Jeremy Corbyn’s flagship transport policy announcement has been marred by claims it is a simple re-hash of old Labour policies developed by his ex-shadow minister.
His opponent in the party leadership election Owen Smith rubbished what Corbyn called the “launch” of a plan to “transform” Britain’s railways.
“There is nothing new in what Jeremy is saying - he is simply rehashing existing Labour party policy,” a spokesperson for Smith said.
Lilian Greenwood, who resigned as shadow transport secretary in June, repeated the claim, saying there was “nothing new” about promises to extend public control over bus networks.
She pointed to a Bill from by Labour’s peers in the House of Lords that, if passed, would see local authorities given the power to award bus contracts to municipal or county-owned operators.
Greenwood has previously criticised Corbyn’s handling of transport policy, saying in a speech weeks after resigning that, in January, the Labour leader had scuppered a long-planned coordinated attack on the Tories for rail fare rises.
“All across the country local party activists were outside railway stations in the cold and the dark, leafleting commuters with the materials we’d prepared. Armed with the briefings and statistics,” she said.
“Incredibly, Jeremy launched a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle on the same day. It knocked all the coverage of the rail fare rise and our public ownership policy off every news channel and every front page.
“I respect completely Jeremy’s right to reshuffle his top team. But why then? It was unnecessary and it was incompetent.”
Today she added in a blog on The Huffington Post UK that Corbyn had “undone” hundreds of Labour activists’ hard work when he orchestrated a reshuffle to coincide with the rail campaign.
“Today, Jeremy undermined his Labour colleagues in a different way.” Greenwood wrote. “A press release from his campaign stated that he was making new announcements on bus regulation and rail public ownership - the ‘latest policies from Jeremy.’ This is categorically untrue.
“Every single policy that Jeremy now claims for his own is existing Labour policy. In the case of bus regulation, it has been for half a decade.”
Meanwhile, Labour campaigner Jade Azim also lamented that Corbyn was announcing policies she had been involved in the original campaign launch for in January.
In a series of tweets, the Open Labour editor complained that Corbyn had declared a similar initiative months ago, which was “pushed out of the news cycle” by his decision to conduct a shadow cabinet reshuffle.
“We’ve been through this,” Azim said. “A summer of getting excited about politics that’s never come to fruition or be overshadowed by incompetence.”
While Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop claimed that Corbyn has “sabotaged” the original fair price rail campaign. “[The] horse has bolted now,” he said.
When asked for comment to rebut the allegations, a spokesperson for Corbyn’s campaign team pointed to a release on the website CorbynFacts, which read: “Labour’s policy in the 2015 manifesto allowed a public sector operator to bid for franchises when they came up for renewal.
“Our policy of returning trains to public ownership became party policy two weeks into Jeremy’s leadership, when he recognised Party Conference’s longstanding democratic decision to make this Labour Party policy.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s policies to automatically give local councils the power to franchise bus routes would release over £340million for the benefit of bus services.
“These gains are even greater if local councils were to municipally run local bus networks; this would unlock more than £500m ever year to invest in increasing and improving bus routes. Yet this is exactly what the current government is seeking to prevent.
“Owen Smith’s response to our announcement alongside the transport unions today focuses solely on his £200bn investment plan. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s plans do not just provide more than double the investment to rebuild and transform Britain – £500bn backed by a National Investment Bank and a network of regional banks.
“They also recognise that it is not just about upfront investment, it is about how we run our services for the benefit of society and about extending democratic public oversight of our public transport system.”