Richard Burgon has vowed to introduce a ‘new Clause IV’ to write public ownership of utilities into Labour’s constitution.
If he wins the party’s deputy leadership, he has pledged to establish a working group to develop a new addition to the party’s founding document, with the intention of “maintaining a socialist ambition for public ownership”.
Drafted during the First World War and included from 1918, when the party was still a young force in Parliament, Clause IV vowed to keep the ‘means of production, distribution and exchange’ in public ownership.
It was the party’s clearest commitment to socialism – until it was removed from the constitution by Tony Blair.
Mr Burgon, the Shadow Justice Secretary, said: “We need to modernise our party for the 21st century in order to win power. We can start doing this by updating those parts of our constitution that are now 25 years out of date to ensure that socialism remains hardwired into our party’s core.
“Public ownership is popular, and we need to stay in tune with voters who are sick of being ripped off by private companies which treat public services as nothing more than cash cows.”
Speaking ahead of the Government’s expected decision to bring the Northern rail franchise back into public hands, he said common ownership needed to be the “cornerstone” of the party’s policymaking as automation poses challenges to industry.
And he said other candidates in the leadership race needed to go further than committing to defend the manifesto commitments on renationalising mail, rail and water – ensuring this is “permanently enshrined in our party’s constitution.”
He added: “Before Jeremy’s leadership, the constant timidity to back what the public knew to be the obvious common sense solution of public ownership was driven by years of internal kowtowing to neoliberalism. There must never be a return to this deadend.
“If I win, I’ll fight to ensure that the leadership of our party never again refuses to argue for public ownership.
“I will always publicly advocate and promote internal policies that seek to bring water, energy, rail and mail back into public hands whether it be from within the Shadow Cabinet or in a Labour Government.”