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LABOUR was accused of funnelling public profit to shareholders today after it said that the party would not bring energy, rail and water into public ownership if they won the next election.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme today that the party had ditched its earlier manifesto ideals to nationalise the industries.
The last general election in 2019, under then leader Jeremy Corbyn, promised to bring the sectors and the broadband-relevant parts of BT into public ownership.
Ms Reeves said: “They were a commitment in a manifesto that secured our worst results since 1935.
“I’ve set out fiscal rules that say all day-to-day spending will be funded by day-to-day tax revenues.
“To be spending billions of pounds on nationalising things, that just doesn’t stack up against our fiscal rules.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was forced to clarify that the party will stick with its plans to nationalise railways following Ms Reeves’s comments.
He said that with so much of the railways already in state hands it would be “pragmatic” for that to remain the case if he makes it into Number 10.
He told the Mirror: “My priority is growth and partnership. Not an ideological attachment to particular models of ownership.
“Rail is probably different from the others because so much of our rail is already in public ownership.”
Last month, Sir Keir said the “slate is wiped cleaned” and that the party was “starting from scratch.”
Mr Corbyn warned of a cost-of-living crisis where “greed profits and inequality continue to grow.”
He said: “There are more billionaires and more people forced into using foodbanks than at any other point in history.
“This scandal demands immediate action. The way forward has to be a radical economic alternative, including public ownership of rail, energy, water and the Royal Mail.
“We must recognise that most workers have seen cuts in wages over the past decade, while bosses take home record pay and bonuses.
“Now is the time for a bold alternative to the poverty, misery and desperation faced by millions of families in our communities and workplaces.”
Scottish Greens finance spokesman Ross Greer MSP urged Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to confirm if his party now proposed privatising Scottish Water.
Mr Greer said: “Water, energy, railways, and telecommunications are basic public services that should be operated in the public interest.
“Running these essential services in the public sector ensures that profits can be reinvested in improving services, not funnelled away to line the pockets of company shareholders.
“Labour’s latest position on this issue is utterly baffling, particularly given the popularity of putting this essential national infrastructure into public ownership.
“[Its] bizarre positioning on this issue, seemingly in some misguided attempt to distance the party from the Corbyn era, simply reinforces the view that when it comes to the economy there is little difference between Keir Starmer’s Labour Party and the current Conservative government.”
Mr Greer condemned Sir Keir for abandoning his leadership campaign promises in “what looks like a hopeless attempt to curry favour with the corporations and super-rich individuals currently laughing their way to the bank while ordinary people’s bills soar.”
Former Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long Bailey urged Sir Keir to be “more radical and transformational” on economic policy to maintain a poll lead.
She called on the party to campaign on a manifesto that includes state ownership and a living standards contract between the government and the public, and rejected any suggestion that voters had no appetite at the last election for Labour’s economic policies.
Ms Long Bailey told the Guardian: “We are living through the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, with household fuel and water bills soaring, while rail fares continue to rack up.
“It’s critical that Labour remains on the side of public opinion here, and that we go into the next election with our existing policies on public ownership.”
Labour MP Zarah Sultana said: “Bringing rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership is hugely popular.
“It’s also key to building a fair, sustainable society. Backing that should be a no-brainer for the Labour Party.”
Recent polling of the red wall by We Own It shows that 68 per cent support public ownership of rail and energy while 70 per cent want water nationalised.
We Own It founder and director Cat Hobbs said: “Dropping these policies would be a mistake, both morally and strategically.
“The cost-of-living crisis has demonstrated, more than ever, that we simply cannot afford to allow private companies to run our key public services for profit.
“We need to bring our public services into public hands, and we need to do it now.”
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