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Utilities set to rob us again

Gas and electricity used to be owned by all of us. Now it belongs to a tiny wealthy elite

British Gas has joined SSE at the energy suppliers' trough, imposing rises of 10.4 and 8.4 per cent for electricity and gas, but consumers must not despair because David Cameron is on the case.

Keen on reinforcing his reputation as upper class twit of the year Cameron suggests that unhappy consumers could switch suppliers for the best deal.

Why did no-one ever think of this before and advise us to undermine energy privateers' efforts to impoverish us all by shopping around?

For the simple reason that SSE and British are just the first of the big six suppliers to announce their annual ransom demands.

The other four won't be long in following suit and, since the six dominate 99 per cent of the market, there is no escape.

Households need electricity and gas, so everyone is over a barrel, held hostage by a greedy oligopoly.

Only someone seriously hard of thinking would imagine that forensic investigation of a rigged market to get the best deal could throw up a viable alternative to extortion by private suppliers.

If Cameron really believed this, his family would be justified in demanding a refund from Eton in compensation for a wasted private education.

Of course he doesn't. The Prime Minister, like all politicians who back privatisation, does so in the full knowledge that it is a tried and tested means of enriching the rich by further impoverishing the poor.

When he calls the British Gas rise "disappointing," he is voicing his fear that voters might view him as somehow to blame for no other reason than he claims to run the country.

The electorate might look around other major parties to see if anyone is prepared to do anything about this daylight robbery.

Could it be Ed Miliband, who talks the talk, accusing Cameron of "standing up for the energy companies not the consumer" and of these firms "overcharging people in a market that's not working and has broken?"

Unfortunately, the Labour leader won't budge beyond his promise of a temporary tariff freeze before allowing the oligopoly to return to its old tricks.

Gas and electricity used to be owned by all of us. Now it belongs to a tiny wealthy elite who have bought the right to print money.

It is a symbol of division in society between those who set their own incomes through domination of the economy and those who scrabble around trying to make ends meet.

These are the people highlighted by Alan Milburn, who moved seamlessly from new Labour minister to the board of Pepsi Cola and then coalition hireling as the preposterously named "social mobility tsar."

Milburn, who had a previous honourable existence as a grassroots labour movement campaigner in Newcastle, is right to point out that work is no longer a cure for poverty because wage levels are too low.

But his targeting of pensioners' winter fuel allowance and free TV licences to supposedly bridge Britain's "fairness deficit" is way off the mark.

Setting better-off pensioners against hard-pressed younger families with children to overcome a supposed "intergenerational injustice" is irrelevant to the real division within society - class.

As long as the labour movement's political representatives refuse to consider taking key areas of the economy, including the privatised utilities, into pubic ownership, working people will continue to be treated as poorly paid pawns by the ruling class.


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