Renationalising the railways is trendy but not smart

Virgin trainWho should own the railways? Both contenders for the Labour leadership, Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn, believe it should be the public sector. They point to rising ticket prices., widespread industrial action and a lack of seating (or so Corbyn claims.) as evidence that privatisation has failed. The public seem to agree, with 62% now in favour of renationalisation. But is it worth it?

It certainly wouldn’t be progressive. Households in the highest real income bracket make up 43% of yearly rail journeys, with those in the lowest income bracket making up only 10% of journeys. Nationalisation would mean that low-earners who very rarely use the train would be funding through their taxes reduced ticket prices and the maintenance of rail travel for the highest earners in the country. Such large amounts of public sector finances would be far better spent on services which low earners need most.

Nor would nationalisation eradicate large scale industrial disputes. Look no further than across the Channel: in the run up to Euro 2016 the French railways endured huge strikes. Even under a Socialist government the railways were not immune from clashes with the unions.

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Nicola Sturgeon appoints controversial Brexit Minister

In the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum, Nicola Sturgeon played an absolute blinder. She seemed like she was the only grown-up in power. She was calm, she was reasonable and she put up a massive big tent that allowed all parties to unite. Well, not the Tories, but who cares about them in Scotland, anyway?  Given the chaos they have inflicted, as Brexit gets underway, I suspect that their good performance in the Holyrood elections will turn out to be a high water mark.

Within days of the result, the Scottish Parliament debated and passed a motion which authorised the First Minister and the Scottish Government to look for a way to preserve Scotland’s relationship with the EU. It was not, Nicola Sturgeon told Parliament, about independence.

However, let me be clear that if the Government concludes that the best or the only way to protect Scotland’s place in the EU is through a referendum on independence, we will return to Parliament with that judgment and it will then be for Parliament to decide. I am emphatically not asking Parliament to endorse that step today. A vote for today’s motion is not a vote for a referendum on independence.

I was glad to see that the Scottish Liberal Democrats backed Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts. Everyone seemed to be working together well with the SNP even removing wording from the motion to make sure it was  something all the parties except the Tories (who ultimately abstained) could sign up to.

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Are party consultations with members worth the paper they’re written on? 

At Liberal Democrat autumn conference party members will have the opportunity to debate a Federal Policy Committee policy paper and an accompanying motion laying out an overall vision for the social security system – the first such policy paper on the subject for over a decade. Sadly, however, the contents of the paper and motion are scandalous in their blatant disregard for the views of party members.

As part of the process of writing the policy paper, the working group which wrote it ran a members survey which included a question about which model should be used as the basis for social security.

Posted in Op-eds | 33 Comments

We shouldn’t criticize Jeremy Corbyn for finally doing a bit of reasonably clever “media”

Jeremy Corbyn is getting a bit hammered, particularly by Richard Branson, for a video of him sitting on the floor of a Virgin Train.

You can read the ins and outs of “Traingate” elsewhere.

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Hate crimes up 42%, but Tories give discrimination helpline contract to controversial G4S

With hate crimes up by 42% since the EU referendum result, the Conservative government is privatising the EASS (Equality Advisory and Support Service) which is a lifeline for people facing human rights issues or discrimination.

After a tendering process, they are awarding the contract to G4S. The same company which has demonstrated shocking track record of human rights breaches, and for failing government contracts wasting millions in taxpayers’ money. Prime Minister May wishes to put them in charge of the national helpline responsible for providing support to people facing discrimination, something which is deeply concerning considering their history.

This would be like putting BP in charge of enforcing environmental protections. On top of that, there are claims that the government may have failed to follow all the necessary steps before awarding the contract to G4S. Online campaign group SumOfUs is currently trying to fundraise to bring a legal case to reverse the decision to award G4S the contract.

With G4S’s very public failings, surely the company has no business anywhere near a contract like this. 

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Lib Dem Jobwatch Special: The ALDC edition

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)The Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners is recruiting. Here are the jobs they are currently advertising:

Campaigns Officer (Full Time, Manchester)

Local Government Scale SO1-SO2 (Currently £25,440 – £29,558)

Work with the leading campaigning organisation within the Liberal Democrats as one of our two national Campaigns Officers.

We are looking for someone who can bring their own campaigning experience and ideas –not necessarily gained within the Liberal Democrats – to help us enable Liberal Democrats to campaign effectively in our communities and win elections. Experience and ability around online campaigning will be an advantage.

Deadline for applications NOON 28 September 2016

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Andrew George writes…Can progressives unite to defeat the Tories?

The AlternativeFailure to fully fathom the ‘shy Tory’ at the 2015 general election didn’t just leave egg on the faces of opinion pollsters. It produced shock waves across the political spectrum; from a delirious Conservative party to Paddy Ashdown’s exasperated milliner.

Of course psephologists weren’t really suggesting that a significant proportion of Tory voters are bashful by nature but were perhaps politely implying there may be a sense of ‘shame’.

Politics in its most basic form is polarised between, on the one hand, those who feel ‘shy’ about their self-absorption and (when the mask slips) their distaste for those they consider are ‘low achievers’, and on the other, ‘progressives’ who seek to appeal to our better instincts (for others, a wider community, the common good, future generations, the climate etc). Less bashful ‘progressives’ may believe they are in a majority when in fact the country may be evenly divided.

Indeed, there’s an assumption amongst many ‘progressives’ that the 2015 general election represented a high water mark for the Tories; that the pendulum will inevitably swing back at the next election, and that scores of Tory marginals will be comfortably won back. A reality check is needed.

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Recent Comments

  • User Avatarexpats 26th Aug - 11:09am
    Stimpson 26th Aug '16 - 11:02am..................The state should not be running anything. Privatisation and outsourcing have been a success wherever they have been applied –...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 26th Aug - 11:09am
    http://www.markpack.org.uk/142624/libdem-byelection-candidate/ communist council candidate defeated http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-37193780
  • User AvatarStimpson 26th Aug - 11:07am
    The industrial action on the railways would be worse under nationalisation. Instead of isolated strikes at Southern, Scotrail over essential and welcome modernisation of 19th...
  • User AvatarStimpson 26th Aug - 11:04am
    "Our ‘privatised’ railways are largely owned by foreign states – you couldn’t make it up. http://actionforrail.org/three-quarters-of-uk-rail-owned-by-foreign-states-research-reveals/" And where is the problem with this? How other...
  • User AvatarStimpson 26th Aug - 11:02am
    The state should not be running anything. Privatisation and outsourcing have been a success wherever they have been applied - coupled with market liberalisation and...
  • User AvatarDav 26th Aug - 10:55am
    “that this is a Liberal Democrat web site” means nothing here. There is no restriction on posting. anyone with any views from anywhere can say...