“The energy giants’ profiteering has been enabled by decades of Thatcherite neoliberal economics rooted at the heart of the British government.”Logan Williams
By Logan Williams, NEU activist & Arise Festival Volunteer
Whilst millions of households across Britain struggle to survive the cost-of-living crisis, we have seen energy companies’ profits rise dramatically in one section of the current financial year alone. This period has seen the” Big Six” energy firms (SSE, E-ON, EDF Energy, Scottish Power, British Gas and, Npower) rake in over £1bn of profit in one year whilst BP, the global oil giant, recorded profits of £6.9bn between April and June of this year.
Despite the huge numbers of households already struggling to decide between heating their homes or cooking food for their evening meal, the Big Six are continuing to raise the daily price of energy throughout this period whilst boasting of record levels of profits. Despite these cynical actions, the energy regulator OFGEM have committed to increasing their so-called “price cap” to £3582 in October 2022 and, are forecast to increase it again to £4266 early into 2023. These increases would see the average amount spent on energy rise from £1970.57 per year to over £5000 per year on average, which for households already struggling, is a devastating increase.
Their profiteering has been enabled by decades of Thatcherite neoliberal economics rooted at the heart of the British government. Since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, we have seen a consistent move towards the privatisation of vital public services from British Gas, ripped from public hands and sold on the stock market to the highest bidder in 1986, followed swiftly by the privatisation in 1990 of all the UK’s regional electricity boards. These regional electricity boards were bought and replaced by the current energy firms which now supply 77% of all UK households with electricity and gas. The domination of these privatised companies has led to 3.18 million households across Britain being classed as living in fuel poverty in 2019. As millions of households across Britain are now realising, the British economy is fundamentally not working for workers and their families. Instead, as Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary, argues in the Morning Star, it favours “an epidemic of unfettered profiteering”.
The organised Labour Left, the trade unions and campaign groups such as We Own It must now campaign together to ensure the Labour party avoids tinkering around the edges of the current crisis. Instead, we must work to ensure our party adopts a bold, radical and overwhelmingly popular economic policy fit for the twenty first century, centred around the restructuring of the economy in favour of those who generate the wealth in our society rather than those who profit from it.
The bedrock of this new economic policy must be the re-nationalisation of sections of the energy market across Britain; a policy which is supported by over 60% of the British population. Re-nationalisation would enable a Labour government to end the monopoly of the privatised companies such as the National Grid, the energy distribution companies, and the Big Six energy firms – which are only answerable to their shareholders – and their unaccountable hold over the British energy sector. The ending of these monopolies would further enable a Labour government to save £3.7bn per year which could be used to halt and reduce the ever-increasing monthly costs to households across Britain; invest in workers through an above inflation pay rise, reducing the cost of living crisis; and invest in renewable energy projects such as the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon to end our dependency on fossil fuels.
It is important that we recognise that Keir Starmer and the Labour front bench have taken the positive step to demand a ban on the crippling energy price rises predicted over the coming months. The implantation of such a ban is predicted to save the average household more than £2,000 a year. However, the Labour Left must ensure this step is not the peak of Labour’s intervention into the energy crisis. Instead, we must campaign both within and outside of the party for the introduction of a range of policies such as: ensuring that the big six profiteers receive no public subsidy within this price rise ban and, for the immediate nationalisation of failing energy companies such as Bulb.
Alongside campaigning for these positive policy interventions, we must ensure that we, as the Labour Left, are present in a show of solidarity with every worker and community fighting against the cost-of-living crisis. From the upcoming strike in Royal Mail where CWU members will be fighting for a dignified pay rise, to supporting the upcoming UCU and NEU pay campaigns in the education sector, to supporting actions completed by tenant and community unions working to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
- Sign the petition Keir Starmer backs workers in struggle here.