As a liberal I am genuinely open minded as to the best ways of running companies, enterprises, public services etc. As a trade unionist I am also well aware that the leaders of the UK trade union movement think that most if not all enterprises should be run by the state or by local councils. As socialists these trade union Barons oppose the capitalist system and believe everything should be in common ownership.
Trouble is that trade union members, and I suspect this is by a considerable majority, do not support their leader’s common ownership aspirations. Such has always been the dilemma for the labour and trade union movement and it’s probably at the heart of the dysfunctional nature that trade unions and indeed the Labour Party are prone to exhibit.
But, is it credible to nationalise a parcels company like City Link? In asking this question we have to try to put to one side the terrible way the employees of this failed company have been treated over the Christmas/New Year period. Indeed, you could say that this failing company has exhibited what could be called the worst face of capitalism.
There are clearly many other such parcel delivery companies trading in the same way as City Link although obviously, it would seem, more successfully. So how would nationalising City Link work in practice as the Government could, by implication, be going into competition with the other companies in this sector? At this point you start to scratch your head because surely the only sensible thing to do in following this socialist ideal would be to nationalise the whole sector!
Ed Miliband would not nationalise City Link or the delivery sector because to do so, or to even talk about it as a possibility, would certainly seal the Labour Party’s demise in a similar way to when they self destructed during Michael Foot’s time as Leader.
I actually have every respect for true socialists and count some amongst my friends but they are trying to change an economic system from black to white and it simply is not going to happen. As an aside, a conversation with a Labour Party friend of mine was revealing recently he told me that he was a capitalist. Thereby hangs another big dilemma in that many Labour Party members are not socialists.
But why not suggest that the company, or what may look to be viable parts of it are floated off as mutuals or co-operatives owned by the workforce. Surely such a move would be a more practical solution if the owners of the company’s assets would allow this to happen.
As my colleague Iain Brodie Browne has said many times we have missed a trick by not embracing the mutual and co-operative route to create sound enterprises. Indeed, there has been a failure across the whole political spectrum to both promote mutuals/Co-ops and to put in place a legislative structure that could positively assist their creation and the sustainability of them.
Sorry, nationalisation would simply not work with City Link and it is an unfortunate distraction from a trade union movement, which as I have said many times, has failed to find its place in this period of austerity and financial instability.
As a foot note, I would add, this does not mean that I can’t see a place for nationalised companies because in our railways I can see a strong argument for them being run, again, in that way.