Sunday, 25 September 2011

Dragons - and Fabian audience - support breaking up the energy companies

Emily Thornberry began our political Dragons' Den on the Fabian Fringe at Sunday lunchtime by saying that the dragons - Luke Akehurst, Hazel Blears MP, and Anthony Painter - have been arguing about which dragon they each want to be. 

First up into the Den was David Goodhart who - while taking at least twice his allotted time - argued that immigration should be capped at 150-200,000 a year.

Luke Akehurst called Goodhart's immigration ideas 'courageous' but 'impractical'. Blears was rather more interested and said it'd get support on the doorstep. She also agreed with Goodhart that Turkey should be refused membership of the EU.

Anthony Painter said there has definitely been a 'fundamental breakdown of trust' between government and ordinary people on immigration. Ultimately Goodhart's solution of the immigration cap won't solve this, he argued.

Risking the wrath of the Fabian audience, David Goodhart responded "We need to deal with the rioting hoodies, for Christ's sake, before opening the floodgates to more".

Next up was Daniel Elton, who argued that the energy market is broken, we need to break up the big six companies, and let in, say, Tesco to run some of it. The NHS, local authorities should buy its energy in one bulk deal.

Blears rightly predicted he'd get all the Dragons on his side. Old energy companies were monolithic and gave no choice to the consumer - and nothing has changed, she said. There were price rises announced on the same day as British Gas announced a £750m profit. Akehurst agreed and thought the proposal should be put to the Shadow Policy Forum process: "Run with it, please, it's great." There were no votes on the panel - or in the audience against this proposal.

Sally Gimson argued we should have new Commissioners for Victims' Rights, as they do in Australia, who are hands-on, nationwide and take crime seriously. Commissioners who stand up for victims and witnesses in court rather than courts that simply perpetuate the working practices of lawyers.

Blears agreed that the current Commissioner is "hamstrung" and that the views of victims and witnesses are not accorded enough importance and respect. "Do I think it's an election-winning idea that'd really resonate with the public? The answer sadly is no." said Luke Akehurst. However, the proposal got a unanimous yes from the dragons.

Will Cook argued government should provide access to start up capital as soon as someone has made five years' worth of NI contributions: "It's the lack of availability to capital that holds people back", he said. "We need to get away from the consensus that 'education, education and education' alone is enough... This would be a popular policy - nearly half of all British workers say they'd rather be self-employed, yet only one in ten is."

Anthony Painter called it 'an interesting twist' on how to get money into new businesses. His one question was whether the state is the right vehicle or whether it could better be delivered by a credit union or bank. Blears said the single biggest issue at the next election would be jobs. There is no shortage of entrepreneurialism - "some of Salford's gangsters are the most entrepreneurial people you could meet!"

Chair Emily Thornberry then put the four proposals to an audience vote. Goodhart's immigration proposal gained 1 vote; Elton's energy proposal gained 27, Gimson's Commissioners got 6 votes, and Cook's start up capital proposal got 13.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Basically the Tories are doing the cap on Immigration, so you might as well vote Tory.

Breaking up the energy companies into what smaller groups who will then buy them selves and make bigger companies these companies were in the main small as for Tesco this large company will be one that buys up the smaller companies until it takes the market and then makes profits.

This is stupid it's running over the same crap as always the fact is labour tried to destroy the Tories to become the Tories it's failed the Tories are back in fact and we have no need for a mini Tory party.