Not everything in binary Britain is broken, but much is. The centre has not held. Privately provided public services are at a nadir of performance and an apogee of price. So are those, like the NHS, that are nominally in the public sector. The solution is not, necessarily, more public ownership nor more privatisation but more competence and efficiency.
On public services Keir Starmer has a huge opportunity to present credible alternatives. But they will come from the centre, not the extremes. Many in his Party are screaming an outdated “Nationalise it” mantra at a time when the Conservative Party’s leadership candidates are calling for a renewal of Thatcherism. They are both wrong.
Britain still produces 50% of its Natural Gas from British resources, mainly offshore. There is no reason why Government should not legislate that the (private) producers are paid the price they received before the escalation in world Gas prices. It’s our gas, we should be able to insist that it’s priced at a level that we can afford. The cost of half of our Gas supply would fall by more than half if we did this.
My proposal on Gas pricing is, I accept, a form of windfall tax. But why not ? The producers would receive a price they were once perfectly content with. Only the situation in Russia/Ukraine drove down supply and drove up prices – the producers did nothing to justify the windfall profits they are making. This proposal is not driven by Socialism or Conservatism but by a call for equity and common sense.
The NHS is a massive public/private partnership relying both on public sector employees and, some, private sector suppliers. The judgment as to who does what in the Service should be patient and cost driven, not ideological. Procurement of goods and services should not be dictated by old-fashioned ideologies of Left or Right. There is a “third way”.
I’m told by those closer to healthcare than me that there are many inefficiencies in our healthcare systems. I can believe it. This is not necessarily a consequence of ideology (though it may be) but of failed management. The case for “contracting out” should be properly made and tested but it should neither be promoted nor rejected for purely ideological reasons.
Throughout our society we have not just public service inefficiencies but downright scandals. Water supply is a private sector monopoly, the worst social model of all. Monopolies like this make money with few if any checks and balances. It’s a licence to print money at our expense.
Sarah Bentley, CEO of Thames Water is paid a basic £750,000 a year and received a £3.1m “golden hello” over three years to compensate for loss of bonuses at her previous employer Severn Trent. It was reported in the Financial Times that a further £120,000 in pensions and perks could raise her potential package to £3.27m a year. Remember this company is a private sector monopoly with no competition!
The “Third Way” I am urging Sir Keir Starmer to adopt will no doubt be condemned from Left and Right as “centrist” which has become a term of abuse. Even worse it will be seen by the self-appointed guardians of socialism as “Blairite” ! Well if Sir Keir becomes a new Blair that’s fine by me, so long as he doesn’t start invading countries.