Last year Thames Water was hit with a £20m fine for polluting the waterways of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire with a billion and a half litres of raw sewage between 2012 and 2014. The judge cited a “failure to report incidents” and a “history of non-compliance” by the company. Equipment was unmaintained. Warnings from employees went unheeded by management. Thames’s conduct was branded “disgraceful”, justifying the largest financial penalty for pollution in UK corporate histo
Psychologists have identified a phenomenon they call “confirmation bias”. This is the tendency for people to interpret new information in a way that simply confirms their pre-existing beliefs. We’ve seen quite a lot of confirmation bias in the wake of Carillion’s belly flop into liquidation this week. For some on the left this is all confirmation that privatisation of the provision of public services has been a disaster. It shows that corporate fat cats can walk away with pro
Jean Tirole throws his head back and laughs. “You’re kidding!” he exclaims. I’m not kidding, I insist. It’s true. I explain to him, once again, that when proposals for regulatory price caps on energy bills are floated, politicians and respectable commentators in Britain tend to start discussing Marxism.
Tirole’s incredulity is significant. The 64-year-old Frenchman won the Nobel memorial prize in economics in 2014 for his pioneering theoretical work on how utilities ought to
For Labour it’s the glad confident morning of 1945 all over again. “Rail, water, energy, Royal Mail – we’re taking them back,” John McDonnell declared at the party’s conference on Monday, reaffirming Labour’s manifesto pledge to renationalise a swathe of industries and topping it off with new pledge to take public finance initiative contracts back “in-house”. Cementing the analogy, the Shadow Chancellor cited the post-war Attlee government, which “built a new society from the
If Labour supporters want a glimpse of what Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 general election manifesto would look like in practice, they don’t have to dream. They simply need to cross the Channel. In France, they will discover university tuition funded by the taxpayer. In Portugal and Slovakia, they will see domestic energy consumers who benefit from regulatory price caps. In Germany, they can witness an extensive network of publicly-owned local savings banks. In Spain, the Netherlands,
If you want to go “back to the Seventies” you don’t need to hope Jeremy Corbyn enters Downing Street on 9 June and hoists the red flag over the black door of No 10. If you want to experience public ownership of industries you might try sending a letter in Norway, where Posten Norge (Norway Post) is a state-owned company. You might ride on a train in Switzerland, where the Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (Swiss Federal Railways) is a corporation whose shares are wholly in the hand