‘WE WILL be bringing water, energy, Royal Mail, rail back into public ownership again,’ shadow chancellor John McDonnell said to cheers during his speech to the Labour Party conference yesterday.
‘Public ownership has proved its popularity in opinion poll after opinion poll, but it’s not surprising, is it? ‘Look at the scandal of the privatisation of water: Water bills have risen 40% in real terms since privatisation. £18bn have been paid out in dividends, water companies receive more in tax credits than they actually pay in tax. And each day enough water to meet the needs of 20 million people is lost through leakages. With figures like that we can’t afford not to take it back into public ownership.’
He went on to call for Clause Four to be reinstated. This is the clause which calls for socialism. It is the clause that Labour ex-PM Blair famously abolished. He said: ‘There is another anniversary this year. It is a hundred years in 1918 the Labour Party adopted Clause Four as part of our party’s constitution.
‘Let me remind you what it said: “to secure for the workers by hand or brain the full fruits of their industry.”‘I say the Clause Four principles are as relevant today as they were back then.’
He continued: ‘First, we will be proud to fulfil our late leader’s promise, John Smith’s promise, that workers will have trade union rights from day one whether in full time, part time or temporary work.’ Later in his speech, calling for workers to be represented on the bosses’ boards, he said: ‘So after decades of talking about industrial democracy, Labour in government will legislate to implement it.
‘As Jeremy Corbyn announced yesterday, a third of the seats on company boards will be allocated to workers so that they have democratic rights at work. ‘We believe that the workers, who create the wealth of a company, should share in its ownership and, yes, in the returns that it takes. ‘I can announce today that we will legislate for large companies to transfer shares into an inclusive ownership fund. The shares will be held and managed collectively by the workers.’
He went on to call for a general election, saying: ‘We are planned, we are ready and we are prepared not just to fight another election campaign but to implement that programme when we win that election.’
On the economic crisis, McDonnell said: ‘Gordon Brown expressed his concern at the current weaknesses in the global relations to deal with any potential future economic crisis. I agree. ‘With major nations on the brink of a trade war and with climate change accelerated, we can’t risk the kind of international break down that led to the depression itself.’
McDonnell announced a forum, convened by Labour, to bring together economists, politicians and ‘civil society representatives’. This he put forward as a way ‘to avert the next crash’.
He said that leads on to the ‘urgent question of Brexit. I do not have to repeat the criticisms of the Tories behaviour. Their failures are in plain sight. ‘I would just say to the Tories. Just in the interest of the country “Get out of the way and let us get on with securing the way forward” – a way forward that will protect our economy our jobs and the standard of living of our people. ‘If they don’t do that you know what my preference is. ‘I want a general election and I want it soon.’
He concluded: ‘Whenever that general election comes, we are ready to campaign for victory, we are ready for government, we are ready to build the future. We will be proud to call that future socialism.’