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Off the rails

DSC00208Will there be a HS2 or not? Many are asking the question will the money be well spent?  Clearly the costs and the benefits of such a system are difficult to assess. But certainly the taxpayer who is going to pay for it is unlikely to be better off.  And certainly Wales will see little benefit.

Once built this strategic project will be used to generate not a return for the taxpayer that has paid for it but will be shunted to the private sector.

The recent history of all governments is that when it comes to strategic services the private sector is favoured. New Labour will not raise its head on public ownership, even though it might make perfect sense.

Take for instance the East coast railway. Because the private sector made a hash of the franchise and walked away from it. back into public ownership it came. Now it’s a popular reliable service and paid back £208 million to the taxpayer.

Users of the service want it to stay in the public sector but this ideologically driven government have put this the most successful rail service back out to tender.

There is every chance that the bid will be won by the French. Yes, a railway service owned by the state but not this state. So this profitably line might well help the taxpayer again but it will be the French taxpayer not the British taxpayer.

Labour is missing an opportunity by not shouting for it to stay where it is and how popular it would be with all those commuters in all those marginal seats if they were to declare that when the current rail franchises end back into state ownership they would come and the beauty of it, at nil cost.

The commuting public want it, and if the East coast line is anything to go by the taxpayer will be better off.  Regular train users are fed up at the rip-off of high fare’s to put money into the greedy paws of the private sector. Even though it would be popular there’s not a peep from Miliband. His silence on the issue is deafening.

It’s the private sector that got the country into the crisis when the deregulated banking sector and the City in general played fast and lose and in the end the ordinary working man and women had to pay the price. Yet, Labour’s response is bring back regulation, not state control.

Miliband has certainly made himself popular by declaring a price freeze on the energy companies. But how much more effective would it be if these companies were taken back into publicly ownership. It became clear from their evidence to the House of Commons that these energy companies have formed a cartel and are acting in their own interest at the expense of the consumer.

There clearly is no competition, in which case let them become state monopolies. Far better than a temporary price freeze.

As this Almanac pointed out when talking about the decision on nuclear energy, it seems that the current government’s policy is state ownership, but other states and not the UK. A mixed economy requires some state ownership, Attlee and the post war Labour government recognised this. They talked about the commanding heights of the economy. How much longer should  people be ripped-off before public utilities are brought back into public ownership. The challenge for Miliband is not to hide from the title red-Ed but to live up to it.

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3 Responses to “Off the rails”

  1. Eiria Reynolds says:

    Talking about a possible cartel by the energy companies, I tweeted this morning that I’d never heard of Ovo Energy until the select committee reports in yesterday’s papers. How come they’ve never come up on any comparison web site I’ve used for electricity prices? There must be other small operators out there as well who undercut the ‘big 6′. My suspicions on collusion deepen I’m afraid.

  2. kp says:

    All getting too left wing for me.

    Did Margaret Thatcher teach you nothing? It’s competition that is needed, lots and lots of it!

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