Public ownership of essential resources remains a dream, but is hugely popular across the political divide. According to a YouGov poll for “The Times”, half of Tory voters now want Britain’s energy companies brought back into public hands.
With the energy crisis, this should not surprise many, although some Parliamentarians would deny it. The Labour Party, however, defends proposals for the freeze on energy bills part funded by expanded windfall tax on oil and gas profits.
Public ownership of energy, water, railways and postal services privatised during the time of Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in the 1990’s was desired to increase competition. But, times have changed and the mood of the country has undergone a seismic change, let alone the Covid 19 pandemic.
Fixed prices for goods, fair wages for workers and unfair profiteering was then seen as immoral. But today, what has happened in the past year, is the so called “failure of privatisation”?
Do people want nationalisation?
Skyrocketing of energy bills have reached the tipping point. Living standards have been squeezed. Resolution Foundation says rising energy bills will push an extra 3 million people into poverty.
This is adding pressure on Boris Johnson’s successor as Prime Minister “to beef up support” from State resources.
With prices rising faster than wages, strikes are the order of the day. With winter fast approaching, there is anxiety brewing. Food banks, people forced to take shelter in public libraries and museums, to save mounting fuel bills; Museums in turn want to close on select days to conserve energy. The incoming government of a new Prime Minister after 6 September 2022 is making life imponderable.
Stagnation due to weak productivity?
Liz Truss, the front runner to replace Johnson, was quoted as saying:
“If you look at productivity, it is very, very different in London, from the rest of the country, but basically this has been a historical fact for decades. Essentially it’s partly a mindset and attitude thing. I think it’s working culture basically.”
Critics of Liz Truss say she has ruffled feathers by describing a very real problem. To claim this is due to the innate idleness of people outside London is offensive and more important for an incoming Prime Minister – economically illiterate by their standards.
Others maintain workers in London didn’t suddenly and spontaneously decide to work harder than their counterparts elsewhere.
It is well known that in the aftermath years of the Thatcher Revolution of the 1980’s and 1990’s, there was disproportionate opportunities for wealth creation both in London and the rest of the country. Boris Johnson called it levelling up.
While only roughly 15% of UK population is based in London, with the capital capturing 30% of the country’s private sector employment, in high-wage, high-skilled professions in insurance and banking fields, we cannot blame graft as being the real problem elsewhere in the country. There were regional inequalities, regional price structures, regional dialects,
among others, to name a few.
The emphasis of Governments, Conservative and Labour over the years was for government spending in the capital, while the rest of the country was short of technological and infrastructural development. Poor transport services, old industrial base in the countryside with shut down coalmines and factory closures to boot. Capital strangulation in short. These problems were hardly highlighted.
Liz Truss hopes to bring a new era to Britain, at a time of tremendous change and unease.
She has launched an astonishing broadside against the sluggishness of the British worker, suggesting they lack the “skills and application” of foreign rivals, pitting Londoners against the rest of the country, perhaps, UK against the rest of the developed world.
Wilful misrepresentation by the media?
To force Liz Truss to lay her cards open ahead of the election to high office, she has had to undergo media scrutiny, multiple meetings, hustings, and quotations which she made when she was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a post she held until 2019.
That was then, but now she has rightfully claimed there has been a wilful misrepresentation of her policy. But, she is steadfast, as at a recent Tory leadership husting in Perth, Scotland, she appeared to confirm she still believes “British workers are not as productive as they should be”.
The Labour Party’s rebuttal as expressed by Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth states,” workers across the country are working all hours to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table and provide for their families”.
No one denies the above, but the job of the future Prime Minister of Great Britain, is an envious job. Whoever manages to win the leadership race of the Conservative Party will have a number of challenges to contend with in the days and weeks ahead.
Britain’s economy is facing rocketing inflation, high expectation coupled with high debt and low growth, representing one of the tightest squeeze on people’s finances in decades, all during an energy crunch exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which has sent fuel prices soaring.