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Friday, 12 April 2013

Thatcher and Sid

The pub juke box was belting out Boy George for the third disk in a row; eyes were fixed on the mechanism as the arm lifted the 45 single, jerkily returned it to it's slot in the fan-array of black plastic ... and then returned back to the same place to lift it out again. There was a soft groan from the bar. The London after work pub crowd was complacent; it had been three years since the IRA's last major mainland bombing and Londoners, who recover quickly anyway, had almost forgotten the threat. This was a workers' pub, which is to say well-frequented by students and the unemployed with a leavening of actual tradesmen - mostly painters, for some reason - having an after-work pint. 

" 'Ere maigh, izzat your Standa'?" Came a voice in my ear. I nodded and passed it across. "See 'ow me shares have done today" the voice explained. It didn't need to explain further. Thatcher's Gas privatisation in December 1986 had made shareholders for the first time of hundreds of thousands of small investors. Though some had taken to buying the FT on the basis of a £250 shareholding, thereby wiping out their dividend, most relied, in London at least, on discarded Standards to keep track of the share price. 

Many preferential small shareholders cashed in immediately, walking away with a fat profit, but no matter; share ownership, once something arcane and foreign to most people, had become commonplace, something of which your neighbour had experience. Those who recall the impact that it had didn't find at all extraordinary Vince Cable's suggestion that the government's bank shares be sold off preferentially to small investors; most folk can find £500, particularly if this represents a real discount on the share market price. Unlike the feeble-minded Osborne, Thatcher could see the scale of social impact such a move would make.    


Anonymous said...

Gas, leccy and phones were good businesses with undeveloped potential ripe for exploitation - a guaranteed winner. The crippled banks seem a very different proposition - I seem to remember HMG declared at the bailout that HM Treasury would show a profit in a few years - as if! If there were a profit it is invisible so far. No, HMG wants to flog the banks to raise cash and dump dead assets on the public. You buy if you want to, I won't, I am too old and can't wait 20 years and I don't like the smell of the product.

Blue Eyes said...

Roger, that's probably to get around the state aid rules. The government is not "subsidising" the banks *cough* it is "re-structuring" the banks *cough*.

I bought in to National Power and PowerGen. That was an exciting time. I remember as a keen youngster thinking that the future seemed within grasp. Then a few years later everyone voted Labour again.

Anonymous said...

There was no state subsidy. The government didn't give the banks any money. The government printed money and bought back the bonds that the banks had invested in before time. In doing so they saved quite a lot on interest they would have had to pay (30+ billion).
As for the gas giveaway....quite. The gas company was yours anyway. You were given back your property which you then sold. Not that you had much choice.

Bill Sticker said...

I too made money on those shares. The sense of having a real say as a shareholder was an immense boost. I too made reasonable money on Gas, Banks, and a number of other share sales.

Although the BS touted by the 'They were your company anyway' faction is complete nonsense. Try claiming 'your' bit of any nationalised industry and see what happens. Those are no more 'yours' than a stretch of motorway.