This report from Labourlist reveals some interesting developments, but as always we still await a far too cautious leadership decision: “Jon Cruddas was summoned to a “rail summit” this lunchtime, union sources have told LabourList, as the debate within the party over the size of Labour’s electoral offer intensifies.
Today’s summit comes as the party begins to prepare for the crucial Milton Keynes meeting of the National Policy Forum in July, that will shape the priorities of the manifesto. Milton Keynes – already dubbed “Warwick 3″ by insiders in reference to similar key meetings in previous election cycles – looks set to be the place where issues such as Labour’s plans for rail come to a head.
Those Cruddas met today – including representatives from affiliated rail unions TSSA, ASLEF and Unite as well as the RMT – favour taking the railways back into public ownership as franchises expire. Meanwhile, another position gaining traction within the party is to maintain public ownership of East Coast, and use that as a “public sector comparator” which could in time take control of other, privately owned routes.
As Cruddas comes under pressure to deliver a big manifesto offer – and resist the urge to “shrink the offer” – issues like public ownership of the railways are likely to return to the fore, especially as Ed Miliband has expressed an interest in maintaining a “public sector comparator” before. In an interview with LabourList last year, Miliband said:
Transport costs have also been cited as a key driver behind the cost of living crisis, and those attending today’s summit are thought to have been pressuring Cruddas to take that into account when preparing Labour’s manifesto. Recent academic reports (such as those by Transport for Quality of Life and CRESC) on public ownership have suggested that significant savings could be handed back to tax-payers/passengers if each franchise was bought into public ownership as they expire.
Whether the Labour leadership will be open to that argument in the coming months remains to be seen.”