‘Elect me once more and we will finish off socialism for good,’ declared Mrs Thatcher before the 1987 general election, or words to that effect. Not so fast. Thirty two years on and we are engaged in an unseemly contest as to which party can increase public spending, and with it the size of the state, the most. The latest wheeze on Corbyn’s part is to promise us all free broadband. Yes, you, I, the Duke of Westminster, Barclays Bank: we will all qualify for internet on the house.
It won’t really be free of course. Labour’s compulsory purchase of BT Openreach will cost up to £25 billion, on top of which will come the cost of maintaining the broadband service. The income from subscriptions, such as my £46 a month, will no longer be available.
There may also be a price, of course, in terms of quality of service. Broadband can be agonising at times, but at least we have a choice. If we don’t like BT, or if as happened my case, TalkTalk leaves you without a service for three months, you can switch and dump the useless critters. Not under Corbyn’s nationalised service, you won’t. It will be state broadband or nothing. No other company will be able to compete. And it will have no incentive to improve the service.
Where does this all lead? If broadband is going to be a state monopoly, free at the point of delivery, then what about other basics? Are we going to have a national food service, an all you can eat buffet on the taxpayer. What about free clothing for all, which is surely a more basic essential than broadband? Or free fuel, electricity? This really is getting into the realms of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and we know how that has ended.