Power options and privatisation
It is sad when the Leader of the Opposition is forced into threatening to cap the price rises imposed on their customers by the gas and electricity power companies.
The Prime Minister has already made ineffectual attempts by his promises of clearer billing.
Regrettably, his initiative is still far from achieving its goal, as the companies include tariff complications as they hide prices and increase profits.
Instead of reassuring us that they have our best interests at heart, the power companies react by threatening us. The lights will go out, power stations will not be built, the future will be bleak and cold if they are stopped from maintaining their inflated profits and rewarding their shareholders ever more handsomely.
One leading shareholder accuses Ed Miliband of economic vandalism. He does not pause to consider that the ever-rising prices that confront working families trying to live on less than the living wage is the real economic vandalism. The incontrovertible fact is that the privatisation of the power sector has been a disaster, and an expensive one. No political party appears strong enough to be able to withstand the pressure of the vested interest.
By an interesting coincidence all this occurs in the week when British Telecom is alleged by the powerful Public Accounts Committee to have exerted an unfair monopoly position in the development of rural broadband.
Once more, we are confronted with a situation where competition is supposed to ensure that the public is not ripped off. But when contracts are awarded, under a process devised by the notorious Jeremy Hunt of Murdochgate, the score is British Telecom: 44; the opposition: nil. And on top of this, coverage of only 90 per cent is promised, and nobody is told who the unlucky isolated 10 per cent will be.
So what is it with privatisation that makes it apparently as inevitable as gravity? The assumption, as with the Royal Mail service, is that it is a universal force, like death and taxes. Like gravity, it unavoidably pulls in only one direction, and simply because it exists, everyone is expected to fall for it.
Are we ever given a reason for privatisation, other than that the entity about to be sold off has not already been privatised? The railways are endlessly more expensive, private security companies repeatedly fail to do what they are paid to do, but lessons are never learned.
So when Ed Miliband is accused of "going backwards", we might consider whether in principle going backwards is such a bad idea.
None of us wants to see a retreat into more state interference in our lives. But equally it is time our rulers accepted the wastefulness of their muddling predecessors and gave some thought to standing up to the pitiless market. Speak truth to power.