Socialist Worker

Bosses want to pull the plug on Labour plan to nationalise energy network

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2655

Labour wants to bring the national grid back into public ownership

Corbyn wants to bring the national grid back into public ownership (Pic: National Grid UK )


Prepare for a surge of lies from the power companies as Jeremy Corbyn outlines plans to nationalise substantial parts of Britain’s energy network on Thursday. 

He is expected to say that a Labour government would take back the £60 billion energy infrastructure and make heat and electricity a "human right". 

The pipes and cables that supply homes and businesses with gas and electricity would come under public ownership. This includes the National Grid, the infrastructure arms of the “Big Six” energy suppliers, Scottish Power and SSE, and smaller regional grids.

Those who spend their lives siphoning off cash to hide in tax havens will seek to pose as the friend of ordinary people. 

The Daily Telegraph newspaper’s article was headlined, “Labour’s plans to nationalise the UK energy industry surpass the City's worst fears”. And its energy editor wrote, “The revolution will be quick and unequivocal. 

“Once in power, the party vows to take the legislative steps necessary to grab control of the networks ‘immediately’.”

There will be much more of this to come. 

In fact, Labour’s plans are too generous to the bosses, including multi-billion payouts to those who own or hold shares in the present firms. They shouldn’t get a penny—and this isn’t a new argument.

The Public Services International Research Unit at the University of Greenwich has looked at the impact of privatisation on utilities. It points out, “Property owners always want as much compensation as possible when they lose their property as a result of a political decision. 

“They have often been remarkably successful. When slavery was finally abolished in British colonies in 1833, UK slaveowners were paid £20 million compensation—40 percent of total government annual spending at that time.”

Labour will have to confront the bosses to bring its plan

Labour will have to confront the bosses to implement its plan


Figures last year showed that the energy network giants had handed shareholders a £13.4 billion bonanza over the previous five years—as heating bills rocketed. And a 2017 study estimated that ordinary people were overpaying by at least £3.5 billion and possibly £11.1 billion.

Around three-quarters of people back renationalising energy. Opinion polls show that public ownership is popular because it means services can be run for those who use them and work in them, not for profit. 

And only a democratically-run and socially controlled energy system will make the huge changes needed to avoid climate chaos. Labour plans to install solar panels on 1.75 million homes, mostly social housing and low-income households as part of a "green industrial revolution".

A recent report from the We Own It campaign said, “Public ownership has an intrinsic advantage when it comes to finance. We don’t have to waste public money on paying dividends to shareholders, and governments can borrow more cheaply than the private sector for investment. 

“These savings are huge and we can reinvest them directly into improving services or use them to reduce prices.” 

Even the Financial Times’s Martin Wolf has written, “The transfer of monopolies into the hands of regulated companies that own, run and develop the assets is flawed. This is excessively costly to consumers”.

But none of that will sway those who control the privatised firms.

Bosses will do their best to make sure Labour does not come to office and will then seek to block and blunt renationalisation plans. They will find backing not only from Tories and Lib Dems, but from many right wing Labour MPs as well.

To carry out what seems quite a modest change, Labour will need to confront and defeat the bosses not compromise with them.

Crucially, it will require pressure from outside parliament.


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