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Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt
SIR KEIR STARMER was accused of reneging on his pledge to renationalise the energy sector today, as Labour conference delegates overwhelmingly backed public ownership.
When asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether he would consider nationalising the “big six” energy companies, the Labour leader said “no” — apparently ditching his leadership campaign pledge to support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water.
Labour would only consider nationalisation when it would deliver “value for money for the taxpayer and a better service,” he added.
His comments appeared to contradict shadow business secretary Ed Miliband, who in his speech to the Labour conference today said that “public and alternative models of ownership” must be part of a just transition to a new green economy.
Sir Keir’s apparent volte-face came as delegates backed two green new deal motions at conference which called for greater public ownership of the economy.
The first, forwarded by the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) in association with grassroots campaign Labour for a Green New Deal (LGND), demanded nationalisation of the energy and transport sectors.
Backed by the CWU and TSSA unions, the motion also called for a government programme to create millions of “well-paid, unionised green jobs” and fund Third World debt relief as part of a “global socialist green new deal.”
The successful passing of the motion, which Labour’s Leeds East MP Richard Burgon said was a “humiliation” for Sir Keir, came after it was reinstated on appeal despite initially being ruled out of order by the conference arrangements committee last week.
LGND co-founder Chris Saltmarsh said: “Despite efforts to block this motion and stifle party democracy, members have demonstrated the strength of support for a transformative climate agenda.
“Despite his promise to create a more democratic culture, Starmer is alienating himself from ordinary members. He should restate the ambitious pledges of his leadership campaign and put the green new deal at the heart of his agenda.”
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said the motion would “put workers at the heart of policy-making.
“This is not about scrapping people’s jobs. This is about industrial transformation that will create millions of new jobs. High-tech, trade-unionised jobs for the future.”
Momentum co-chair Gaya Sriskanthan said the vote was a “turning point,” adding: “The grassroots have had enough of timid centrism and have overwhelmingly endorsed transformative socialist policy that meets the crises of the 21st century head on.
“Starmer has spent long enough running away from his 10 pledges, it’s time to support transformative policy. Labour members back bold solutions, the leadership needs to follow suit.”
A separate motion from the GMB union, which attacked the privatisation of public services and called for a “balanced and secure energy mix” including renewables, nuclear and hydrogen, was passed by 59 per cent after going to a card vote.
Welcoming the result, GMB general secretary Gary Smith said the vote would be “welcomed in working-class communities” across the country.
“Conference has taken a big step forward towards ensuring that climate justice and economic justice go hand in hand as the UK plays its part in tackling the climate crisis.”
A further motion, forwarded by CWU and seconded by Unite, said Royal Mail and broadband-relevant parts of BT must be nationalised as part of a “deep and transformative change” in the way the economy is run.
It slammed “timid tweaks” to the current system as not being enough to tackle the scale of the problem.
The votes came after new Opinium polling suggests a majority (53 per cent) of people support bringing energy companies into public ownership, with about two-thirds of current Labour voters (67 per cent) backing the move.
A We Own It spokesperson said: “Keir Starmer’s statements show he is breaking a popular promise that helped get him elected but they are also utterly nonsensical.
“There is nothing 'ideological' about having a publicly owned energy supplier, they do it in the US, Italy, France and Germany. Starmer's position seems to be that he would rather prioritise Big Six energy shareholders than use public money to take an ownership stake in energy that could be used to make it greener and more affordable.
“Given the collapse of the market, the climate crisis and the expensive winter ahead, this is incredibly short sighted.”
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