Power and politics
When, three weeks ago, we lamented the power companies' knee-jerk reaction to the public's fears about the price of electricity and gas, we rather hoped that this would be end of the affair.
Alas, no. In addition to threatening us with future shortages if they were not to be allowed a free rein with their price hikes, the companies have now effectively told us to get lost.
Price rises of between eight and ten per cent are hugely in excess of rises in the cost of living, especially when the public are suffering significant wage and income cuts.
Shareholders as far away as China, Russia, the USA, Dubai and many other areas of the world are not particularly worried if the UK resident can or cannot afford to heat their home.
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Nor do the companies concerned seem the least bothered whether they are popular with their "customers" or not. Take it or leave it, friend, because that's the way it is.
Ministers appear pathetically on radio and television telling us to "shop around", and get a better deal from a competitor. Do they live in the real world, one wonders? Do they understand that the hard-working father or mother does not have the time, the information, the expertise to evaluate future fuel prices and switch companies? Moreover, as soon as they have switched, their new company raises its prices.
Nor does the Government seem to have learned a shred of common sense from the experience. The Royal Mail sell-off, heralded as a triumph of privatisation, clearly involved an under-estimate of the true value of the asset.
There is now a £2 billion gap between what it was sold at and what it is worth today, a couple of weeks later. The shareholders, wherever they are, have done well. The people who owned the Royal Mail are the taxpayers: us. We have paid out of our own collective pockets for wealthy investors (and a few UK savers and mail staff) to increase their wealth.
The Government's predictable response is to deny that the company was under-valued, regardless of the facts. However, it will be argued, the service will improve.
Already, leaflets are dropping through front doors promising householders an "improved" parcel service if they will go through the palaver of registering on the web and providing a password, just to obtain the privilege of jumping the queue when they arrive with their parcels at the post office. A taste of things to come?
More likely it will improve in the way the railway price structure has improved, where South West trains now issue compulsory seat reservation tickets that bear no seat numbers and do not guarantee the holder a seat on the train.
On top of all this, the Government continues to insist on selling off the East Coast main railway line, and a leaked document indicates the future introduction of a new premium fare for business travellers, leaving those who pay their own fare in third class seats. It doesn't take a genius to realise that the result will be many fewer basic fares available. Do any of our politicians ever listen to us?