Thursday 28 March 2024

Water Works

At the point of privatisation, the water companies were debt free, as befitted the monopoly suppliers of something that everyone had to have, and the raw material of which fell out of the sky for free.

The money that those companies pay out in dividends would easily cover any infrastructure costs. Yet leakage is out of control, and raw sewage is being pumped into our rivers, our lakes and our seas. In 2022, Thames Water, typically of the sector, declared a billion pound profit in order to pay dividends, despite being £12 billion in debt.

So we are all expected to bail it out, at whatever rate happened to be demanded by the shareholders, themselves largely foreign states as such, which are allowed to own our vital infrastructure but not two small circulation newspapers and a tiny circulation magazine. They should be told to forget it. Those shares are worth what anyone else would now pay for them. How much is that?

More broadly, since dividends are supposed to reward investment, then they should be limited by the Statute Law to the Bank Rate plus risk on the capital provided by the original share issue, with customers awarded shares for all capital converted from their payments.

None of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats or the SNP would ever do that on their own or only with each other, just as they would never renationalise England's water, even though that is what the huge majority of people in England wants.

But when I tell you 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 Keir Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

I have no plan to join the Workers Party of Britain, although nor would I expect to stand against it. If, however, it did not contest North Durham, then I would. 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. We have made a start.