16 May

Back in the days when many of us were gullible it was mooted by Margaret Thatcher that if utilities and a great deal of other stuff that was in public ownership were privatised then we’d all be a lot better off. It was argued, and without delving into the consequences of that argument we believed it, that we could all buy shares in this and that and the other and as a consequence be paid dividends that would put us among the moneyed classes.
It’s taken a few years for us to realise that her promise was meant only for the already wealthy to enjoy. The real idea was that if industries were sold off to shareholders then the shareholders would get richer whilst the rest of us paid a little bit more for the goods and services.
What we didn’t go to the trouble to work out was that is everyone of us bought shares in, say, the electricity supply industry, then we’d all receive dividends as a result of profits, but the profits would have to come from somewhere so we’d all pay a little bit more for our electricity, and in a perfectly balanced world that would mean we’d pay enough to cover the dividends plus the cost of administering them and thus receive a nice quarterly cheque that was slightly less than the increased charges we’d incurred every time we switched the lights on.
So what happened? I haven’t got any shares and, probably, neither have you. But they were issued in copious quantities and quite a lot of genuine ordinary people bought them only to see their value rocket almost straight away. And if what you hold in your hand seems to double in value over night you do what all the rich kids have done down the years, and you sell.
To those rich kids.
So the utilities, which once belonged to you, now belong to the men and women who bought all the shares when they were going relatively cheaply, those who were already rich and now are richer, and if they’re lucky the profits will be stashed away in some tax haven somewhere.
And our utilities bills seem to have grown somewhat. Rail prices are higher and the trains don’t run on time, nothing seems to be as good as it was and all the dreams espoused by the fortunately deceased Mrs Thatcher have come to nought.
A slightly different but equally monetarist story can be attached to housing, The big idea, again apparently (and I’d say cynically) was to let council tenants buy their own homes at a bargain price and to make sure that there wasn’t a glut of housing (that would send the prices down, which conservatives would never like) stop the councils from building new properties with the money they got from the sales.
Result: we now have a housing shortage and absurd house prices. Many of the homes bought by tenants have now been bought by private landlords who can rent them out for what they like and, you’ve guessed it, we’re all worse off. So there’s an upwards spiral because demand is exceeding supply, and don’t forget how a large part of the more desirable property in London is owned by foreign oligarchs and is standing empty for purely fiscal reasons.
We can blame the immigrants, of course. They weren’t here back in the sunny days of yore (but they were). We can blame other foreigners too because they’re notBritisih and it’s easy to blame them. We can certainly blame our membership of the EU (which has nothing to do with it and is consequently blameless). What we don’t blame is the cynical way conservative governments have manipulated us all into providing wealth for their chums and places at Eton for their kids with empty promises of riches for us.
And they’re still at it!
Which is why we need to remain European because Boris and his chums don’t want us to, though the Prime Minister, knowing he’s more unpopular than cockroaches or slimy sea monsters, says we should stay. But who’s going to do what he wants?
They’re at it again, trying to mislead us astray….


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