Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey is set to challenge her rivals tonight – by calling on them to support bringing back energy, water, rail and mail into public ownership.
At a campaign rally in Leeds, Long-Bailey is expected to demand that the other three leadership hopefuls – Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry – make “specific, concrete commitments” on the nationalisation of key industries.
“Members have a right to know exactly where candidates stand,” the Shadow Business Secretary will say. “I want to be clear that I am fully committed to the pledges in our manifesto last year for public ownership of energy, water, rail and mail.”
Setting out the argument that taking each of these utilities into public ownership would be “the foundation for a more fair and equal society”, Long-Bailey will declare that “any candidate for Labour leader should endorse them without hesitation”.
During the leadership campaign period so far, Starmer has explicitly approved only of rail nationalisation because he has said “the case for rail makes itself”. He also told LabourList that privatisation in the probation service had been a “disaster”.
Appearing on The Andrew Neil Show last week, Thornberry confirmed that she would back nationalisation of rail and mail, but suggested she would not support nationalising water, energy or broadband – all of which were in Labour’s 2019 manifesto.
Nandy has also spoken out in favour of rail nationalisation following the election. But she told the Guardian that “nationalising the energy companies is a waste of money”, instead preferring municipal companies and co-operatives.
At the campaign event tonight, Long-Bailey will say: “Over the past five years we have reclaimed public ownership as a key principle of the Labour Party and under my leadership we will never give that up.
“Our party’s long overdue return to policies calling for public ownership of essential services are not only consistently popular in opinion polls, they are the core of what Labour stands for.
“New models of democratic public ownership are essential to delivering modern, world leading and efficient services to everyone in our country.”
The frontbencher will contend that the party’s plans for public ownership are “not a ‘nice to have’” but “fundamental to our transformation of the economy and people’s lives”.
Long-Bailey will assert: “Nobody voted Conservative because we pledged to bring the railways back into public hands, take on rip-off energy companies and fix our broken water systems. Under my leadership, Labour will stand up to the rip off privatisers, and bring wealth and power back into public hands.”
Starmer, Nandy and Long-Bailey have all now secured their places on the ballot paper. Thornberry needs to be nominated by a further 29 local parties before February 14th if she wants to reach the final phase of the contest.