Sunday, 11 August 2013

Vindicated By Subsequent Experience

Bryan Gould writes: 

Nick Cohen's excellent piece [in stark contrast to this week's execrable effort, but let's not go into that] on the private water companies struck a chord with me ("Water companies and the stench of exploitation").

In September 1989, during the passage of the privatisation legislation and when I was shadow trade and industry secretary, I was asked by Ann Taylor (who was leading for the opposition in the standing committee) to write a piece for the Financial Times setting out Labour's position. The aim was to give potential investors pause when they came to subscribe for shares in the flotation to come.

I duly did so, explaining (as I recall in my subsequently published memoirs) that an incoming Labour government would expect a privatised water industry to see "its first responsibility to investment in a safe and efficient industry, and secondly, to maintaining fair prices to consumers. Only once these two needs had been met would there be any room for private dividends".

I refrained from saying anything about returning the industry to public ownership, since it was clear that this commitment was being quietly dropped.

I subsequently made a similar point in an interview and was astonished to find myself repudiated by Neil Kinnock the following day, and the subject of some vitriolic press treatment, apparently engineered by the Labour party's press office, including a half-page article in the Sunday Times, portraying me as a Jekyll and Hyde figure, complete with drawings showing my face being transfigured under the influence of a full moon!

It is little comfort to find that my recommended order of priorities has been vindicated by subsequent experience. 

Bryan Gould
New Zealand

1 comment:

  1. Nick Cohen will always be remembered for his legendary drunken Orwell Prize appearance (available on Youtube)in which he lambasted Peter Hitchens and Peter Oborne as "utterly mediocre men who've never risked anything in their lives...the type of people who would have made prefects at your school" and called Jenny Abramsky "an appalling woman".

    Only for Hitchens to pipe up from the audience and suggest Cohen should put down the drink and stop embarrassing himself.