UK energy debate shows need for a new politics

This is a post-Cold War issue. Energy prices in the UK? Sounds mundane, but it isn't. The Right is as lost as the Left, perhaps more so

by Westminster shrink on 10 October 2013 13:35

As a psychiatrist, by trade, British politics offers so much to deal with. But I'll keep this quick, and pithy. British politics is now submerged in populism: a bidding war for votes as to who can buy or sell whichever policy issue is the order of the day. Today, it's energy prices.

It all started (politically speaking) when Labour leader Ed Miliband promised a freeze on energy prices, should he become Prime Minister after the 2015 general election. Six points here following a UK energy company's plan to raise prices by an inflation busting 8.2 percent, just in time for Christmas:

1) At the end of the Cold War, both Left and Right assumed free market capitalism had won, and would rule the future. They were both wrong: corporatism rules; not free market capitalism. (That may be too "big picture" for today's generation. But I put it to you anyway. Because it's key...)

2) Voters are not being irrational in being shocked and disgusted by huge price rises from energy companies. These companies have state licences: they almost literally have a license to dig up resources that you and I are legally barred from touching and convert those resources into cash.

3) The Right is at sixes and sevens over this; the Left is using it as an opportunity to buy votes.

4) The Right needs to internalise the reality here: we do not live in a free market society. There is no real competition, nor any serious private property politics associated with semi-state companies choosing which price they charge the consumer.

5) Until the Right gets to grips with the corporatist social democratic reality, the Left will run rings around them. Change that reality; or accept it.

6) Start thinking; stop reacting; and build a new politics.

Not much to ask, eh? But if the Right can't do that, it will be defeated; and deservedly so.

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