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Why the Blairites are wrong about Ed’s energy freeze

mandelsonThe great thing about Peter Mandelson is that he constantly gives one confidence in one’s own views when one finds he’s on the other side. This is scarcely surprising when his philosophy (‘New Labour is studiously relaxed about people becoming filthy rich’) and his methods (briefing dirt and lies to the press about anyone he disapproved of in the party) are now so passé.

He’s still in denial about the financial crash of 2008-9, which destroyed New Labour’s market fundamentalism. And still, in the face of all the evidence, he staunchly defends its fundamental tenets – unfettered markets, deregulated finance, unrestrained corporate power, and as far as possible trade unions bound hand and foot.

Markets must rule, the State must withdraw and privatise or outsource every industry or service going. Inequality must be let rip, and spin and manipulation used to stitch up everything behind the scenes. So when Miliband suggested a modest price freeze for energy, Mandelson’s automatic reflex kicked in: there must be no interference in the sacred right of management to rule.

It’s not as though the previous 30 years of the neoliberal supremacy were a great success – anything but! Manufacturing, the lifeblood of any modern economy, was halved in the UK. Large swathes of Britain’s industrial base were sold off abroad. The deficit on the balance of payments steadily widened to the point where last year UK imports exceeded exports by more than £100bn.

The economy was only kept going by continual borrowing sprees of boom and bust. The growth of UK incomes, which had steadily grown by 2.4% a year in the 30 years before Thatcher, then slipped down to just 1.7% a year in the 30 years after Thatcher.

Above all, of course, neoliberal capitalism unleashed not only the greed but the instability which led to the biggest financial collapse for nearly a century – and then the longest recession since the 1870s. Not a record to cling to or a system to be revived.

The energy market symbolised private market failure at is worst which even the Tories have shown they can see, though Mandelson can’t. The continuous exploitation of the consumer with annual price increases 3-4 times higher than inflation, the avoidance of corporation tax, the massive pay hikes at the top, the failure to invest to meet the predicted energy gap at the end of this decade.

Then we have the excessive concentration of power and absence of competition with the ‘big six’ moving in lockstep, the deliberate obfuscation of the market with hundreds of bewildering tariffs, the use of energy oligopoly to try to blackmail the government, five million households now left in fuel poverty… The case for firm action to protect the fleeced customer and to safeguard the national interest is irrefutable. Strange that only the Blairites can’t see it.


  1. Mike says:

    Firm action is indeed necessary. But the fact that, following Ed Miliband’s announcement, the energy companies immediately threatened a blackout underlined the old adage that you can’t control what you don’t own. If the energy companies refuse to submit to the authority of an elected government they should be brought into public ownership without delay.

  2. Robert says:

    Mandy of course has now works to help a few of those companies Ed would hammer if hammering is right, so Mandy of course is against it, Blair has decided to retire and said he will say nothing.

    So I think Miliband has gotten away with it now of course he has to prove that he would do it

  3. swatantra says:

    I’m not quite sure how it would all pan out. You may remember Heath’s 3 Day Week, and Ted going to the country on ‘Who governs Britain?’ The electorate gave him a big raspberry and said: ‘Not you mate!’ So, would the Electorate blame the Electric Companies for bringing about blackouts, or would they blame a 2015 Labour Govt?

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