Clause for complaint

Could Labour's Clause IV make a comeback? Jeremy Corbyn thinks so.

Renationalisation has in recent weeks become a hot topic and once again this weekend the issue that many thought had died a death under Tony Blair has re-emerged. Speaking in an interview with The Independent on Sunday, hard-left Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn raised the possibility of Labour restoring Clause IV - the party’s historic commitment to public ownership. The commitment was scrapped by Labour in 1995 under Tony Blair, a move which Corbyn vehemently opposed at the time.

Yesterday Corbyn suggested Labour needed to consider either restoring the old Clause IV or establishing a new one. Corbyn’s comments come after he argued the government should start buying shares in the large energy suppliers until it commands majority ownership in them. The MP for Islington North has also argued the railways and the Royal Mail should return to public ownership.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Corbyn’s rivals for the leadership have reacted with consternation. Liz Kendall, the sole Blairite candidate, branded renationalisation a throwback to old, failed ideas, while Yvette Cooper said that Labour needed to look forward not backwards. Although the reaction of the more mainstream candidates implies renationalisation is a fringe idea, a significant percentage of the electorate still supports public ownership of some key industries, most notably the railways. Time will tell whether Corbyn is able to convert this notional support into a political reality. A sober analysis would suggest this is unlikely. 

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