Pragmatism is a word thrown around a lot in our politics. It is ‘pragmatic’ to do this, it is ‘pragmatic’ to do that, often I find the word is used to justify things that seem intuitively unpragmatic. One measure that seems to me to be undoubtedly pragmatic – in the actual sense of the word – is the renationalisation of our countries railways.
The privatisation of railways has been a complete disaster. We have the most expensive railway in Europe and probably the least well run. If that were not enough we also have the lowest levels of investment. Successive governments should be ashamed that they have presided over this immense failure.
So the solution is clear, let’s renationalise them! Surely every political party will be falling over themselves to get it into their 2015 manifesto. It is a very well supported policy, it gains around 2/3 of public support whenever polled amongst voters of all parties – so of course all parties will promise to do it surely? If only it were so simple.
The reason that no party (except the Greens) will commit to a publicly run railway network is that it is ideologically unfeasible. We know that within the neo-liberal hegemony that parties cannot go against the private = good, public = bad principals. We can’t have the Conservative, Liberal Democrat or the Labour party for that matter going around singing the praise of public ownership! Because if they did, how can they justify privatisation of the Royal Mail or the East Coast Mainline?
Of course if they renationalised the railways why stop there? We could take water and power generation into public humans as well. We all know the majority of us would be better off (I know I would as I almost fainted at my last water bill). Moreover, it must be obvious to us all that the Thatcherite dream of privatisation has left the majority of us worst off and the current political elite must fit every day to construct a counter narrative. Everyone knows that fares would be cheaper; everyone knows that the public already pay for upgrades to the lines; anyone who has been to London knows that their publicly owned system actually works.
So if you’re wondering why Ed Miliband won’t step up and admit that he would like to see the railways in public hands and all the utilities for that matter – even though it is very popular – it is because it is the economic equivalent of proving God wrong. The economic universe would seek to exist, private would become public and pragmatism would become unpragmatism – you get the idea.
So let’s stop talking about how ‘logical’ renationalisation is and why that means any ‘logical’ government would do it. Well why have governments ever done anything logical? I thought making those who had a bit more pay a bit more made sense but apparently it’s the other way round – I just can’t get a hold of this pragmatism. By the time we have a renationalised railway Russell Brand’s revolution will have happened and if the powers think letting that happen is pragmatic then I don’t know what that means.
National railways would solve many problems, but the lack of political will is an impedement.