Labour's rail 'nationalisation' looks like another neoliberal scam

Labour’s rail ‘nationalisation’ looks like another neoliberal scam

Labour’s rail ‘nationalisation’ looks like another neoliberal scam if you read the small print.

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh has said the party’s general election manifesto will include a plan for a new “arms-length” organisation called Great British Railways (GBR), that will take on rail contracts currently held by private companies when they expire. This will give it responsibility for running services.

But it won’t buy rolling stock, instead continuing to lease it; would not take back rail freight companies, and would allow privately financed “open access operators”, such as Hull Trains and Lumo, to continue.

And the word “nationalisation” does not appear in Labour’s plan. If it isn’t called nationalisation, then it isn’t nationalisation!

The Tories have criticised the plan on entirely false grounds, saying it will cost too much and lead to tax rises. But Labour says if GBR takes on contracts as they expire, there will be no cost.

Buy Cruel Britannia in print here. Buy the Cruel Britannia ebook here. Or just click on the image!

So why am I saying Labour’s rail ‘nationalisation’ looks like another neoliberal scam?

Well, a more accurate criticism of Labour’s plan would be to point out that “nationalisation” that leaves the physical assets – the rolling stock – in private hands is dangerous because the cost of renting it would be determined by private companies who know they can overcharge the government because governments can always afford to pay.

If you’re familiar with Gary Stevenson’s views, you’ll know he believes that ownership of assets that are used for public services belongs with the public, and allowing rich, private shareholders to own them is a way of increasing wealth inequality from the poor to the rich; the government taxes the poor to pay rent to the rich.

Haigh has said it is right to use private companies where they add value – and this is reasonable. This Writer has no problem with the NHS employing private cleaners, for example (as long as they actually charge an equitable price for the work). It’s when they charge a fortune for nothing that I object – and it seems reasonable to object to renting rolling stock that we could more cheaply own.

Do you see how it is, now?

The UK’s rail system was privatised in the 1990s, and many services are now run by private companies that are themselves owned by foreign governments.

As with all privatisations, this led to massive price increases and deterioration of services, rather than the price cuts and improvements we were promised – and governments since privatisations have been forced to spend billions of pounds every year subsidising the system.

Profits and subsidies have then gone abroad to bloat the bank balances of foreign executives and improve the services of foreign rail systems.

Labour’s plan, although still neoliberal, would be an improvement on the Tory model – but my gut feeling is that this is an attempt to steal thunder from more left-wing political parties and organisations ahead of the general election.

The Green Party would bring the railways back into public ownership in their entirety, for example. The Workers’ Party also has nationalisation plans.

The UK would be better-off with the policies of those other parties – but you can bet that Labour will get all the media coverage now.

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Be among the first to know what’s going on! Here are the ways to manage it:

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the right margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at

5) Join the uPopulus group at

6) Join the MeWe page at

7) Feel free to comment!

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

Cruel Britannia is available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The Livingstone Presumption is available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


Leave A Comment