Comment: Labour can't separate the utility sheep from goats
'Airports cannot be defined as a utility, Sir John Egan argues, nor does BAA have a monopoly. So where are the transatlantic jumbos meant to land: Biggin Hill?'
Friday 16 May 1997
The answer he gave yesterday was that BT is neither a utility nor a monopoly, an argument which intriguingly is also used by Sir John Egan of BAA (the former British Airports Authority). To Sir Iain's mind, running a public telephone network is apparently not the same thing as running a utility. Nor does having 90 per cent of all domestic telephone subscribers add up to being a monopoly. Mmmm. Sir John uses much the same fuzzy logic. Airports cannot be defined as a utility, he argues, nor does BAA have a monopoly. So where are the transatlantic jumbos meant to land: Biggin Hill?
Leaving aside this slightly unreal debate in semantics, there's more than a chance that the real source of Sir Iain's misinformation was the horse's mouth itself - Tony Blair. Mr Blair is temperamentally against the tax, which he rightly sees as arbitrary and oppressive. But the money for welfare to work has to come from somewhere, so he accepts it as a necessary evil. However, to Mr Blair's mind there are good utilities and bad ones; BT falls into the former category, for it operates in a competitive market place and is a company Britain can justifiably be proud of.
At the genesis of the windfall tax policy, then, there was a good chance of BT being excluded. Mr Blair even hinted at it in his various public pronouncements on the tax. Then along came the problem of definition - how to distinguish the privatised companies Labour does want to hit, without actually naming them, from those it does not. It proved an impossible task. Furthermore, Labour has been subjected to a furious lobbying campaign from those who always were going to be hit to spread the net as widely as possible.
The upshot is that Mr Blair has lost the argument to Gordon Brown and BT is now very definitely to be included. What this will do to the love affair between BT and New Labour is anyone's guess. Sir Iain insisted yesterday that despite the possibility of taking legal action against the Government, he wouldn't be taking his ball away. He still wished to establish a close working partnership with the new administration.
The damage has nonetheless been done. In terms of public relations, it really wasn't a smart move for Sir Iain to come over all indignant about the windfall tax on the day the company announced a pounds 3bn profit. Indeed his comments could reasonably be described, as they were by Government sources yesterday, as politically naive. Other utilities are choosing stoically to swallow their medicine in public while complaining loudly in private. Given that there is absolutely nothing anyone can now do to stop the tax, that would rather seem to be the more mature and fruitful approach.
scienceScientists find the answer to a question that even puzzled Darwin
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
arts + entsThe 'Friends' actor on his new role as campaigner on addiction issues
Geoffrey Macnab: The Wolf of Wall Street's account of white-collar excess is A Rake’s Progress on steroids
scienceThe new development in bio-printing technology could be used in the future to restore lost vision - though years of research still await
architectureThe design collective which has stuck two fingers up at the modernists will call it quits at Venice
... But if you’re one of those poor souls offended by Jennifer Lopez’s choice of leotard, Grace Dent wants you to get a bloody grip
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
Colin Farrell reveals ‘affair’ with Elizabeth Taylor: 'She was my last romantic relationship'
Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
India-US row over escalates over arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York
Peter O'Toole: Tales of the late film icon
- 1 Facebook 'self-censorship': study records when you don't post to find more ways to share
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 British prisoner Dr Abbas Khan found dead in Syrian jail days before he was due to be handed over to MP George Galloway
- 4 Vitamin pills are a waste of money, offer no health benefits and could be harmful - study
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£44999 - £60001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: A Top Tier firm i...
£50000 - £75000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Implementation...
£50000 - £65000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Project Manage...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: My client deliver into the Investment Managemen...