Labour’s new shadow transport secretary, Michael Dugher, has signalled a shift towards rail renationalisation.
In an interview with the New Statesman on 19 February, he said: “The public sector will be running sections of our rail network as soon as we can do that”. He added that he was “adamant about putting the whole franchising system, as it stands today, in the bin”.
These statements show that consistent campaigning can push Labour, even today, towards support for trade union and labour movement policies, as it has done on the bedroom tax and on repeal of the Health and Social Care Act.
But, as on those issues, there are gaps in the commitment which indicate that real change will require independent and militant campaigning, not just orderly pressure on the Labour leaders.
Labour’s conference policy is for rail renationalisation. Why didn’t Dugher say that?
Read his words carefully: “public sector running sections of the network”. “As soon as we can do that”. Putting the franchising system “as it stands today” in the bin.
Which sections? How soon is soon? Replacing the franchising system by what? A modified one, still franchising, but different from how "it stands today"?
Rail unions, and other unions, should follow up with an active on-the-streets campaign to get precise and loophole-free commitments.