22 August 2023

Where has all the power gone? Part 1

It's life.....



Although the masters make the rules

For the wise men and the fools

I got nothing, Ma, to live up to



My daughter, Hannah, and I travel to Putney to see my aunt. Eve, my mother’s younger sister, was born in Kerala in 1925, and at 98 she smiles, but cannot get up. She speaks, but cannot hear. Her powers are, inevitably, fading, but we communicate by means of a whiteboard, and drink a glass of water together.  She is less mobile now than when we celebrated her birthday in March, but her spirit is still strong.


She is in the front room of her home, visited briskly three times a day by social workers who get her up from her bed in the morning, help her to the toilet, and then put her back to bed in the evening. Not really very different from my wife, Amanda’s, routines (Although Amanda is in a care home now.)


We do not stay very long. I feel guilty but Eve is tiring and I have a ticket to ascend Lift 109, 109 metres up the north-west chimney of Battersea Power Station, whose website pronounces the following:  






Battersea Power Station’s silhouette has long been a prominent fixture on the London skyline. Built in the 1930s and operational as a power station until the early 1980s, at its peak, it generated one fifth of London’s power. Since then, the building has provided us with a whole lot more than electricity, becoming a cultural icon after acting as a backdrop for an array of films, music videos, album covers and more.


Which, I suppose, was brilliant. Powering one fifth of London’s power.....  But who has the power now? Well, on the 4th July, 2012, on the Channel Island of Jersey, a Malaysian consortium comprising Sime Darby Berhad, S P Setia Berhad and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) acquired London’s iconic Battersea Power Station for £400 million.


For S P Setia, one of the leading property developers in Malaysia, the Battersea acquisition is part of its strategy to seek out good opportunities in selected international markets to expand its operations, in line with its long-term objective to become a global property player. At present, the Group has presence in Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, China and Indonesia.

Sime Darby is a Malaysia-based, diversified multinational employing over 100,000 people in more than 20 countries. They are involved in key growth sectors, including: property, motors, industrial equipment, energy & utilities and healthcare. Founded in 1910, its business divisions seek to create positive benefits in the economy, environment and society where it has a presence.


And all of this may be fine, but I cannot help but think there is an irony somewhere. Wasn’t Brexit sold as Making Britain Great Again, a populist rant against ‘foreign’ interference?  


Standing atop the 109-metre chimney of the refurbished ‘Power’ Station I feel very small, and very powerless.  Almost (in the face of this mega-building packed with merchants, victuallers and accommodation) as frail as my aunt, bless her, is now.


I think, for a moment, about Britain’s greatnesses: – 


RailwaysSeven UK railways are operated or partly-operated by Dutch state railway Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), including Merseyrail, Scotrail and the West Midlands Railway. Seven railways are operated fully or partly by French state railway SNCF, including Transport for Wales and the Thameslink.


WaterworksOver 90% of the English water companies are owned by international investors, private equity funds, and banks. Only 8.5% of shareholders in the water sector are UK pension funds....


Energy:  If you are looking for a British owned energy company within the “Big Six” then you might struggle. In fact, it's only British Gas and SSE who are British owned. EDF, E.ON, Npower and Scottish Power are all internationally owned.....


Car companies:  Morgan is the only entirely British-owned and British-made car company on the list of UK car manufacturers. Only a few hundred cars are made every year at their factory in Malvern, Worcester, hence the waiting list for a Morgan can be up to 2 years.  Rolls Royce and Mini are owned by BMW; Audi owns Bentley; Jaguar Landrover belong to Tata;  the Chinese state motor company SAIC owns MG, and Opel (now owned by Stellantis) wholly owns Vauxhall.... 


Steel: In March 2020, British Steel was bought by the Jingye Group, a Chinese multi-industrial company specialising in iron and steel manufacturing. Port Talbot steelworks are owned by Tata (who, apart from owning Jaguar Landrover, also own Tetley’s tea....)


Energy companies:  Approximately 60% of the UK energy supply comes from abroad: from countries including Norway, Qatar, Sweden and the Netherlands, among many more. Around 60% of the UK's natural gas imports come from Norway, and 30% of it comes from Qatar....


I feel powerless.....  It is all beyond me.  I never have understood economics.  Nor politics.  I don’t apportion blame.  I don’t claim any high ground.


But isn’t there something fundamentally awry? This puny island nation voted by a narrow margin to leave the EU on the grounds that ‘we’ could take back sovereignty.  


Bring it on.....


For them that think death’s honesty

Won’t fall upon them naturally

Life sometimes must get lonely


Bob Dylan


It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)



  1. It’s a barking world in which the general population ‘owns’ very little. Eve’s world is in the past and there is little hope for the future.

  2. Ah yes. We can all dream about reversing the internationalisation of our country putting up the shutters, "reshoring" our industries, restricting foreign imports and investment and going back to the good old days ;-). Lovely photos as usual. Thanks!