Friday, May 19, 2006

The Marf of the Sarf

Here's Nick in the Standard, partying like it's 1995. The fat cat managers, newly privatised utilities, baggy suits and I was young then, I had hair, don't you understand? You don't understand. None of you young ones, none of you understand.

Sorry where was I? Doing an impression of Euan Ferguson's column in the Observer. Sorry about that.

Anyway, after having expressed scepticism about the weather reports (wtf?), transcribed a few numbers from press releases about water leaks and made a joke about the Mafia, Nick gets onto the meat of his column:

If New Labour doesn’t intervene to cap water company profits and speed up the pipe repair programme,

(bruschettaboy notes: what the fuck? One doesn't have to be Milton Friedman to notice that capping the water company's profits is a very different thing from speeding up the pipe repair program, and that it is not obvious to say the least what the connection between the first and the second is. Update: because we are all about fairness here, a specific situation has occurred to me under which capping profits could lead to more investment. Under a rate-of-return regulatory regime, a reduction in the rate might lead to the company investing more in order to expand the capital base on which the return was calculated. But the UK has not used RoR regulation for more than ten years. See comments.)

what faint chance it has of winning the South next time will vanish.

Oh god he does psephology too. The best you can say about this forecast is that he made it in black and white. There's not much else. It's loony populism of the Daily Mirror circa 1995 and it's barking mad. I think that the idea just went through Nick's head that it was time to be a lefty again and so he just reached out and took a swipe at the first thing he saw.

Various other potboiling stuff about footballers' wives, wind farms and that bloke who got interviewed on News 24, if you can be bothered to click the link.


Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Is the "thought" going through Nick's head this: that if profits are capped then the money that would have gone into profit will have to go somewhere, and the water companies will spend it on repairing pipes?

5/19/2006 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Nick's rebelling against the Seal of Dacre thing and sticking by his old Leftist principles: to wit, he's coming out for nationalisation. Or re-nationalisation, even. On your WTF, he means "the government should take over the water companies, or at least legislate so that it runs them without having to buy them." I'm quite soft on public ownsership, but it needs better champions than Nick.

what faint chance it has of winning the South next time will vanish.

That was truly odd. He hasn't liked New Labour since it was first elected, but this is merely wishful thinking -- it'll all go away at the next election. Note also how the thoughts and interests of ordinary people suddenly matter. "People are muttering about this; the government must listen!" This didn't seem to matter so much over Iraq.

As you say though, he just "transcribed a few numbers from press releases" -- he doesn't put them in any kind of context or give them as percentages -- where I'm sure they'd be unexcitingly low. The issue really is -- have private companies leaked less water, delivered cleaner water, and been cheaper than the state? And if it's two out of three either way, which are the important factors?

5/19/2006 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone with a colour-coded election map will note that Labour does not 'win the south' (outside London and a small handful in Kent) as things currently stand, and that 'winning the south' is unlikely to be the core of their electoral strategy in 2009/10.

5/19/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the article:
"Even if we have had less rainfall per person than the Sudan, which I doubt"

He doubts? WTF? Is it really that hard to check. Either its true, or it isn't true. Unless he's suddenly become a relativist on this scientific observation stuff.

5/19/2006 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

His point about windfarms is nutty. How exactly is a windfarm going to ruin the city skyline?

And how come these people who moan about windfarms in the countryside aren't so bothered about roads, or electricity pylons?

What's the use, the man's an idiot.

5/19/2006 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually thinking about it, Nick might be thinking of the old-fashioned rate-of-return regulation regime, under which utilities companies had the incentive to overinvest in capital assets as much as possible, in order to inflate the base on which the regulated return was calculated. But RPI-X has been the standard from British regulation for years, and if I were him, I would have written my argument for a return to RoR in a longer and less populist piece than the Wednesday Standard col.

5/19/2006 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Nick's Sudan comment is a slightly confused response to the Environment Agency's claims that "southeast England has less water [note not rainfall] available per person than parts of Sudan".

As Sudan has a very wet part, I'm not entirely sure this was a particularly sensible thing to say by them. But I'm pretty sure that the reason Nick doubts it is true is because he believes Sudan to be a large stick with which to beat the Archbishop of Canterbury, and thus the idea of it having water is nonsensical.

5/19/2006 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Oh Lordy, water companies in the UK - almost too depressing to think about. What a bloody rip off. In Hong Kong my last water bill was the equivalent to about one British pound. Who owns the water company in Hong Kong? The government.

Thats not an argument for nationalisation per se, but it does rather disprove the neo-liberalism at all costs argument - and in a territory that is generally a neo-liberal wet dream.

Incidently the tube system in Hong Kong (owned in all parts by a single company with a majority share held by the govt) is far superior to London.

5/19/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure it is a response to the EA's claim. And I'm sure its highly misleading (though per person we don't get a lot of rainfall in the southeast).

But he "doubts". What makes his doubts more interesting than any other random, uninformed, nutter down the pub.

5/22/2006 10:34:00 AM  

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