Labour activists, while pleased with the steps taken toward rail renationalisation, have ultimately been left baffled by the decision of Labour's leaders to compromise with calls for the complete nationalisation of British railways. After discussions with union leaders and representatives from the grassroots labour movement, the party's leaders opted for a new law that would see the creation of a new state-run rail company to compete alongside private firms; intending to increase competition and fix yet another one of Britain's broken markets.
Ed Miliband's proposals of market reform offers a refreshing alternative to the laissez-faire consensus, however many will argue that Labour's policies lack the radicalism needed to end the exploitation of both consumers and employees within an increasingly unequal British economy. Even if state firms are able to compete against their private counterparts, our railways would still be ran with business sense (i.e a constant need to make profit) instead of operating as a public service (i.e for the needs of the taxpayer). Investment in our rail infrastructure will only keep coming if the market conditions are right, and it is therefore impossible to guarantee a sustainable future for a transport service that over 3 million people rely on each day.
Like the NHS, British Rail was a valued public service that delivered to meet the needs of the public. Since the privatisation of rail, fares have risen almost year on year above the rate of inflation. It is easy to justify why your energy bills might have gone up (the rising cost of fossil fuels), however there are few credible explanations for why fares are outpacing inflation. The failure of the privatised model to deliver cheaper services to the British people has contributed to the rising cost of living and has (for over three million people) made the daily commute to work significantly more expensive.
The economic drawbacks of higher fare prices should be reason enough to bring our rails back under state control, yet Labour are still too hesitant to even to talk about abolishing the privatised model. Unfortunately, Ed Miliband is failing to deliver the Thatcherite revolution in reverse that many of his supporters were hoping for; the compromise on rail is just another example of this. Whether this political timidness stems from Miliband himself, or senior Blairites such as Peter Mandelson, remains under question.
Ironically, the same fear of sending Labour back into the electoral pitt of the 1980s is stopping party from making much needed gains before the next general election. British people, from all walks of life (including Conservatives) support railway renationsaliation - 60% of people in the UK want to see a return to the public model [YouGov poll]. Naturally, the vast majority of Labour supporters would also support renationalisation. Again, nationalised railways have support from both the general public and activists within the labour movement, giving Labour leaders little electoral justification for their decision to compromise with unions over the policy.
Britain wants renationalisation, but will the next government deliver? If that government happens to be Tory, we will only ever see an acceleration of privatisation, however a Labour government can only be guaranteed if the party chooses to embrace the policies chosen by the public.
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