What nationalising energy companies would cost – and how to do it

UK could bring National Grid and retailers in-house and build public renewable energy, says ex-Labour policy chief

Andrew Fisher

17 August 2022, 12.01am

Image of banknotes and a prepayment meter key by Lydia, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Republished from OpenDemocracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

When 62% of Conservative voters want energy run in the public sector, it’s fair to say the left has won the argument (75% of Labour voters agree, 68% of Lib Dems).

Yet public ownership is opposed passionately by the Conservative government, while the leader of the opposition has said he is “not in favour” of it – despite his election on a platform that committed to “bring rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership to end the great privatisation rip-off and save you money on your fares and bills”.

Public ownership is on the media’s radar, too. When Labour leader Keir Starmer announced his policy to freeze bills this week, he was asked why he wouldn’t also nationalise energy, replying that: “In a national emergency where people are struggling to pay their bills … the right choice is for every single penny to go to reducing those bills.”

But so long as energy remains privatised, every single penny won’t. Billions of pennies will keep going to shareholders instead.

The energy market was fractured under the mass privatisations of the Thatcher governments in the 1980s. It contains three sectors: producers or suppliers (those that produce energy), retailers (those that sell you energy), and distribution or transmission (the infrastructure that transports energy to your home).

It is important to bear this in mind when we’re talking about taking energy into public ownership. We need to be clear about what we want in public ownership and why.

By 2019, Labour had a detailed plan on how to do this – worked up by the teams around then shadow business and energy secretary Rebecca Long Bailey and then shadow chancellor John McDonnell. The plan is not the only way, but it illustrates what exists and how one could go about re-establishing a public energy ecosystem, run for people not profit.

The recent TUC report shows the cost of nationalising the ‘Big 5’ energy retailers – British Gas, E.ON, EDF, Scottish Power and Ovo – to be £2.8bn, which would go on buying all the companies’ shares. That’s a lot of money, equivalent to more than the annual budget of the Sure Start programme in 2009/10 (its peak year). But it’s a one-off cost, not an annual one.

And it’s not like the current privatised system doesn’t have its costs: since June 2021, the UK government has spent £2.7bn bailing out 28 energy companies that collapsed because they put short-term profits ahead of long-term stability – companies like Bulb Energy. We have spent billions of pounds already to get nothing in return. So £2.8bn is not a large amount of money to pay to gain these assets, rather than just bailing them out.

The big energy retail companies made £23bn in dividends between 2010 and 2020 according to Common Wealth, and £43bn if you include share buy-backs. What you choose to do with that surplus in public ownership is another matter: you could use it to invest in new clean energy or to lower bills or fund staff pay rises, rather than subject your workers to fire-and-rehire practices as British Gas did last year.

Labour’s previous plan also involved taking the distribution networks – the National Grid – into public ownership. This would end the profiteering at this level, too – with £13bn paid out in dividends over the five years prior to 2019. As Long Bailey said at the time, we need “public driven and coordinated action, without which we simply will not be able to tackle climate change”. Like previous nationalisations, the purchase of the grid and distribution networks could be achieved by swapping shares for government bonds. By international accounting standards, the cost is fiscally neutral as the state gains a revenue-generating asset, which more than pays for the bond yield.

The final part of the plan – and the most complicated – is production and supply. It would be impossible to nationalise the oilfields of Saudi Arabia or Qatar – and for good reasons we should want to leave fossil fuels in the ground, anyway, rather than contest their ownership.

And so what Labour proposed in 2019 was a mass investment in new renewable energy generation projects, with the public sector taking a stake and returning profits to the public. For example, under the ‘People’s Power Plan’, we proposed 37 new offshore wind farms with a 51% public stake, delivering 52GW alone by 2030, equivalent to 38 coal power stations. There were additional proposals for onshore wind, solar, and tidal schemes, as part of a 10-year £250bn Green Transformation Fund, which included other schemes like the Warm Homes insulation initiative.

Labour’s new shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has promised a similar level of investment – a £28bn a year climate investment pledge.

Any surplus energy would then be sold on international markets, with a People’s Power Fund – a sort of sovereign wealth fund – to deliver public investment in local communities’ social infrastructure: a genuine levelling-up fund, perhaps.

Many people will say this can’t be done, but of course it has been before. The 1945 Attlee government nationalised energy and successive Conservative governments – including those of Churchill, MacMillan and Heath – were happy to have a nationalised asset. Harold MacMillan famously accused Margaret Thatcher of “selling off the family silver” when she privatised state industries.

When I was born in 1979, the National Coal Board, British Gas and British Petroleum were all publicly-owned or majority publicly-owned companies. Between them, they were the major suppliers of our energy. Our gas bills came from British Gas and our electricity bills from our regional electricity board (in my case Seeboard, the South Eastern Electricity Board), and coal and oil fuelled our power stations.

The regional electricity boards had been brought into being by the Attlee government’s Electricity Act 1947, when electricity companies were forcibly merged into regional area boards and nationalised. The Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 and the Gas Act 1948 had together brought energy into public ownership.

Seeboard was privatised in 1990, and later became part of EDF Energy – ironically, the nationalised French energy company, whose profits from the UK’s stupidity are used to subsidise French consumers.

The French government has now fully nationalised EDF (previously it was 84% publicly owned), and household energy bills rose by just 4% this year – compared to over 50% in the UK and a forecast 200% by January 2023.

If Starmer doesn’t want to listen to me (or his own commitments from 2020), perhaps emulating the centrist Emmanuel Macron in this instance would be palatable?

From the depletion of fish stocks to the burning of the Amazon, profit has proved a failed regulator for use of our natural resources

In his later years, Robin Cook argued: “The market is incapable of respecting a common resource such as the environment, which provides no price signal to express the cost of its erosion nor to warn of the long-term dangers of its destruction.”

From the depletion of fish stocks to the burning of the Amazon, profit has proved a failed regulator for use of our natural resources. The market has also failed to decarbonise at pace, or to end the scourge of fuel poverty.

On the media this week, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband said Labour is “continuing to look at what the right long-term solution is for our energy system”. It is up to all of us to campaign for that solution to be public ownership – whether that’s from within the Labour Party (like me) or from the outside.

Republished from OpenDemocracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

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Labour MPs hand letter to Belmarsh prison governor demanding meeting with Assange

Labour MPs hand letter to Belmarsh prison governor demanding meeting with Assange

LABOUR MPs Richard Burgon and Diane Abbott handed a letter to the governor of HMP Belmarsh today, demanding permission for a meeting with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

The two socialist MPs joined Mr Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris outside the prison to deliver the letter on behalf of a parliamentary working group.

Mr Assange remains locked up at the Covid-hit south London prison pending an appeal after he beat an extradition case brought by the US.

The letter is signed by 20 parliamentarians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy, John McDonnell, Zarah Sultana, Caroline Lucas, Claudia Webbe and members of the House of Lords.

Julian Assange is a ‘journalist of distinction’ & has to be set free, Jeremy Corbyn tells RT outside UK’s Belmarsh Prison

Julian Assange’s case should’ve ended as soon as a UK judge denied his extradition to the US, Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour leader, told RT as he joined other MPs to demand a meeting with the WikiLeaks founder in a London prison.

Corbyn described Assange as “somebody that has stood up for truth around the world. He’s helped us to understand what happened in Guantanamo Bay and so many places around in the world where the US military has done terrible things. We think that he’s a journalist of distinction.”

FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart

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Boris Johnson, COVID and the Media

The Pursuit of Truth – Or Not Boris Johnson, COVID and the Media Dorothy Byrne 21 June 2021

When a man lies often enough, every now and then, something he says will turn out to be true. And so it happened with Boris Johnson. He said our country would be “record-breaking” in this pandemic and it has been, twice over: at one point, the UK had achieved the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths per capita in the world; and it also suffered the worst fall in GDP in Europe.

How have the Prime Minister and his Cabinet fared when it comes to telling the truth about the greatest disaster our country has experienced since the Second World War?

Privately, radio and television journalists will reel off what they think are the most outrageous lies of this Government’s Coronavirus catastrophe – how it claimed that it was simply ‘following the science’ or ‘protecting the NHS and care homes’ or awarding contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) sensibly. 

Back in autumn 2019, I condemned Boris Johnson as a known liar in the annual MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival. A number of my colleagues in broadcasting disapproved strongly even though they did not dispute the accuracy of my statement. That the Prime Minister is a notorious liar is accepted among journalists in the UK across the political spectrum.

Johnson was sacked by The Times early on in his career for an untruthful front-page story which he misattributed to his own godfather. As the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels’ correspondent between 1989 and 1994, he regularly disseminated ‘Euromyths’. He was sacked in 2004 as the Conservative Party’s vice-chairman and Shadow Arts Minister for dishonestly assuring the then leader Michael Howardthat reports he had had an affair with a columnist were an “inverted pyramid of piffle”.

Yet, almost all broadcast journalists believe that they should not use the ‘L’ word about Johnson.

Why? Firstly, it’s rude and we’re British. Secondly, they fear that the public could thereby think we have lost our impartiality. Well, that’s a risk we have to take. I am indeed not impartial between truth and lies. The public doesn’t have the wherewithal to research the facts about politicians’ statements and therefore judge accurately whether they are telling the truth. They rely on us for that. 

Ministers have made untrue statements over and over again and it has worked for them. A significant proportion of the population has accepted these statements. This is partly because they sympathised with a Government dealing with a plague without precedent for which it could not be blamed. But this is also because broadcast journalists have not said that we have been lied to in significant ways.

Back in 2019, I was complaining about Johnson’s lies concerning EU rules on condoms and kippers. What halcyon days they were, pre-pandemic, when a politician lying about fish seemed like a big deal. Now, he and his Cabinet lie about life and death. Previously, his lies were specific. Now, they are are so vast in their ambition that they create a parallel universe.

In the past, lying politicians were held to account on television and radio. They were not named as liars, but their statements were analysed forensically in lengthy interviews. Not any more.

During the Coronavirus crisis, we have not seen Boris Johnson putting himself up for the sort of grilling to which, for example, Margaret Thatcher subjected herself over the Falklands. Johnson and senior Cabinet ministers have failed to appear on Newsnight or Channel Four News, the two programmes with the time to carry out in-depth interviews. 

A leading broadcast journalist told me: “They just don’t believe in accountability. In one of the great crises of modern times, where is the major interview with the Prime Minister? I can’t think of a time when a Prime Minister in a crisis has put himself up so little. There is no proper scrutiny. It’s a complete contempt for accountability.” 

This is an edited extract from ‘Populism, the Pandemic and the Media: Journalism in the Age of Brexit, COVID, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson’ to be published on 24 June 2021 by AbramisDorothy Byrne is a television journalist and producer. She was formerly editor-at-large at Channel 4 Television, where she previously served as head of news and current affairs

Continue ReadingBoris Johnson, COVID and the Media

Theresa May lies, John McDonnell says Labour to dump Universal Credit

Theresa May lies claiming that austerity is over at her Rich Scum party speech.

 

Labour will scrap universal credit, John McDonnell declares

“I think we are moving to a position now where it is just not sustainable. It will have to go.”

Mr McDonnell accused Prime Minister Theresa May and the Tories on Saturday of lying in their claim to the public that austerity has ended.

The shadow chancellor, who spoke at an anti-austerity rally in Pudsey, Leeds, told the Morning Star: “We will be holding the government to account. This is the third time in two years the government has announced the end to austerity.

“The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that 75 per cent of welfare cuts are still to come, so if they are serious about ending austerity, in his coming budget Philip Hammond should get up and announce the end of cuts to welfare.

“He clearly will not — and we will be exposing what is effectively a lie.

“Three times they have announced the end, yet there are still cuts coming to welfare benefits, school budgets and local authority budgets in particular.”

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Sunday comment

John McDonnell spoke at the gathering of the global elite known as the World Economic Forum at Davos. It’s no surprise that he was there, he’s expected to be UK’s next Chancellor with an agenda that is Socialist instead of the usual pro-Capitalist.

The privatisation of our public services has been national failure- it’s time to take back control

Labour vows to nationalise railways, water, energy and Royal Mail ‘We’re taking them back’, vows Shadow Chancellor

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/26/john-mcdonnell-davos-uk-business-wef-voters

The shadow chancellor said he came in order to tell a few home truths on the “avalanche of discontent and resentment out there”.

“Why did I come? Firstly, I got an invitation and I thought this was the time to check just what the discussions were, what the assessments being made by individuals were and what the feelings were about the future. Secondly, to deliver a message that people need to look at things like the result of Brexit and address the issues that caused it,” he said.

“Davos is what I expected. It embodies the criticisms I have made of it in the past. I don’t think the people here have any comprehension of the contempt in which they are held.”

McDonnell said the corporations represented at Davos had been getting away with “industrial-scale tax avoidance” while ordinary people struggled. “They just don’t get it. It’s the system and it needs to be changed,” he said. He said the big auditing companies should have the equivalent of a doctor’s Hippocratic oath so that they did not encourage firms to avoid tax.

“Ten years after the crash, after 10 years of austerity and 10 years of paying their taxes and seeing public services cut, people have had enough.”

Looks like he’s simply telling it like it is.

Theresa May has a long history of attacking online privacy and censoring the internet. It’s usually about so-called extremist content or terrorism with them being conflated.

It’s a little different this time – along with Brazil and Macron’s France, May is seeking to censor so-called “fake news”. I was surprised at this one – ‘fake news’ is the rock-like polymath genius-in-chief’s wonderfully genius method of dismissing competing narratives. The Colossal Intellect simply dismisses irritating truths and anything that would portray His vast intellect’s policies or behaviour in a poor light as fake news. Surely people recognise Rigid Deep Thought’s simple rejection of any criticism as fake news is a transparent – though brilliant of course as He is – simple I’m not going to talk about that because it makes me look stupid ploy. It’s a We’ll just ignore that because it’s not worth bothering my Vast Intellect with sort-of-thing.

It can’t be about anything other than censorship and by calling it fake news they’re being totally transparent about it. The government proposes to decide for you which competing narratives you have access to in the style of Trump. What’s not censorship about that? We already have huge censorship thanks to NeoCon scum like May. I think that the way it works is that Tech Giants get to avoid vast amounts in tax if they support the government.

Competing narratives from alternative media from particularly Socialist websites like World Socialist Website and even David Icke are getting hit hard. I’m not keen on David Icke but he has a right to be heard. Then there are Holocaust Deniers who actually don’t normally deny the holocaust and instead mostly argue that it’s scale is exaggerated. They have a right to be heard.

I’m hoping to post more often. Environmental Health later

x

Continue ReadingSunday comment

Labour Party Conference

UK’s Labour Party conference is being held at Brighton this week. The UK Labour Party is currently enjoying huge support and is likely to form the next government. UK’s Labour Party is a Socialist party.

One aspect of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s speech today is getting reported: his commitment to end Public Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts.The NHS is burdened with many PFI debts.

Continue ReadingLabour Party Conference

Articles on the Blairite attempted coup against Corbyn and the left

A few articles on the continuing Blairite attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party by Labour Party MPs. They do seem in an awful rush to depose Corbyn … almost as though a clock is ticking. Craig Murray has excellent analyses yet again.

It’s Still the Iraq War, Stupid.

No rational person could blame Jeremy Corbyn for Brexit. So why are the Blairites moving against Corbyn now, with such precipitate haste?

The answer is the Chilcot Report. It is only a fortnight away, and though its form will be concealed by thick layers of establishment whitewash, the basic contours of Blair’s lies will still be visible beneath. …

[Oops, I forgot this one

How the News Agenda is Set

David Cameron gets heckled every day of his life. The media never bother to report the names of the hecklers or the gist of what they say.

Yet a single heckler shouts at Jeremy Corbyn at Gay Pride, and not only is that front page news in the Guardian, it is on BBC, ITN and Sky News.

What makes a single individual heckling a politician newsworthy? There are dozens such examples every single day that are not newsworthy.

The answer is simple. Normally the hecklers are promoting an anti-establishment view, so it does not get reported. Whereas this heckler was promoting the number one priority of the establishment and mainstream media, to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn. So this heckler, uniquely, is front page news and his words are repeated at great length in the Guardian and throughout the broadcast media.

Another Media Setup?

This picture has been all over twitter, promoted by every high level Blairite you can think of, from JK Rowling down. Yet all may not be what it seems. …

Back to the Future

The priority now of the political “elite” is to ensure voters never again get the chance to make a choice the political class do not want. Jeremy Corbyn is the thing the political class want least.

Do you remember when 184 Labour MPs refused to vote against the Tory benefit cuts that ruined lives and caused suicides? They did so on the grounds that their focus groups showed the public wanted benefit cuts, and so it would be wrong to oppose the Tory Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

Well, I can promise you that the 172 Labour MPs who voted to no-confidence Corbyn are exactly the same people who would not oppose welfare cuts. The net effect of the Corbyn year has been that 12 Labour MPs have decided that they have a purpose in politics which is not just personal gain. The vast majority would vote to push the unemployed off a cliff if they thought it would get them career advancement. Or adapt the John Mann anti-immigrant agenda.

Make no mistake. If Corbyn is deposed, the people of England and Wales will be back to having a choice between two colours of Tory. Labour will go full on anti welfare, anti immigrant and pro-nuclear weapon. Because Jon Cruddas will tell them that is what will get them elected.

Labour crisis: Alan Sugar and Alastair Campbell lead anti-Corbyn campaign

Former Number 10 communications chief claims a ‘sect has taken control’ of the Labour Party.

Lord Alan Sugar and Alastair Campbell are two of the best-known names backing an online campaign to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. The former Number 10 communications chief and the ex-Labour peer are urging hundreds of thousands of their followers on social media site Twitter to sign a ‘Saving Labour’ petition.

dizzy: LOL that’s classic isn’t it? Blair’s master of lies and the UK’s version of Donald Trump accuse the left of hijacking the Labour party!

 

Ken Livingstone urges Jeremy Corbyn to allow party members to deselect dissenting MPs

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Continue ReadingArticles on the Blairite attempted coup against Corbyn and the left

Jeremy Corbyn has my support

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Corbynistas have my support.

Labour members and supporters want a Socialist leader pursuing a Socialist, anti-austerity agenda opposing Neo-Liberalism. Many Labour MPs apparently do not. [29/6/16 It appears that those who oppose Corbyn are Neo-Conservatives.]

background: Labour MPs have overwhelmingly voted that they have no confidence in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The vote has no constitutional legitimacy. Jeremy Corbyn has huge support from Labour party members having been elected by an overwhelming majority and having attracted many new members to the Labour party.

ed: I wonder if it’s related to the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry on 6 July, 2016.

Continue ReadingJeremy Corbyn has my support

Our NHS can’t afford privatisation – why MPs must back the NHS Bill this Friday

Continue ReadingOur NHS can’t afford privatisation – why MPs must back the NHS Bill this Friday

NHS in crisis :: Caroline Lucas urges Labour to back bill to repeal Tory NHS reforms

Image of George Osborne asking where is the money to be made in the NHS

Caroline Lucas urges Labour to back bill to repeal Tory NHS reforms

The Green party MP Caroline Lucas has called on Labour to support a bill that would reverse much of the Conservatives’ NHS reforms, and was previously backed by Jeremy Corbyn.

The private member’s bill, named the NHS reinstatement bill, received cross-party support when it was first introduced to parliament in July, and was signed by Corbyn, the Labour leader, and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, when the pair were backbenchers.

The bill would reinstate the secretary of state’s responsibility for the health of UK citizens, something the Health and Social Care Act removed. It would also abolish bodies such as NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts and clinical commissioning groups, allowing commercial companies to provide services only if they were essential to patient welfare and the NHS could not do so itself.

Continue ReadingNHS in crisis :: Caroline Lucas urges Labour to back bill to repeal Tory NHS reforms