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Tell Sid… we want our energy back

Tell SidGovernment Ministers have tried to justify the undervalued sale of the Royal Mail as a return to popular capitalism.It has been nearly thirty years since the Government’s “Tell Sid” campaign helped launch the privatisation of British Gas. We will never know if Sid bought any shares but one thing is for sure, if he is a UK resident he will certainly be paying the price as we continue to experience inflation busting year on year rises in the cost of gas and electricity.

While allowing people to make a quick profit may well prove popular, any short term gains can quickly evaporate, as prices rise, investment falls and shareholders seek to maximise their profits.

I am appalled at the annual energy price rises, three of the Big Six have already announced price hikes of around 10%, with the other three expected to follow shortly. However, we cannot sell off vital public assets and then complain when private companies act like private companies. The popular capitalism of the 80s has turned into a nightmare for the vast majority of ordinary families.

While the Big Six energy companies are running a public service, they are not public services, their sole purpose is to maximise profits, not look after the health and welfare of their customers. When wholesale prices rise, the energy companies pass on the costs to consumers, but when they fall, bills remain high, generating excessive profits and bonuses for company executives and shareholders.

The Government’s solution is more competition, but this has failed to deliver any savings to the public, as energy prices have risen by over £300 since David Cameron became Prime Minister.

Labour’s energy price freeze would help hard pressed families save £120 on a typical bill, while providing the opportunity to reset the market. However, high energy prices are a symptom of market failure and the cartel like behaviour of major energy companies. I fear the real cause of high energy prices is the market itself.

The Government are hailing the development of the next generation of nuclear power plants as a triumph for the private sector. However, these stations will be built by French and Chinese state run companies, with EDF leading the consortium.

While taxpayers will offset any upfront costs the consortium has been guaranteed a price for electricity at twice the current rate. The Government are essentially locking in price rises for the foreseeable future, to the benefit of foreign owned energy companies, and the detriment of the British public.

The privatisation of gas, water, electricity, and rail has now proven to be unpopular capitalism, as prices continue to rise and Government is seemingly powerless to act. I fear we will see the same failings after the Royal Mail sell off, with price rises and service cuts to maximise profit.

Basic utilities and infrastructure are too important to fail, they are vital to the health and wealth of the nation. I believe we all deserve a share in these industries, and the government should start to listen to the majority of taxpayers wanting publicly owned and run public services, starting with gas and electric.

They should “Tell Sid” – we want our energy back.


  1. m.o.smith says:

    Good piece Grahame. However could anyone please explain why Labour is so scared to go the whole hog and declare that the all public services and utilities need to be taken back under state control for the benefit of all, not just the few. Never, since the onset of widespread privatisation across this country started in the 80s, has there been so much public support for their renationalisation. Grasp the nettle, shout from the rooftops that rampant unchecked capitalism has failed and that there is a better way .

  2. Jon Williams says:

    French and Chinese state owned companies will build the new Hinkley C nuclear power station, why is not possible to have a UK state owned company to do this work?

  3. m.o.smith says:

    Exactly Jon. Also, while we’re at it , perhaps after these last few years of the majority of people getting their wages and working conditions screwed, there will be a re-awakening of the reason unions exist and why we need a strong union movement all the time the state does not ensure fair pay and conditions for all.

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