"PRIVATISATION is at the centre of any programme of reclaiming territory for freedom," declared Margaret Thatcher as justification for her programme that wrested control of British industry from what she labelled "the corrosive and corrupting effects of socialism".

But freedom comes at a cost.

Thanks to her foresight we now enjoy the freedom to switch from one energy supplier that offers dreadful customer service to one who'll rope you in with a short term offer before hiking its prices.

A damning new survey by consumer group Which? of almost 9,000 customers has led to the Big Six energy companies facing renewed criticism for poor levels of service. For the sixth year running Npower - whose billing and call centre operation is run from the North-East - was bottom of the pile for customer satisfaction.

Thanks to privatisation we have the freedom to pay £124.70 for a 'super advanced off peak' train ticket to travel between Darlington and London with no guarantee of a seat on knackered old rolling stock which in some cases predates Thatcher being elected Prime Minister.

The rail franchise system sees millions of pounds wasted by operators to rebrand trains and stations when they take control of a route. I laughed on Monday when Richard Branson's usually slick PR team issued a press release announcing: "Virgin Trains is lifting the mood on-board its trains with a £21 makeover." £21 indeed! - I expect it will cost Branson, and ultimately his fare paying customers, a good deal more than that.

Thanks to privatisation bus operators have the freedom to axe rural services, leaving those without access to a car starved of a public service that should be regarded as a basic human right.

The sale of our domestic steel industry to overseas investors - which continued under Tony Blair's government - gave them the freedom to protect their home grown interests and withhold investment in British plants when the going got tough. The latest job cuts from Tata has led to mounting fears Britain will soon be wholly reliant on steel imports to build its skyscrapers, bridges and railways.

During the Thatcher years scores of industries were sold or privatised – including power, steel and water – raising more than £50bn for the Exchequer. That paved the way for the privatisations of telecoms, electricity, rail and ushered in a new era of share ownership, famously characterised in the Tell Sid campaign that advertised the British Gas float.

The same people who made a killing from the cut price sale of publicly owned assets now moan that they have to stand on commuter trains, and shed crocodile tears at the demise of out steel industry. Can't they just enjoy the freedom they've been given?

"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose,

And nothin' left was all she left to me," sang Kris Kristofferson on the ballad Me and Bobby McGee.

His views on Maggie Thatcher remain unrecorded.

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