can remember a piece by Brian Gould in one of the left-wing broadsheets back in the 1980s talking about how he tried to argue with the-then Labour leadership that free market economics was not the solution. But it was pointless. Their eyes were all aglow with the light of the religious convert. Starmer is the heir to Blair and Thatcher.

And Thatcher’s privatisations were also considered bonkers at the time. I’ve been told that the orthodox view taken by economists in the 1970s was that, while free trade and private industry worked perfectly well in many sectors, it could not be applied to the utilities. Thatcher’s privatisations were a shocking divergence from mainstream economics, whatever nonsense the Tory press and media talked boosting them. As for Monetarism, Robin Ramsay, the main man behind conspiracies ‘zine Lobster, has said that when he studied economics in the 1970s Monetarism was considered so ludicrous and stupid lecturers hardly considered it worth mentioning. Monetarism noisily died the death in the 1990s, with even the Daily Heil publishing articles arguing it was a failure.

Starmer and Reeves are well out of touch. Now is exactly the right time to demand nationalisation.

But they’re too blinded by Thatcherism to realise this. Or perhaps it would be better to use a phrase of the Iron Lady’s about her opponents: they’re ‘frit’.

Thatcherism is a failure. It’s pure Zombie economics. It should have died years ago, but it’s kept stumbling on by right-wing politicians like the Tories and Starmer out of a mixture of ideology and desire to benefit the rich rather than the working class.