Tuesday 9 August 2022

Something In The Water

Come on, then, defend water privatisation. Tell me in what way it has been a success. The arguments are then transferable to every other privatisation. The same product, via the same wires or pipes, cannot possibly cost different amounts from different companies. Never mind from the same company, but on different tariffs. The utilities are currently delivered by cartels of pretend-competitors.

Anything that cannot be permitted to fail in the marketplace, ought to be in public ownership. That in turn ought to be under a level of democratic political control that never obtained under the Attlee Settlement that merely created the Britain of the 1950s. The National Coal Board or the British Railways Board hardly defined a Golden Age of workers' control or of responsiveness to the public.

Yet among many other things, it is only in public ownership that there could ever be the desperately needed National Grid for water, which had been planned until the 1979 General Election, and before that the Budget of December 1976, had intervened. That would be especially popular in the South, where the Liberal Democrats are busily outflanking Labour on the left in response to the cost of living crisis.

Together with opposition to the war of the day, being to Labour's left economically has worked for the Lib Dems in the past, delivering in 2005 their and their precursors' highest number of MPs in the last 99 years. This is another of those times when the opportunism of the Lib Dems can be a useful barometer. They have had already had three thumping gains from the Conservatives in this Parliament, and the voters to whom they are clearly pitching must be demanding measures such as these. Those are the people among whom members of the Conservative Party live, but those members' support for Liz Truss is not representative of their hitherto true blue communities, and her own former yellow team knows it.

The space on the economic Left is open, and shame on everyone who is leaving it to the party of the Bedroom Tax. That is also the party of the war in Libya, which not a single Lib Dem MP opposed. But as scarcity, and the emerging public appreciation of the wider and deeper reality, made Britain's side-taking in Ukraine more and more unpopular, then the previously gung-ho Lib Dems will be perfectly positioned to flip. They supported every neoconservative war before Iraq, and they have supported every one since, but they are what they are and they do what they do. Again, shame on everyone who will leave that space to them.

North West Durham is hardly a Lib Dem target seat. They came fourth here last time. I had voted Lib Dem in 2017 because Owen Temple had been a leading campaigner for the Teaching Assistants against their monstrous treatment by what was then the Labour council in these parts, while the Labour candidate, though a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn's, had said absolutely nothing on the issue. But at the only hustings in 2019, I stunned the new Lib Dem candidate by calling him out when he started going on about the Coalition's Bedroom Tax. Sadly, Libya never came up. It will give me enormous pleasure to give the Lib Dems a similarly unaccustomed confrontation next time.


  1. Except on tuition fees the Lib Dems get a free ride about the Coalition.