The case for a public sector

1st November, 2013 9:15 am

When Ed Miliband announced that a future Labour government would freeze energy prices for 20 months until the market could be reformed, the big six energy bosses reverted to type; complaining that any political interference would bring about power cuts and a lack of investment.

Misjudging the public and political mood entirely, their threats and price hikes have met with fierce resistance.  Ed refused to be intimidated and,  just as he stood up to the Murdoch empire after the news broke that the murdered teenager, Milly Dowler, had her mobile phone hacked into, he has stood up to the energy monopolists.

We are in new times.  The Labour party is not going to make the same mistakes of the past: cowering before the predators, the spivs and big business.

We’ve seen last week corporate power in action when Jim Ratcliffe, the majority shareholder of the essential petrochemical plant at Grangemouth, threatened to shut it down and lock out its entire work force.  It was chilling how Scotland’s economy, its people and the businesses that relied on the plant could be held to ransom by one person and his allies in the media.

Unite pulled the company back from the brink, but vigilance will be required to fend off the predators who exercise power in the interests of the elite against the workforce.  Being outside public control, Grangemouth is a warning that this naked power is not, and will not, be used for the national good.

Of course the Tories want to make capital out of some sign of economic growth, but their claim that this means we have an economic recovery is a sick joke. Wages stagnating and prices rising does not amount to an economic recovery.  Today, the Centre for Labour and Social Studies has published a new poll with YouGov showing that 4 in 5 Britons do not feel they have personally benefitted from the recovery.  Until we can all feel it then it’s not an economic recovery at all.

The Coalition government’s austerity programme wasted three years where we could have been on track for economic growth, instead of being marooned on the shifting sands of an unsustainable recovery.

The cost of living is the battleground for the 2015 general election;  and it is one, with policies such as the energy price freeze, that Labour can and should win.

Women have been badly hit by the government’s austerity programme.  Labour’s pledge to extend hours so that a school stays open from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. will go some way to helping women get into work without the worry of the high cost of childcare.

Other policies that would help with the cost of living would be to look at the cost of transport.  In London a single bus fare by Oyster is up by more than 50%.  Outside London the profitable publicly owned East Coast Line is once again up for auction by the Coalition government.  Labour should reverse this.

I still think that as each rail franchise come up we should take back the railways into public ownership.  It wouldn’t cost anything.  It is utterly bizarre that we can’t re-nationalise essential services that are owned by foreign countries.  And the public are ahead of the politicians.  Class’s polling shows that there is strong support for public ownership for the NHS, Royal Mail, rail and energy companies.  Only 7% said they wanted the NHS to be run by private companies compared to 84%, 12 times as many, who said it wanted it to be run in the public sector.

All of these issues will be up for debate at Class’s first national conference this Saturday at Congress House.   It looks set to be the biggest gathering of progressives in the run to the General Elections.

After the banking crash, the mantra that ‘private is good public is bad’ is still being parroted yet it is so discredited.   This conference will discuss the case for a public sector.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • Bik Byro

    “Unite pulled the company back from the brink” … REALLY ???? I thought they were the cause of the problem in the first place.

  • rekrab

    Brilliant Ken, spot on and really in touch with public opinion.

  • Philip Meikle

    Interesting read Ken, personally the things which I wish you mentioned and actually had a helpful solution too would be;

    1-Why is my Labour run council tax bill going up when the next door conservative council tax is not.

    2-Why is petrol so expensive.

    Longer opening hours for schools is a nice idea, going to cost a fair bit however and run into problems with number of working hours a week a teacher can work. How is this going to be paid for?

    Freezing energy prices sounds great, but why are they so expensive in the first place? In Europe it costs half as much per unit of electricity? Likewise petrol?

    And just a small issue with one bit of your column.

    “Unite pulled the company back from the brink, but vigilance will be required to fend off the predators who exercise power in the interests of the elite against the workforce.” – No they did not, the company decided to shut down an unproductive business rather than keep it going with no reforms. Unite agreed to the reforms so it made the company a viable business (ie-it made money). Unite made a bad call and backed down to save a business.

    • Daniel Speight

      Ho ho is that Shapps bot kicking in on the up votes?

      • Philip Meikle

        … Nothing constructive to add?

        • rekrab

          Stop lying!!!!!

          • Philip Meikle

            …about?

        • Daniel Speight

          26 up votes – looks a bit unlikely doesn’t it? You should study the blog first and then control the bot.

          • Daniel Speight

            You know it must be age, but I just can’t understand how the Tories could put such a spiv as their chairman. If he got caught after he was given the job it would be more understandable, but to be a known internet con merchant and then to be given the job, well that’s really quite strange.

          • Daniel Speight

            27 up votes – 23 guest votes and 4 names that seem to be very new to LL. That Shapps bot must be doing one a minute. I say bot because surely nobody would really sit there logging out and then voting again would they?

          • Daniel Speight

            50 up votes – yawn.

          • The_Average_Joe_UK

            Daniel,

            The left has always struggled on the bloggosphere. The number of up votes simply shows that there is a significant Tory element watching the left.

            Suggesting that Shapps is busy on his PC misses the point. Moreover disqus is designed to prevent false flagging its very sophisticated.

          • Daniel Speight

            83 up votes – hope LL is making some money on advertising.

      • James Sorah

        without a doubt

    • rekrab

      No Philip? the petrochemical plant generates 1 Bn towards the Scottish economy.Unite trade union saved the plant from closure.

      • Philip Meikle

        Please specify where you “heard” this. according to the following sources, in actual fact, no, unite backed down so the plant was saved.

        “Unions agree to Ineos Plan”
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24671184

        “unions back down to save plant”
        http://news.sky.com/story/1158973/grangemouth-union-backs-down-to-save-plant

        If unite had never called for a strike in the first place (because of Ineos investigating a worker who was not doing his job) then this who mess would have been put off for a while longer, untill a loss making business was either shut down or the pensions of the workers was looked at.

      • Philip Meikle

        Not denying any of what you have just copied and pasted from Wikipedia, however if you have a union which demands unrealistic things then what do you suppose the outcome is… Think coal mines…

        • rekrab

          Stop lying. The union didn’t make any demands, Jim Ratcliffe did.
          No it wasn’t from wikipeadia?

          It’s chemicals we are talking about not coal…Jeez! Mr Green, keep up.

          • treborc1

            The Unions did not kill off coal it was a decision to use Oil and gas fired power stations, both as dirty as coal but this was a labour and Tory decision.

          • rekrab

            Yep! Thatcher’s work.

            You’ve got your Cameron fellow decrying a shop steward at the dispatch box, while behind him on the green benches sits Nigel Evans and on his front bench sits David Laws, what’s it all about Alfie?

          • treborc1

            In the end it does not matter Harold Wilson closed down a lot of mines himself to try and end up with a mining industry which would be cost effective he laid off 135,000 miners and put in place nothing at all to help the devastated communities.

            Thatcher and the Union again decided to have a fight Thatcher did not really want to kill off mining she just wanted to destroy the Union, then she decide to kill off the men and families as well.

            Coal mines and Oil Refineries nothing much changes

    • James Sorah

      Yawn, more Tory union bashing!

    • thamesmud

      “In Europe it costs half as much per unit of electricity? Likewise petrol?”
      Electricity price is below average for EU 13th out of 24 and our Gas is amongst the cheapest in Europe 21st out of 24.
      Petrol UK is 11th out of 24 but diesel is the SECOND most expensive in Europe.

      Figures from http://www.energy.eu/.

      All the other points in your post I completely agree with.

    • John Smith

      Where are electricity prices half of the UK’s?

      • treborc1

        well any place which does have electricity or gas, dam it cheap then.

        • John Smith

          So no one knows?

          • treborc1

            Well you can look at the comparisons sites some are lower some are higher Romania has a price of 0.02717 UK has a price of 0.04450 that’s for gas.

            Electricity UK price 0.17078 Bulgaria has a price of 0.08795 these are the only two which come close to it in the EU, in the world a large number are half the price of the UK, a lot c of courses are more expensive then the UK, but that not really the question is it, the Uk is now and has been for a while now one of the most expensive countries to live and it’s debt poverty which is the issues I know I pay well over 10% of my cost for power, and we do ration both gas and electricity.

          • John Smith

            So we use Romania & Bulgaria as a comparison. Would have prefered Germany or France?
            The question is why does Britain remain so expensive after such a deep ‘recession’?
            Go to Spain & see the impact on prices of a real recession

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      I agree with you, but your observation on petrol prices in Europe as half that in the UK is not true. The UK is about mid-table for petrol prices.

  • John Smith

    ‘Unite pulled the company back from the brink’
    That is interesting, most independent people thought Unite took the workers to the brink & adopted tactics to push them into the abyss

    – You have a way with words ..

    • rekrab

      Wrong John Smith. Pirate!

      • John Smith

        Wrong Unite Bastedos!

        • rekrab

          Privateer!

          • John Smith

            Commie Union bastedo

  • Ged Woods

    it’s a good plan. if everything was renationalised then that money being made from the sale of oil etc would be money made for the treasury instead of money borrowed by the treasury at high interest. it’s madness to sell of are industry to only borrow the money back from the people we sold it to.

  • noneofyourdamnbusiness

    What a load of ridiculous nonsense this man spouts. It was the disastrously inept union who put the grangemouth refinery at risk and all over a shop steward who has seen the light now and resigned.
    As for the lack of an economic recovery. The recovery has only just started so of course it hasn’t filtered down to the majority of Britains yet. As companies make more money then wages will rise. A fairly basic economic principal that could only be derailed by the election of Ken’s new best mate Ed.

    • Alexwilliamz

      And the three years?

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        After gross over spending from 1997-2007 (and in reality, since 1945, so no party political blame), and then an “epic” disaster of global proportions in late 2008, you expect a recovery to occur immediately? I’m surprised that any Government could produce a recovery after 3 years. The tories might have done, Labour under the Darling plan might have been a year later. Who cares? It is meaningless to put party politics into the mix, as the sheer mathematics are over-whelming, and the political difference about 2%.

        What is instructive is how politicians react, and the Ed Balls – let us not forget, an architect of disaster – now thinks it sensible to berate the person holding his old opinions. Truly, my chances of voting for Labour in the next election would be about 5 times higher if that man was consigned to the “failure bin”.

        • Alexwilliamz

          I await your critical review of Cameron et al jumping on the ‘look at the amazing recovery that our policies have created’ bandwagon then. Your acknowledgement of overspending since 1945 (not before that then) is something, not sure if you look at % of gdp 1997-2007 stands out as any more gross than the rest of the 20th century. I sincerely hope that the previous posters claim that wages will rise does happen.

          • TomFairfax

            That would be the amazing recovery ‘created’ by pumping money into the property market and financing cheaper consumer loans. It’s not a mystery. What is a mystery is why as a country we didn’t use the same money to finance infrastructure work instead of a housing boom (and bust post 2015). Then of course this government talks about private money contributing to HS2, despite the consistent record since the later 19th century that railway construction investors lose money. Clearly an example of dogma overwhelming common sense.
            Personally I’m sceptical of the wage growth through profits argument as well. Adam Smith observed there was no connection either.

  • Ernie_the_Droid

    Errrmmm: “I still think that as each rail franchise come up we should take back
    the railways into public ownership. It wouldn’t cost anything. ”
    On what planet, exactly?
    Mind boggling.

  • leslie48

    Its important we expose this government frequently for what it is ; Right Wing Conservative & certainly not for the majority. Just look what one very well known financial journalist wrote today and I precis it: “Most people seem over this ( The Royal Mail privatization). But I just can’t let it go …our well paid investment bankers …got it wrong by 60% not 10-15% margin of error. She makes the point anyone could have priced those shares … they were “grotesquely undervalued” …”a London based Hedge fund has made a paper profit of tens of millions”..etc.,

    So we have it a story where we have been too soft on the Tories and its not about being anti-capitalist …its about the tax paying public being robbed of millions & millions of pounds by a smug coalition and a weak media ( BBC as well) with very little anger from us. I wonder why? Because there are some around who are behind the public curve on how indignant the voters are about rip offs and disgusting inequality. The mood has changed – we must attack more not less. The D/Mail today has a front page talking about Labour & Thugs. You do not relent with these bast*rds you have a constant narrative of their real purpose.

    • The_Average_Joe_UK

      Perhaps if you spent 5minutes on google and learn’t about how the German PO went from nationalised industry to international powerhouse you might change your tune? Deutsch Post is a roaring success, I know because i work with it.

      • rekrab

        “Arbeit macht frei” as you brown shirts like to say!

        • The_Average_Joe_UK

          I’m sorry I don’t understand what you are trying to insinuate. By saying: “”Arbeit macht frei” as you brown shirts like to say!”

          IIUC Calling somebody a brownshirt is a veiled way of calling them a Nazi.

          • rekrab

            It is? shucks, what do you know! so there isn’t an historical point behind the phrase.

          • The_Average_Joe_UK

            Not biting, calling someone a Nazi is low. That just shows the kind of person you are.

          • Danny

            Calling someone F-Nuts on the other hand just oozes class.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Derek, there is a difference between reasoned debate among people who hold normal opinions one way and the other, and accusing people of being – or supporting – Nazis associated with the death camps.

          I think you are becoming a little un-hinged. You post what you like, but please do not reap the consequences of going too far in what you say about others. It gets expensive for you.

          • rekrab

            Heavens above, you’ve gone all judgemental on me.
            Are you reading things correctly?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            It is not me that you need to worry about judging your comments. It is the person to whom you addressed your comments that you need to worry about. Perhaps they do not see your comments in the same way that you do? Do you really know who they are, on LL, or what their appetite might be to throw your comments to their lawyers?

            Derek, you can argue all about what you really meant in a court of law, or more likely in an exchange of letters between solicitors, but it won’t be free. Would it not be better to avoid making such “strong” comments at all, to avert any such situation?

            I personally take your comments in a spirit that I think you mean: strongly, but not specifically.

            I feel some obscure You Tube music links coming on to “chill you” out, and to take some poison from the debate, as we have done in the past. Tell me, Nina Simone or Bob Dylan? I have listened to both today on my journey to work.

            Try some Nina: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Y11hwjMNs

            (We shall not consider The Strawbs and “Union Man”, because Unite is in recovery from a self-inflicted dive off the cliff, and now are nursing serious injuries). 😉 , as my daughter has taught me.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Derek, I made a comment which was accepted by LL, but then I edited and inserted a You Tube link to Nina Simone, and the comment went to moderation. So I will try again, without the link. But you can google “Nina Simone Feeling Good”. My original text below:

            It is not me that you need to worry about judging your comments. It is the person to whom you addressed your comments that you need to worry about. Perhaps they do not see your comments in the same way that you do? Do you really know who they are, on LL, or what their appetite might be to throw your comments to their lawyers?

            Derek, you can argue all about what you really meant in a court of law, or more likely in an exchange of letters between solicitors, but it won’t be free. Would it not be better to avoid making such “strong” comments at all, to avert any such situation?

            I personally take your comments in a spirit that I think you mean: strongly, but not specifically.

            I feel some obscure You Tube music links coming on to “chill you” out, and to take some poison from the debate, as we have done in the past. Tell me, Nina Simone or Bob Dylan? I have listened to both today on my journey to work.

            (We shall not consider The Strawbs and “Union Man”, because Unite is in recovery from a self-inflicted dive off the cliff, and now are nursing serious injuries). 😉 , as my daughter has taught me.

          • rekrab

            I don’t have a bad bone in my body but that’s me talking.

            I’ve been thinking lately that this bloging stuff doesn’t mean much.It certainly isn’t setting the heather on fire.

            I’ve been blessed with wonder twin boys, one is currently under-going military training and the other is a sixth former, their my world and my pride.

            So it’s a goodbye from me! wishing the left of politics all the success in the world.

          • dave stone

            Good luck mate.

          • TomFairfax

            Well said, but please consider. Focus on family can be 100%, 99% of the time. You don’t have to disregard everything else forever.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX8szNPgrEs

          • dave stone

            “It gets expensive for you.”

            Are you going to threaten another libel action?

      • leslie48

        If you read my comment carefully you would see I was not discussing privatization in itself but how the investment bankers ( to whom the UK state no doubt paid many millions) and the Coalition politicians got the RM sale seriously wrong by 60% which is a serious error and a ‘lost revenue’ to a govt. practicing ‘Austerity’ on the disadvantaged. I was also quoting a leading & top financial journalist who works for journals such as Moneyweek &the global FT hardly bastions of socialist journalism. Moreover if Germany has gained by Deutsch Post so be it but would it be a disproportional gain if only the shareholders have reaped the fat dividends but I leave that one open.

      • treborc1

        Yes but we are talking about the UK here not the Germans. And not forgetting the German government if I remember keeps a 25% stake in the mail and can block if it so wishes any sales or purchase.

        Not the same as an out right sell off and the government does through it bank help the German mail modernize.

        Once ours is sold off you watch the good bits being bought up leaving the mail delivery of letters in a right old mess

    • Alexwilliamz

      I have this vision that in a few years we will see the now privitised royal mail split its operations with post separated from parcels. The former will struggle and under the threat of bankruptcy will either get the bit about being obliged to deliver to every address removed or a subsidy continue to do this. Meanwhile the other company will continue to do well, many of its property assets will be sold off (it will use a different trading name leaving the royal mail tag with the other business).

  • JoeDM

    Is this article a spoof written by some sixth former?

  • WestPopeye

    I sincerely believe this deluded chap is certifiable, where are the white coated minders when you need them?

  • treborc1

    Not a lot one can say after Blair and now Cameron, to every single working class and poor person, unemployed or disabled person, the public sector is vital.

    Gas and electricity should have never been allowed to to be sold, sadly Blair would have sold it off, as he tried with Post office and Royal Mail, and he succeeded with some of the NHS and the Royal Mint.

    The Railways should be brought back in house, but I do not believe for a minute Miliband is looking at it.

    God how things have changed from the 1950/60/70 allowing mothers to stay home with the kids to now having pretend breakfast clubs which are cheap child care.

    Teachers are not going to work on at this, but you might get the unemployed to do it for nothing.

    But none of these not even the bedroom tax is going to answer the questions how will voting Labour make me better off, the cap on energy sounds OK until you look at beyond that, and nothing, getting more firms involved is what the Tories are offering. The bedroom tax should have been attacked when it was brought in now all it looks like is a vote winning and nothing else.

    It’s going to be a close election with Clegg licking his lips.

  • RaymondDance

    “Unite pulled the company back from the brink”

    You are so far beyond deluded that the dictionary does not include a word that describes how deluded you are.

  • treborc1

    lucky you used the word alleged, seems you think it means guilty.

    • loftytom

      Nope I know the meaning of words old chap. Also I do not make foolish assumptions such as “seems you think it means guilty”.
      Here to help

  • treborc1

    It would of course cost in some areas like the buying up of stock, in Wales that would not happen we have to buy new stock in some placed but in other places they have used the old trains which they took over. The stock would cost not a lot else.

  • treborc1

    John John John you old Blairite you

  • Basilthedog

    I was about to make a comment on the exact phrase you have hi lighted , but you have already made an apt response. Well done. It’s frightening how someone (say, a ‘trusting’ labour supporter) could read red Ken’s piece and be easily taken in by his words – which, in reality, are a load of misleading rubbish! We all know that Unite got this issue completely wrong and have now caved in with their tails between their legs.

  • Basilthedog

    Surely he never made the sixth form, even at Tulse Hill comprehensive!

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