Renationalizing British Utilities and Rail Would Be a Mistake

A Heathrow Express train is seen at Paddington station, London, England, March 7, 2013
A Heathrow Express train is seen at Paddington station, London, England, March 7, 2013 (Renaud Chodkowski)

Rising energy rates and railway fares in the United Kingdom are lending credence to the argument that privatization was a mistake.

YouGov last year found majorities in favor of taking energy, water and railways back into state ownership.

Telecom is the exception. Only 30 percent believe it should be run by the state.

The reason may be that the benefits of telecom privatization have been obvious whereas those of other privatizations are harder to discern.

Compared to the 1970s, however, utilities and railways provide a far better service today. Read more

Brexit Has Divided Generations in United Kingdom

A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014
A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014 (Ray Wewerka)

George Eaton argues in Britain’s New Statesman that age has replaced class as the nation’s best predictor of voting intentions.

When middle-class support for Labour and working-class support for the Conservatives rose in the last election, the left attracted almost two-thirds of the youth vote and the right the support of almost two in three pensioners.

Young people have long been more progressive than their elders, but this wide an age gap is unusual. Read more

Both Left- and Right-Wing Critics of the NHS Have a Point

A hospital in London, England, February 21, 2010
A hospital in London, England, February 21, 2010 (Lars Plougmann)

Crises in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) always provoke the same ideological debate: the right blames “socialized medicine”, the left calls for more money.

Neither side is completely wrong.

The Financial Times argues there are too many administrators and not enough frontline medical staff in English hospitals.

Repeated government reforms have spurred fragmentation and only added more layers of bureaucracy.

But “cuts” (really: restraint in the growth of health spending) haven’t helped, especially when the population is aging and requiring more services. Read more

Brexit Takes Toll on Kingdom’s Global Influence

Tower Bridge in London, England, January 2, 2012
Tower Bridge in London, England, January 2, 2012 (Michael Garnett)

Politico reports that Britain’s exit from the European Union is already taking a toll on its international clout:

  • EU allies, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, abstained in June from a United Nations vote on the Chagos Islands, a British territory in the Indian Ocean that houses the Diego Garcia military base and is also claimed by Mauritius. The question of sovereignty has been referred to the International Court of Justice.
  • In November, Britain was forced to withdraw its candidate to fill a vacancy on the same court when it became clear it would lose a UN vote.
  • British diplomats are increasingly ignored in international forums. Read more

Brexit Has Become the Totem of Britain’s Culture War

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

Why have not more British people changed their minds about leaving the EU now that it turns out the promises of the “leave” campaign are not being met?

Sebastian Payne argues in the Financial Times that it’s because Brexit has become the totem of the island’s culture war. Read more

Stirrings of Centrism in the United Kingdom

View of the Thames in London, England at dawn
View of the Thames in London, England at dawn (Uncoated)

Miranda Green writes in the Financial Times that the polarization of British politics has caused some to wonder if there might be room for a new party or political movement in the center.

  • Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry recently said “there are millions of people in this country who feel that there is not one political party that represents them.”
  • A group of entrepreneurs with serious money is clustered around Simon Franks, a former Labour donor.
  • Former prime minister Tony Blair is reportedly bringing together rebellious “sensibles” from all established parties with a view to collaborating at some point in the future.
  • Chris Coghlan and Annabel Mullin, two anti-Brexit politicians, have founded centrist new political parties in Battersea and Kensington, respectively.
  • Adam Knight, an angel investor who unsuccessfully ran in Witney — David Cameron’s old district — last year is said to be mulling a new movement. Read more

Britain Gives into European Demands on Northern Irish Border

British prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker pose for photos in Brussels, December 4
British prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker pose for photos in Brussels, December 4 (European Commission)

As I predicted it would, Britain has given into European demand on the Northern Irish border in order to secure an exit deal on Friday that paves the way for talks about the kingdom’s post-Brexit trade relations with the EU.

In the absence of an innovative solution, Britain is now committed to maintain “full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support north-south cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement” that brought peace to Northern Ireland.

The text also specifically bars the United Kingdom from imposing “new regulatory barriers” that could put the 1998 Good Friday Agreement at risk. Read more