Another market failure

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This week Jim comments on another blow to those who put their faith in market forces with the gas crisis continuing.He also reminds readers of the Hazel Grove past of Culture Secreatry Nadine Dorries, notes that Lancashire is now a favourite haunt of America's top politicians and prepares for another difficult Labour conference in Brighton.

The great idea was for a thousand energy companies to bloom and competition between them would keep prices down benefiting the consumer.

However, it was always the same gas and electricity, and the competition was solely focused on the administration. The big players could always buy forward, and the economies of scale would see off the smaller companies in a crisis.

So, it has proved. As with failing rail franchises and Covid, you need the government in the end. I am not advocating a wholesale return to public ownership, but I am pointing out that those who hazard the nation’s future on market forces are embarked on a hazardous course.

It is not just Tory free market dogma to blame for the current problems. One of the issues is that we store much less gas than our European neighbours. When Labour was in office fifteen years ago Gateway Storage Ltd suggested building major gas storage capacity in salt caverns under the Irish Sea. Other schemes have been proposed on land in the North West. None have been pursued due to ministerial inertia and resident protests.

The government is paying an American firm to restart its fertiliser plant to produce CO2 and will have to help the large energy to take the “refugee customers” from the smaller (and not so small) companies that have gone bust.

One way or another, the taxpayer and energy users will pick up the bill.

WINTER OF MILD DISCONTENT

There is much talk of the government facing a tough winter with Covid still not defeated the gas crisis and the ending of the universal credit bonus.

Up to a point Lord Copper. After the reshuffle there is an expectation that the government will get moving on its major policies frozen by the pandemic. Also, businesses are out on the streets handing out leaflets begging people to work for them.

There will undoubtedly be some hardship from the withdrawal of the universal benefit bonus from people in work, but the debate over welfare will be balanced by the reflection that there are jobs out there for people to take.

REFLECTIONS ON THE RESHUFFLE

I think it is wrong to look for too much meaning in last week’s reshuffle beyond the fact that Johnson had to do something about the failing Foreign and Education Secretaries.

Liz Truss impressed Downtown members at one of our events some years ago and she is one to watch as Foreign Secretary. I’m pleased Preston MP Ben Wallace survived but think Priti Patel should have gone. She has failed to stop the migrant flow across the Channel despite talking a good game. Michael Gove might get the Levelling Up agenda going if he has time to apply his mind to it along with his other responsibilities.

The most interesting appointment from a North West point of view was Nadine Dorries as Culture Secretary. In 2000 as Nadine Bargery she split the Tories asunder in Hazel Grove when she was deselected as their candidate. Reimposed by central party chiefs, she went on to lose in 2001.

A string of controversial views and an unauthorised appearance on “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” seems to be no inhibition to getting into a Johnson cabinet.

WELL DONE MR SPEAKER

Congratulations to Lindsay Hoyle for getting America’s Nancy Pelosi to his Speakers Summit in Chorley. Following US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Blackburn in 2006, the Red Rose County is becoming well known in Washington circles.

STARMER IS RIGHT

Just off to Brighton to see how Sir Keir Starmer gets on with changing the leadership rules. He’s right to try to weaken the control of left-wing party members who usually prefer ideological purity to electability in their leaders.

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