Cost of living crisis: Nationalisation should be used as threat to force energy companies to pay up – Scotsman comment

Nationalisation is not normally the answer to economic ills.

Many grassroots Conservatives are now in favour of nationalising energy firms, but will their party's leadership even consider such a radical step? (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Many grassroots Conservatives are now in favour of nationalising energy firms, but will their party's leadership even consider such a radical step? (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

However, these are not normal times, as demonstrated by a new YouGov poll which found that 47 per cent of Conservative supporters support the nationalisation of energy companies, with only 28 per cent opposed.

Just as ordinary Tory voters are considering radical options, so should the government.

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We face a growing, national crisis in which millions of people and countless businesses will be unable to pay their bills. The health of the overall economy is at stake, with forecasts of a recession lasting more than a year perhaps only hinting at how bad the situation could get.

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However, if the government steps in to save people from destitution, then tens of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will pour into the coffers of energy companies and the bank accounts of their shareholders. While they live ever higher on the hog, the public face a renewed period of austerity that could last for years as the government pays off vast debts.

In such circumstances, it would be unsurprising if confidence in capitalism itself was severely undermined, with potentially dangerous consequences.

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So our elected representatives need to ask themselves fundamental questions like, for whose benefit is society run? The answer to that question has to be its individual members.

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Companies are important but not so much that the country must bankrupt itself to channel extraordinary amounts of public money into the hands of a select few because of a market gone mad.

The energy crisis demands a different answer to the 2008 banking collapse, one that puts ordinary people first.

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The simplest strategy seems to be to introduce much bigger windfall taxes to transfer more of vast fortunes being made by the companies to the people otherwise set to suffer and possibly die this winter.

Nationalisation should not be the first choice, but its prospect could be used as a threat to ensure tax loopholes were not exploited. After all, if the government’s other strategies fail, it may be the only option left. Such an idea might seem far-fetched but, as the new poll shows, public sentiments are shifting as quickly as prices.

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Energy firms need to realise they have wider duties to society and that ‘profiteering’ on the back of Putin’s war may have existential consequences.

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