Wednesday 16 January 2013

Not about ideology

The Tories’ group leader in the Assembly has described the Government’s planned purchase of Cardiff Airport as some sort of a return to Old Labour style nationalisation.  He’s misunderstanding history – it looks more like Tory policy than Old Labour to me.

Old Labour’s nationalisation policy was based on public ownership of the “commanding heights” of the economy.  It was a deliberate attempt to ensure that major parts of the economy were owned by all of us through the state, and that all of us – rather than merely the owners of capital – benefited from the success of those industries.
It wasn’t an overly successful policy.  That wasn’t – as the Tories and New Labour claim – because state ownership is inherently doomed to failure; but it was certainly true that central control and bureaucracy didn’t produce successful enterprises.  It was, however, a way of implementing an ideological commitment to common ownership and control; a commitment finally and totally abandoned under Blair.
It was the Heath government which put the concept of nationalisation on rather a different footing.  Rolls Royce was nationalised not because it was one of the “commanding heights”, but because it was failing.  Under capitalist control, it was going broke; state ownership was the only way of saving it.
That philosophy – the state as backstop for failing capitalist enterprises, and as the ultimate guarantor of risk in the event of failure whilst the capitalists take the rewards of success – is essentially and clearly a Tory policy rather than an Old Labour one, even if polished and built upon by the capitalist-supporting New Labour.
So, when I look at the proposed purchase of Cardiff Airport, do I see it motivated by a desire to bring the assets of Wales under common ownership – or do I see it motivated by a need to deal with a capitalist enterprise which is failing?  It’s not hard to come to a conclusion that Carwyn Jones’ proposal owes more to the Tory stance than to any ideological commitment of Old Labour.
That doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong thing to do – we just shouldn’t let the Tories (or Labour, come to that) get away with pretending that it has anything to do with ideology.


Neilyn said...

Has the Tory leader in the National Assembly made his feelings on the 'nationalisation' of the banks public yet?!

Anonymous said...

John excellently reflects what I'm sure are alot of people's views on this. Personally I see complete sense in Government ownership of major transport interchanges and infrastructure sites. I don't think it's socialism in action, or that it guarantees a successful airport, just that it makes sense and could work. We'll have to wait and see. And one advantage of state ownership is that there is now accountability. Under private ownership the airport owners couldn't be scrutinised by our elected politicians, apart from very rarely at a committee.

The Tory reaction however has been comical and juvenile. For all their talk of accountability they seem very keen on depoliticising everything by taking everything out of Government control. That isn't freedom, it's the destruction of freedom by putting people's needs at the mercy of private interests.

Spirit of BME said...

Has anybody asked the question if Carwyn “Nipper” Jones on hosing tax payer’s money on this issue is ever going to see any of it back?
Cardiff Airport is a “train crash” it’s in the wrong place and would need massive investment in infrastructure to make just viable and the competition from Bristol will always make it second best option for air operators.
The English (British) CAA see Regional Airports – that is how they view Cardiff, as secondary and only a feeder to the English hub airports .Until Wales gets its own CAA and can redraw the priorities and cost factors, Cardiff will always fail to make a living.
If the purchase of this airport was down to public subscription, I am sure the money would not be raised.

G Horton-Jones said...


I am not sure that Rolls Royce and Cardiff airport are on the same playing field as this blog and the anonymous response imply

State ownership is accountable.
No it is not. Try getting any meaning full information from any State organisation.

There is no doubt that Wales needs an airport of international status but we are more akin to Switzerland in this equation than
say Paris or Singapore.

I see no reason why there cannot be a mixture of public and private capital in this scenario where all Welsh tax payers can be taxed to support any Welsh Airport but can also provide if they so wish capital to support its operation and expansion possibly as a tax offset
At the present time we finance one airline Wales Air Ambulance by public donation.

I dont see the difference

Anonymous said...

"The English (British) CAA see Regional Airports – that is how they view Cardiff, as secondary and only a feeder to the English hub airports .Until Wales gets its own CAA and can redraw the priorities and cost factors, Cardiff will always fail to make a living"

That may well be true. But the choices are allow Cardiff to eventually shut down, or *try* to sort it out. It may well only be classified as a Regional Airport. But Wales can't seriously function as an economy without an airport at all.