Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Campaign whose time has come

Did you spend time stranded over Christmas due to the lack of train services? Are you struggling to pay your gas and electric bills? Are you frustrated by waiting for trains that never arrive, or when they do, having to stand, even though you have paid a fortune for your ticket? And are you frustrated that despite all the talk from politicians, things just keep on getting worse?

Then join the Campaign for Public Ownership.

Regular readers of my work will know that a consistent theme has been to highlight and attack the disastrous effects of privatisation, with particular reference to the railways and the utilities. Well, the time for complaining is over; now it's time for action. I'll be writing more about the Campaign and its goals in a series of articles over the next few weeks. The Campaign has a temporary website here: a new website, with full links, articles and details of how you can get involved, will be up shortly.

The Campaign for Public Ownership aims to harness the growing public dissatisfaction with privatisation and campaign for a reversal of the disastrous policies of the last twenty-nine years. The Campaign will expose the cost to the public of privatisation, and highlight the inefficiencies and profiteering of the privatised companies. We also strongly urge that the British government does not give a penny of taxpayers money to a privately owned company without the public receiving equity in that company.

The Campaign will seek to counter the negative propaganda about public ownership put about by those with a vested financial interest in privatisation.

Although the main focus of The Campaign’s activities will be the reversal of privatisation in Britain, we will work with like-minded groups in other countries, who are fighting against privatisation. We will also challenge the pro-privatisation policies being imposed by unelected, undemocratic bodies such as the European Commission, the World Bank and the IMF.

It’s time to bring to an end the Great Privatisation Rip-Off.


Roland Hulme said...

I think public ownership is a TERRIBLE idea, but British Rail and their ilk haven't exactly done a lot to support any arguement towards privatisation.

Even an old capitalist like me would like to return to the days of trains running on time and not costing $70 to go from Bristol to London.

The MTA in New York and SNCF in France show excellently run, affordable public transport and the MTA even manages to be profitable and self sustaining.

David Lindsay said...

If Northern Rock can be nationalised, then so should be the rip-off utilities and public transport network, increasingly owned from abroad while Britain laughably purports to be a sovereign state under such circumstances.

The utilities could be subjected to a permanently higher rate of corporation tax (with stringent regulation to ensure that no cost was passed on to workers, consumers, communities or the environment) until their shares became practically worthless.

In the meantime, that tax would reimburse the employers’ National Insurance contributions in respect of employees aged 25 or under, aged 45 or over, and previously unemployed for 18 months or more (payable for the same length of time as the previous unemployment). That scheme would then have first call on the utilities’ profits after nationalisation.

As for the railways, they were only ever privatised on the understanding that their profitability would continue to be guaranteed by public subsidy. Uniquely, therefore, they should be renationalised without further compensation, their shareholders having already been more than compensated enough.

The old Clause IV:iv of the Labour Party Constitution did not mention public ownership. It was phrased in such a way that those who already had that idea in their heads could read it into the text. But that idea could not be read out of that text, which spoke only of “common ownership”.

“Common ownership” could and can mean anything, especially when hedged about with such phrases as “the most equitable distribution ... that shall be possible” and “the best obtainable means”. The Webbs may have had their faults (they were eugenicists, for one thing), but they were nobody’s fools.

Public ownership is “the most equitable” and “the best obtainable” form of “the common ownership” of the utilities and the public transport network.

“The most equitable” and “the best obtainable” form of “the common ownership” of Northern Rock would be as the locally-based mutual building society back into which the Government should turn it as soon as possible after a purely preliminary and transitional nationalisation.

Nick said...

Sounds like the makings of a (single issue, socialist) political party to me Neil. Or if not, precisely how do you plan to put sufficient pressure on government to persuade them to change their ways? Revolution perhaps? (Now THERE'S an interesting idea.)

Neil Clark said...

The campaign is cross-party Nick- open to anyone who believes in the Campaign's aims. We're not talking about nationalising the corner shop, but undoing the disastrous privatisations such as the railways and the utilities.
How do we put sufficient pressure of the government? By making the Campaign a truly mass movement.
I hope you'll join us.

Martin Meenagh said...

sign me up!

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Neil. Things are bad on our railways - no question about that. But I think we sometimes forget just how bad BR also used to be...
That said, I think there is a good argument for having Railtrack (i.e. the infrastructure, repairs, signaling, etc) firmly in the public sphere.
But there's no huge reason why the train operators shouldn't be private, is there?