The political reality is that Cameron’s speech means nothing when British Gas raises fuel bills by 8%. In the last 6 months British Gas’ parent company received £1.5billion of profit, and a 23% rise in profits made from supplying power and heating to homes. In such circumstances it is fair for the public to ask “what am I paying for?” and “who gains when I lose through the rise in the cost of living?” The more money people have to spend on essentials the less buying power they have – the less ability they have to choose which products deserve their cash.
Capitalism is the best system. It has raised more people out of poverty than any other. It has created more opportunities for social mobility than any other. And it has promoted creativity, satisfaction and discovery better than any other framework. But utility privatisation does not feel like capitalism.
Who benefits from privatisation of the utilities? Can competitive forces exist in each utility sector? If so, how can competition be created? If not, what system is best to have? These questions are worth debating. Every inflation busting price rise chips away at people’s trust in a system that thinks it’s ok for all of us to pay a few hundred quid a year more to secure £3billion profit for a company. The answers to these questions have to be based in creating the society we want to achieve, not prejudged by a certain ideology.
The Conservatives were the dominant political force of the 20th Century because we rejected dogma in favour for what works. We wanted society to be balanced. In the 1980s British battle between right and left Thatcher was the pragmatist and Scargill the fundamentalist. That is why she was politically successful, and that is why she attracted the aspirational across all classes. To quote Peter Lilley: “Thatcher’s approach was that if something was undesirable you should tackle it.” And this included taking on vested interests.
We do a disservice to the public if we refuse to ask questions because we are afraid of potential answers. The Majority Conservative site is right when it says: “Tony Blair employed the language of the Right, promising to be “tough on crime” and pursue “one nation policies”. Successful politicians occupy the whole stage, not just the over-rated centre ground.” Cameron’s words were great at making the moral case for Conservative methods, but we will only occupy the “whole stage” if the public believes our actions match the rhetoric.