The Chancellor’s visit to China the other week whipped up the dull grey matter of Will Hutton into a bit of a sludge. Hutton criticised the Chancellor for doing a deal which means the Chinese will build and own nuclear power stations in the UK.
We can agree that this could pose some problems regarding security, but apart from that, what has really raised Hutton’s hackles?
Chinese state-owned companies are a byword, not least in China, for inefficiency, loss-making and politicisation of decision-making. The party has wrestled for a generation with the reality that these companies, designed by Mao to embody the communist dream of uniting economic and social obligations, abolishing worker exploitation and spearheading modernisation, are sclerotic economic duds.
But Hutton is a socialist himself, if not a full-blown commie; a fan of state ownership and heavy regulation of business by the state. He’s always advocating more intervention in the private sector. Is he admitting here that state ownership in general is actually useless, or is it just when the Chinese do it? Isn’t that racist or something?
He also complains about the Tories giving away our sovereignty:
Britain has surrendered its capabilities in sector after sector in the name of liberalisation and privatisation, a strategic policy that Bambi is continuing with unquestioning enthusiasm.
And that’s true. Unfortunately for Hutton, because it seems to have slipped his erudite mind, all surrender of both political and commercial sovereignty to Johnny Foreigner in the last 30 years is a direct result of being a member of the European Union. EU directives covering energy (and just about everything else) compel member states to “liberalise”, ie, privatise their public services. That includes postal services – and I’m sure he has conveniently forgotten that one, as well.
Since Will Hutton is a fan of the EU (vide his criticisms of Osborne and his colleagues for being eurosceptic) I can’t see how he resolves this dilemma. You can’t support a project which has as one of its major policies the liberalisation of all public services, and then criticise states who liberalise as demanded.
Whether the liberalisation is done well or not, you still end up with the corporatism Hutton disparages in the Chinese system, where:
The party sustains its monopoly of power by control of the economy; it owns what it considers strategically important and allows private companies to operate only because they submit to a board of communist officials.
And why is that?
Because the states concerned will be operating either as franchisers, shareholders or regulators. And they will be doing all of that under the imposed legislation of an unelected and unaccountable state, ie, the EU. Politicisation in such a situation is unavoidable, nice Mr Miliband’s “restructuring” proposals notwithstanding. Corporatism with a nice blue flag, a bunch of golden stars and a burst of Beethoven’s Ninth. Thank you very much.
So on the one hand we have Will Hutton pretending to be some kind of patriot (British jobs and investment for British workers, British security for British citizens) while supporting a project that not only deprives us of more and more sovereignty but also intends to dissolve the nation state altogether. No such things as British jobs or British workers. Problem solved.
Confusing, isn’t it? Confusing, that is, unless you’re a standard Guardian reader content simply to type inane comments rather than apply some logic to Hutton’s arguments and come to the inescapable conclusion that he’s talking nonsense. As usual.