But British Gas, and the even bigger flotation of the various electricity companies, were different. Rationale became how (a) mass share ownership could beneficially become as much a part of British politico-economic culture as mass home ownership, and (b) stripping monopolies of their privileges, privatising them and forcing them to compete, would bring significant efficiencies to the economy.
I'm interested in two related aspects of these aims:
- they are essentially doctrinaire, in an era when political doctrine (as it would have been understood in, say, the 1930's) has been on the wane
- there was no absolutely groundswell of pressure for taking these measures - not even from business, still less from voters
Some of these exercises have worked well. I am a strong proponent of privatising and liberalising energy monopolies and will argue all day that they have achieved excellent results, mostly in category (b) above (whatever baleful effects subsequent regulatory botch-jobs have brought about): I'm not so sure about (a).
But, though no expert on railways, I have to believe that one was badly cocked up.
So - what do we reckon about the PO ?