After two years with Ed as leader, only the most fanatical Blairites could now claim that Labour chose the 'wrong' Miliband. But although genuine progressives should be pleased that the 'David Miliband for Leader' band-wagon was derailed, Ed still isn't there yet. Yes, his speech in Manchester was very well-delivered and contained some nice phrases. But there was one thing lacking: a commitment to public ownership. And make no mistake, that's an important omission. Public ownership isn't some fringe issue- it is the issue, if we're really serious about building a fairer, a more egalitarian and a more efficient Britain.
Embarking on a programme of re-nationalisation would help achieve several goals. It would reduce unemployment as publicly-owned corporations, with no shareholders to pay dividends to, would not be so obsessed in driving down labour costs to the minimum. All over Europe, privatisation has been accompanied by job losses: it's no coincidence at all that the era of neo-liberalism, which kicked off in the late 70s in Britain, has been marked by high levels of unemployment.
Re-nationalisation would also lead to lower prices for our trains, buses, gas, electricity and water, helping ordinary people, already struggling to make ends meet in the harsh economic climate, and hard-pressed small businesses. Just compare the prices of train travel in Britain- where the railways are privatised with those in mainland Europe where state-owned companies operate. Research from the Campaign for Better Transport revealed how a season ticket for a 22 mile train journey for commuters to Madrid in Spain cost £653.74, while a 17-mile journey from St Albans to London cost £2,988.
Re-nationalisation would also help to narrow the gap between rich and poor which has greatly widened in the neo-liberal era. That's because private ownership of capital is one of the four main ways inequalities in wealth develop. Another is income from salaries and here the new renationalised industries could lead the way towards a fairer Britain by making sure that the highest paid person in the company was paid no more than four times the lowest paid. The major extension of public ownership in the years following World War Two not only led to the more efficient organisation of inefficient industries like coal and the railways, it was also a major factor in diminishing economic inequality over the next quarter-century and a new era of nationalisation can have the same effect.
Yet despite the clear advantages Ed seems wedded to the idea of trying to make the flawed privatisation model work better- with Labour urging us to sign up to their 'collective energy switching scheme' to get a better deal from the privately owned energy suppliers. But privatisation is beyond repair: it needs to be ditched altogether.
At the same time that Miliband's speech was being shown live on BBC2, BBC1 were showing a classic episode of the popular sitcom Only Fools and Horses. The hero of that show, Derek Trotter, aka Del Boy, had a motto 'He who dares, wins'. Eventually Del Boy and his brother Rodney do strike the jackpot. I think there's a lesson here for Ed Miliband. Despite Labour's lead in the polls, the next election is not yet in the bag. To secure victory Miliband needs to attract voters like me, people who left Labour when they scrapped Clause Four. Polls show that around 70% want to see the railways renationalised, while a poll in the Sunday Express showed that 71% want to see water renationalised- the figure rising to 78% in the London region.
He who dares, wins Ed. Don't worry that snooty elite media commentators will attack you for supporting re-nationalisation: you'll have the great British public on your side.
Neil Clark is the co-founder of the Campaign for Public Ownership
He tweets in a personal capacity @NeilClark66
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