At some point within the next couple of hours I’ll have a shower, get dressed and walk the 100 metres or so to Thorpe Bay Railway Station and hop on a choo choo into town to do some food shopping. Not that exciting you might think (and you’d be right) but you see when I go to the railway station and pay my £3.60 for a day return to Southend Central, the money won’t be going to the government but to a private company (c2c) who have paid the government for the right to run trains along this train route.
Personally I don’t give a stuff who is getting my £3.60 (or indeed the money I pay for longer journey’s) but for some reason despite the many real and actual problems the country is currently facing, it has become a significant issue in the Labour Leadership Contest.
Both Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn have said that bringing both the transport system and utility companies back under public ownership is a long-term goal, whether to do it in one foul swoop or doing it gradually over time is up for debate but they both want it and it has broad public support. Yet I find myself sitting here wondering why it is such a story when we have far more important issues to face up to.
The NHS is amazing but as amazing as it is, it is also creaking. The NHS now deals with an ageing population who are living longer as well as many more treatments that are available that cost a lot of money. Put these two things together and you’ll see why the NHS is being stretched. As the NHS is currently constituted all that will happen is it will take up a larger and larger percentage of tax revenue and unless a government faces up to the hard questions, the NHS will continue to creak. I have no idea what the solution is but something needs to be done if the NHS is to survive and flourish in the 21st century without other any of government getting squeezed.
You see that folks is a real issue facing this country, not who gets the revenue from the trains (and remember, these companies pay a shed load of dosh to win these franchises) but people like the idea of the railway system and utility system being under public ownership because it makes them feel safer and many people don’t like big business, as a nation we have a big chasm between those who are pro big business and those that aren’t. Costa Coffee opened in The Broadway a few days back and some people think it’ll kill Ciao (the local coffee shop/bar) but other traders will love Costa as it is clearly drawing in custom to the row of shops that before wouldn’t have come here, that though is an aside and not really the issue here.
The private train franchises are there to make money, yes, yet they can only do so by making their business one that people want to use. Yes I know many people don’t really have a choice as they commute but many others do. Most franchises have invested in much better rolling stock, I may be 32 years of age but I do remember the old slam door trains, heck even when I was at university only half of SW Trains stock were new and the old slam doors still populated the Alton to London Waterloo Route and the non rush hour Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo Route. Now most trains are faster, cleaner, safer, more punctual and we should treat that like it is a bad thing? Would the government of the day have invested so much public money into the railway system and in turn, if they had, what would the public have thought about this?
I just think there are far more important issues facing the country than renationalising industry. When Labour drifted away from Clause IV in 1995 they went on to win three landslide elections on the bounce and whilst losing a fourth, they were probably set to be the majority party until Gordon Brown’s ‘bigotgate’ gaff, which I think stalled the campaign. Now two of the leadership candidates see that ideal as one to return to and indeed one that will be popular amongst their supporters and very much so within the unions, yet will it really raise too much of an eyebrow from those who would consider voting Labour? I suspect not.
It is still all about the economy and economical competence. It always has been and always will be (unless a nation is in a time of non-economic turmoil). The secondary issues will be about the NHS, Education, Crime, the EU, defence, our place in the world, the environment, immigration and you know what isn’t pushing the needle amongst the all important swing voters? Who gets the money from their bills and their transport tickets.
The sad truth is to win the Labour Leadership Contest you have to win amongst the activists and the majority of those activists believe that Labour need to move left because that is why they didn’t win in 2015 (hint folks – you didn’t win because you weren’t left wing enough, you didn’t win because the swing voters didn’t trust Ed Miliband and Labour on the economy as well as not being strong enough to stand up to the SNP). The issue with this is to win the contest you need to move left but to win the country you need to move right. Liz Kendall seems like the only person who is actually saying things that swing voters would like, the problem is not enough Labour members are even giving her words the time of day.
Having 100s of Labour activists and supporters turning up to see and hear Jeremy Corbyn is great but is he inspiring swing voters to come out and listen to him? Not really. I’ll say this and I think this will sum up the situation extremely clearly, the country made their decision on Nick Clegg big time in May and that is their right but if he had stood in a leadership contest this time around he could still have won again because a lot of people respected him for what he did, I think Tim would still have won but it wouldn’t have been a fait accompli.
The members of a political party shouldn’t think about themselves but think about the country and the party. That is why I voted Tim over Norman in our leadership contest because I knew Tim held the key to advancing Liberal beliefs. Jeremy Corbyn can advance many things and he could solidify the core vote but can he branch out to those who aren’t the core vote? That I doubt, that I doubt very much and if he believes the railways are a burning issue then I think it is clear he isn’t ready to lead either his party or his country because it is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
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