Andy Burnham’s policy on railway ownership is too weak

railwaysI like Andy Burnham: he clearly has been on a political journey and he has played a good role on the NHS, but in my view his position on rail policy today not only doesn’t go far enough – it indicates the disconnect between voters and Westminster politics that we must repair.

In the National Policy Forum process last year, Labour agreed a new deal for the railways. This included a commitment to allow a public sector operator to take on franchises and challenge the train operators on a level playing field in the public interest. This was the basis of our position at the election. Continue reading

A third Heathrow runway is a menu without the prices

Heathrow1Business in this age of market fundamentalism is cock-a-hoop with the Davies report decision to recommend Heathrow. They would be, wouldn’t they, since the report has focused largely on the supposed economic benefits while claiming that all the toxic underside of the decision can be ‘managed’. However the feasibility of the latter needs to be subject to a realistic appraisal, not just assumed. It is said that night flights will be banned between 11.30pm and 6am, but ‘respite periods’ when some areas don’t suffer overhead noise will be reduced from half the working day to just a third. The report allows for a huge 54% increase in passenger numbers (more than a quarter of a million a year), but claims this is compatible with a cap on aviation emissions just above current levels – in fact a wing and a prayer that is dependent on big increases in cleaner engines which may or may not be delivered. Continue reading

Tories’ pre-election fantasising comes back to haunt them

Osborne Liar LiarNorthern powerhouse deflates into Northern power-cut. It was so hurriedly propagated by Osborne before the election as portraying the government as dynamic innovators of English devolution, but none of the details had been properly worked through, including the required transport infrastructure as we now know. So the election gimmick, if not evaporated, has dimmed at least to the long haul. Just 7 weeks after the election when the Tories boasted of the biggest investment in the railways since Victorian times, the grand 5-year £38.5bn plan has collapsed, with the government trying to dump the blame on Network Rail. The Tories are all the more culpable since they still vaunted their grandiose plans in their election manifesto though Network Rail admitted “very early on last year” that the 5-year plan would be ‘incredibly difficult to deliver’. Continue reading

What the SNP says versus what the SNP does

scotrail-trainLast week, when I spoke at the STUC Congress against the SNP putting both Scotrail and the Caledonian Sleeper in the hands of privateers, I said that actions speak far louder than words.

Let’s face it, the SNP hardly misses an opportunity to argue that the public sector should play a key role in delivering public services.
Yet its rhetoric simply fails to live up to the reality of what it is doing in government. Continue reading

Do we want predatory capitalism or an economy geared to the common good?

Vulture feedingDespite the predictable whines of some FTSE-100 bosses reported yesterday about a post-election Labour-SNP pact, Ed M should flesh out more about his vision to replace ‘predatory capitalism’ both because that is what a majority of people want and also to put paid to the ignorant mantra that self-interested executives like to propagate that anyone who says business practices could be improved is somehow ‘anti-business’. The real truth is that theself-interested executives are anti-public interest.

Britain has some world-class industries and many thrusting, innovative small businesses, but our economic performance is still marred in places by exploitation (the energy sector), failure to meet need (house-building), lack of investment (utilities), short-termism (City of London), profit-driven misconduct (Big 4 banks), as well as by dysfunctional structure (lack of stakeholder commitment) and perverse ideology (the market über alles). So what should be done? Continue reading