Tricky tracks on the way to nationalisation

Monday 19th March 2018

I’m indebted to the Daily Telegraph’s main business story – that Corbyn’s plan to nationalise will trigger legal battles. Well, yes of course. Imagine the task of achieving a full market value for a Royal Mail, for example, as shares in it tumble as privatisation looks more likely. The lawyers will pile in.

But Royal Mail’s trajectory from public to part quoted and then back to ‘publicly’ owned is a relatively simple voyage in the Labour project.

Consider the railways. The passengers hate the fares and the shabby treatment . Thus the whole thing is a convenient target for Labour. Get the trains under public ownership again.

I won’t try to remind those who travelled on British Rail, or try to educate those who are too young to remember, what the shambles of a dirty, run for the privilege of the staff, arrogant set up it became – but rather remember a very good Radio5 interview by the excellent Emma Barnett about eighteen months ago. She was questioning Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald.

It was a long interview, and of course, as all decent broadcasters know, the fish is finally brought alongside after a long line. Labour had been calling for nationalisations in the key privatised parts of the economy – including the railways. Ms Barnett asked McDonald how long it would take to nationalise the railways.

He said, given the existing franchises and probable compensation for shareholders and franchisees, between two and three terms. Of government. So – what then ? Up to perhaps ten years? Yes.

I’ll let you mull the ‘don’t hold your breath’ section of Labour Party policy.


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