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Sunday, October 12, 2008

We're all nationalisers now (except Peter Hain)

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the government is preparing to take majority stakes in Britain's banks and put government appointees on the boards.
Well if I, or anyone else, had advocated such a measure earlier this year, we would have been denounced as a 'Stalinists' or 'hard-leftists'. Now we have the 'New Labour' government planning such measures- and the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats supporting them. Funny old world, isn't it?

Meanwhile, former Cabinet Minister Peter Hain (above) is warning that the government must take "emergency steps" to prevent rail, water and power companies going bust in the global economic storm.

The Observer reports:
Hain, the former work and pensions secretary, urged the government to draw up reserve powers that could be used in the event of a major utility collapsing and taking vital services with it. His words follow jitters in the City about the damage a freeze in bank lending could do to some companies that have borrowed heavily to invest in infrastructure.

But while Hain wants a government bail-out of the companies concerned- he doesn't want public ownership.

He said it was 'moonshine' to think that the railways or private utilities could be re-nationalised but the government needed a contingency plan to re-capitalise critical services if necessary, just as it did last week by offering to buy shares in banks.

In other words, Peter Hain would like to see taxpayers money pumped into our railway and utility companies- without the taxpayer receving equity in those companies.

Billions of pounds of taxpayers money has already been handed over to Britain's railway companies since the disastrous privatisation of 1996. Hain seems to want even more taxpayer support. He claims that renationalisation is 'moonshine', but how come all the other countries in the EU- and indeed in the rest of the world- operate very well (and indeed much better than Britain) with publicly-owned railways?

Now that the Sunday Telegraph has informed us that nationalisation is no longer a 'dirty word' (not that it ever was in these parts), it's time to step up our efforts to get the railways and privately-owned utility companies renationalised. If the government can nationalise the banks, why on earth can't they bring back British Rail? Renationalisation is not 'moonshine', Mr Hain. It's plain common sense. And it's going to happen.

Peter Hitchens writes:
If we have all these billions available to nationalise the banks, could we just possibly also find a few bob to do the equally urgent and necessary job of renationalising the railways? The Tories could use the opportunity to admit that privatising BR was one of the most bottomlessly stupid things they ever did.

Hear, hear!


robin carmody said...

Hear hear!

NuLab have nothing left to lose. If they brought the railways, and certain other utilities, back into public ownership they could at least secure themselves a legacy to be proud of, whatever may happen after them.

robin carmody said...

And why am I not surprised that Hain disses genuine socialists by using a word that instantly evokes the Southern US?

David Lindsay said...

What about the victims of Farepak, who do not require anything like half a trillion pounds?

In the case of the utilities, the bailout should take the form of buying up the controlling interests at what little they are still worth, and then subjecting them to democratic political control in perpetuity.

As for the railways, they were only ever privatised on the understanding that profits would be guaranteed by enormous public subsidies. They have already been more than bailed out, and their shareholders have already been more than compensated. A simple, cost-free transfer to public ownership should be effected immediately.

And I do not mind in the least that an Australian bank, which also owns Yorkshire Bank, owns the Clydesdale Bank, which in turn issues notes used for purchasing purposes within this United Kingdom. Since the Queen is Australia’s Head of State, that is not, to my mind, the foreign ownership of an institution which so issues.

But my mind is hardly that of our lords and masters, on this or on almost (if almost) anything else. If they can permit this, then, to their own way of thinking, they can and would permit HBOS or the Royal Bank of Scotland to be owned by an American, or Spanish, or Burundian, or Peruvian bank, which would then have and use the power to issue bank notes within this country, however difficult to spend those notes might be in most of it.

Not for the first time, I am bound to ask how any conservative can be opposed to public ownership, since public ownership is British ownership. Does the Right believe in national sovereignty, or not?

From the Left, I do. Which is why I believe in public ownership.