Sunday 19 February 2023

Electrify Your Thinking

Like Shell, the previously publicly owned BP was bad, as was the Centrica that now owned British Gas. But EDF is a foreign state, as such. It has reported huge losses overall, yet its British arm is thoroughly profitable, because it is allowed to charge whatever it likes here. There is no point calling for regulation. There is already a regulator. What the hell does Ofgem do?

Rumour has it that Gazprom is planning to set up a private military company, like the Wagner Group. I am not sure how a nationalised industry would do that, but there we go. I have considered doing something similar. I might name mine Oliver's Army, after Kamm, who now sends me incomprehensible little missives that lead me to suspect that his illness has come back.

But British utility providers do not need to raise private armies. In a merger of state and corporate power to the point of physical violence, a phenomenon for which there is a word, they are already able to, for example, secure the compulsory granting of warrants to enter people's homes and install prepayment meters, a service for which they pay what is euphemistically described as a fee on each of the hundreds or thousands of occasions at a time that they had applied online, with the warrants themselves issued over the telephone.

The solution is obvious, it would be massively popular, and there would be nothing to stop it now that we were outside the European Single Market and the Customs Union. You know that Jeremy Corbyn voted Leave. Had he stuck to his Bennite guns against Keir Starmer, then there would have been no General Election until the spring of 2022, when the heavy Conservative losses to the Liberal Democrats in the Remainer heartlands of the South would have seen the night end with Labour as the largest party in a hung Parliament. Heaven knows what would have happened then, but that would have been the result.

The renationalisation of the utilities would be inexpensive compared to what we were already well into spending on prolonging the war in Ukraine, and it would cost hardly a penny compared to what we had already spent on the waste and corruption of track and trace, of PPE fraud, and so on. Yet Starmer's Labour refuses to consider public ownership, and it will soon be expelling anyone who did.

But when I say that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

The opinion polls bear no resemblance to real votes cast, and in any case even the Labour poll lead has halved since Sunak took over. Halved. The Labour vote has gone through the floor at all but one by-election since Starmer became Leader, with one of those recording Labour's lowest ever share of the vote. Council seats that were held or won under Corbyn have fallen like sandcastles, taking control of major local authorities with them. That is the bread and butter of the party's right wing, who are not otherwise the most employable of people.

With nearly two years still to go until the next General Election, Starmer's personal rating is negative not only nationally, but in every region apart from London, and it is still in decline. Starmer's dishonesty is becoming a story. He lied to his party members to get their votes, so he would lie to anyone else to get their votes. We are heading for a hung Parliament. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.

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