Yesterday, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) published its plan to cut energy bills by re-nationalising energy retail companies.
The plan, issued in advance of next month’s announcement by Ofgem of a further massive increase in the cap on electricity and gas prices, calls for ‘publicly owned energy retail companies’ to deliver ‘fairer bills for households’ which will face average bills above £3,200 in the coming weeks.
The TUC are proposing to buy back the shares owned by investors in the energy retail companies in what they term ‘a pragmatic reshaping of the UK’s energy system’.
The TUC has calculated the cost of compensation to shareholders of the Big 5 retail companies and arrived at the figure of £2.85 billion – based on the current market value of their shares.
Nationalising with compensation for all energy supply companies is calculated at £4 billion, handing out billions to shareholders who have already plundered billions in profit since the Tories privatised the energy sector. The profits made over these years, and handed out to shareholders, were astronomical – and now the TUC wants to compensate them!
The oil and gas industry has seen eye-watering profits while workers and their families are driven to despair over energy bills and forced to choose between heating or eating.
BP recorded over $4 billion in profits for the last three months of 2021 alone, generating profits at the rate of £1.3 million an hour! All these billions in profit handed out to shareholders throughout the energy industry come straight out of the pockets of workers and their families, and the TUC is promising compensation to these parasites for taking back public utilities that the Tories flogged off cheap.
Even this promise of compensation is too much for the leadership of the Labour Party.
Labour Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves rushed into an interview on the BBC yesterday morning to reject outright any demand for the renationalisation of the rail, energy or water companies.
Reeves claimed that policies to take these privatised companies back under public ownership are not compatible with Labour’s new ‘fiscal rules’ to cut all public spending. She said on the Today programme: ‘I’ve set out fiscal rules that say all day-to-day spending will be funded by day-to-day tax revenues’ and that ‘Within our fiscal rules, to be spending billions of pounds on nationalising things, that just doesn’t stack up against our fiscal rules.’
Any lingering commitment to past Labour promises to renationalise public utilities was dismissed by Reeves who insisted they had been replaced by policies of ‘reforms’ to the business rates and a commitment to a campaign to ‘buy, make, and sell more in Britain’.
This was underlined by Labour leader Keir Starmer in a speech yesterday morning in Liverpool, where he insisted that ‘promoting growth’ in the UK economy was the most important issue for Labour, ‘not to hark back to our old ideas in the face of new challenges’ and that any wealth redistribution could only happen if British capitalism thrives.
Starmer said he totally agreed with Reeves that nationalisation is out of the question for Labour.
One commentator noted that Starmer’s speech could have been cut and pasted from those made by the two candidates for Tory leadership with all the talk of ‘fiscal rules’ and cuts to try to stop British capitalism crashing into recession.
The powerful working class will not be diverted by the TUC plan to compensate shareholders in the hope this will make nationalisation acceptable to the ruling class.
And they certainly will not accept a Labour Party that pledges to be a loyal lieutenant of capitalism prepared to inflict economic devastation on workers to keep this bankrupt system from collapse.
The demand from millions of workers is for the complete nationalisation of the entire oil and gas industries – along with all the main industries and the banks – without any compensation and under the management of the working class.
This requires forcing the TUC to call an immediate general strike to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers’ government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers as an integral part of building a socialist planned economy.
This is the way forward.