Diane Abbott aims dig at Keir Starmer over nationalisation approach: 'It is agreed Labour policy'

Diane Abbott said nationalisation is “vital for the economic transformation we need”

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Diane Abbott has aimed a dig at Sir Keir Starmer after the Labour Party leader said he was “pragmatic" about the public ownership of rail, energy and water companies.

Sir Keir indicated a retreat from a pledge he made when he was running for the party’s leadership in 2019 to support “common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water”.

And Ms Abbott has hit back, saying nationalisation is “vital for the economic transformation we need”.

Speaking on Twitter, Ms Abbott said: “Nationalisation is agreed Labour Party policy, in the manifesto we were all elected on.

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott

“More importantly, it is vital for the economic transformation we need, to cut the cost of living, create well-paid jobs and end the dearth of investment.”

Sir Keir was challenged about his view on nationalising utilities on Monday after shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves earlier said the policy was not compatible with the party’s new “fiscal rules” to control public spending.

He told reporters in Liverpool: “I take a pragmatic approach rather than an ideological one, I agree with what Rachel Reeves said this morning.

“Having come through the pandemic, it’s very important we have very, very clear priorities and that’s why we’ve set out fiscal rules already as an opposition.”

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer

He added: “My mission is growth and underpinning that mission is a partnership arrangement with business, where the mission is set by an incoming Labour government and we empower business to work with us in delivering on that mission.”

Sir Keir then suggested that taking railways back into public ownership was not his preferred option, despite shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh telling the rail union Aslef in March that Labour was “totally committed” to the policy.

The Labour leader said: “I think what some of our mayors and metro mayors are doing with public transport is the right way forward – absolutely focused on keeping the price down and making sure there’s control over where things go, particularly buses…

“I absolutely understand the frustrations of everybody trying to use the rail service”.

But Sir Keir later indicated Labour would stick to plans to nationalise the railways, telling the Mirror: “Rail is probably different from the others because so much of our rail is already in public ownership.

“That is what I mean about not being ideological about it.

“Pragmatically, that is the situation, and it’s going to be the situation for some time to come.”