Labour is right, it’s time to take water into public ownership.

Toby Lipatti-Mesme
3 min readJul 27, 2021

Thatcher’s water privatisation scheme has been a 30 year racket, and the British public have had enough of it.

In the wake of flooding in parts of London and now Scotland seeing roads submerging, we’ve had a rare policy commitment from Keir Starmer, this is from the Camden New Journal: ““Water should be run in the best interests of the environment and consumers — not shareholders,” a spokesperson for the Holborn and St Pancras MP and party leader said. “Labour believe that common ownership can deliver that.””. This is spot on from Labour, it’s time to end the privatization rip off and take our water back into public ownership, let’s talk about why.

Margaret Thatcher's water privatization was a fully ideological project with essentially no benefits for the general public, even in the short term. It was an ideologically zealous desire for as many aspect of the then rich public realm and common wealth to be thrown into private hands as quickly and unceremoniously as possible, as someone, simply by nature of not being under the control of government, they would magically improve as assets and services.

A pretty basic proposition for a society to have is that our water supply is collective, we all own it, and we all use it, regardless of absolutely any qualifying factors. Whatever gibberish you hear from the political and pundit class, the public strongly endorse this logic, and have done for a very long time, because unlike the political class, they aren’t neoliberal zealots: 63% of the public want water unequivocally brought under public control, making it one of the most popular utilities to nationalise, since the logic is so inarguable when it comes to ending the corporate rip off we’re living through right now.

Our water is now run by 9 private monopolies; yes, monopolies, and mostly owned by private equity. So instead of a well funded service run in public hands, a natural monopoly with absolutely zero “benefit” to being part of a market, we have an underfunded one, run by private equity, squeezing it to maximise private profit. This cuts through, the last conversation about this I had with a non-political person ended with them calling it “criminal”, because when you look at what’s gone on here it really is a great injustice. So called patriotic governments have put in place a system where wealthy investors in places such as Hong Kong and Canada are making a tidy profit from our water.

Where is all the money going, since much of these systems haven’t bee sufficiently upgraded or invested in for decades? Well, since 1989 £56 billion has gone in dividends, with £6.5 billion going to shareholders between 2013 and 2017. The racket these people are making is quite sickening, this is an essential service that’s been run into the ground while these fat cats cream a massive profit for sitting on their arses and presiding over the decline. At the end of the day, this is what Thatcherite ideology wanted, it wanted a system where ever corner of our lives could be used for a wealthy individual to cream a profit; if this wasn’t happening, it was wrong. This corrupted logic has been central to both Tory and Labour governments ever since, and still dominates the political consensus among politicians in this country, even when the public has moved on.

And it bares keeping in mind, these crony capitalists aren’t even doing capitalism very well. So much for the efficiency of the market, these clowns are presiding over massive debts for the water industry and services declining in quality to shocking degrees up and down the country, all while doing little to rectify course other than paying themselves those big dividends. How these people sleep at night when they know their cushy lifestyle has been payed for this way is completely beyond me: it’s an act of social arson against your own community.

Labour is right to make a commitment to reversing this foul racket being propagated at the expense of the British public. Let’s have fully funded, collectively owned water system, by and for the public good, with no profiteers involved at any stage.



Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.