A QUEASY feeling persistently gnaws at you as the Tory leadership contest proceeds. It’s the sense that someone is missing. And then Sir Keir Starmer announces he’s ditching another of Labour’s red lines. And you realise that he would be on home territory if he were to face Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss in any debate about core Tory values. He’d wipe the floor with both of them.

Starmer’s record since becoming Labour leader easily outshines anything said or done by the two official Tory leadership candidates. After his bout of union-bashing earlier this month when he deemed the lawful RMT picket lines to be off limits for Labour MPs he’s gone full Tory tonto.

First, he instructed Labour members in the House of Lords to abstain on a free school meals amendment to the Schools Bill. This would have provided free lunches for children in households receiving Universal Credit.

Then came his decision to scrap a previous pledge to halt the multi-billion-pound outsourcing gravy train by which global private predators have been chipping away at the NHS. This has been happening quietly and surreptitiously for so many years that it resembles the process of boiling a lobster. The Labour leader is now saying “nothing to see here, let’s not scare the horses”.

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The second part of Labour’s capitalist heist on pubic assets came when the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, announced the party was ditching another of its manifesto pledges and one of the spiritual pillars on which the entire movement has been built.

Reeves, following the lead set by Starmer, blamed it all on Jeremy Corbyn. You sense that somewhere deep in the bowels of Labour Party headquarters in London a group of analysts are presently looking for evidence to link global warming, the rise of President Putin and the energy crisis with the former leader.

Talking about Corbyn’ three-year-old pledge to bring energy, rail, water and the BT broadband into public ownership, Reeves said: They were a commitment in a manifesto that secured our worst results since 1935.”

We’ll leave aside for the moment that this occurred two years after the 2017 UK election in which Corbyn, re-inforced by the support of more than 40% of ordinary Labour members, came within a whisker of defeating Theresa May by eviscerating her Westminster majority and forcing her inevitable resignation.

Reeves will surely have read the Forde report, released last week, which revealed that dark Blairite forces had sabotaged Corbyn and his socialist agenda and had been effectively working to secure a Conservative victory. It was this more than anything else which contributed to the dismal Labour performance in 2019.

Reeves added: “To be spending billions of pounds on nationalising things, that just doesn’t stack up against our fiscal rules.” As well as demonstrating that the values of hard right Toryism are embedded deep within Starmer’s Labour Party, this showed stunning ignorance about why a commitment to public ownership has been a sacred tenet of the Labour Party since its foundation.

Far from costing “billions”, it would end the predations of private equity groups and global corporations who have made a feast of Britain’s public assets since the Tories came to power in 2010. “Billions” is the appropriate unit of measuring how much profit has been filched from our public utilities and services in this time.

It’s been the main point of attack by the RMT Union in winning the battle of ethics and ideas in its current struggle against the Conservative Government.

THE fate of the state-owned water industries, which were privatised in 1989, should be a primer for all Labour politicians. Jeremy Corbyn sought to renationalise water in 2017 only to be told by the regulator Ofwat that more than £120 million of investment has been made since privatisation leading to cuts in household water bills.

Yet, according to research carried out by academics at Greenwich University, carried in The Guardian last year, the £48bn of debt carried by the water sector (despite Thatcher having cancelled its collective debt in 1989) was used to line the pockets of investors and that shareholder dividends had reached a total of £57bn.

According to the academics David Hall and Karol Yearwood, water bills have increased by 40% above the rate of inflation. “It’s the water users who have paid for upgrades to the network, while shareholders walk off with cash paid for by higher debt.”

Almost exactly the same racket has been practised on the rail sector and oil and gas. As worker wage levels have retreated in the last 10 years, profits for institutional shareholders and the remuneration packages of senior executives have risen.

A recent report by Unite detailed the extent to which the cost of living crisis is rooted in the profits of multi-billion-pound corporate entities. The union’s analysis of the FTSE 350 showed that the profit margins of the UK’s top companies were 73% higher in 2021 than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Earlier this year, trade union research showed that the UK’s largest energy companies generated almost £374bn in the six years to 2020. The profits of five companies alone accounted for more than £15bn net – almost all of it enriching the investment portfolios of large shareholders. For these people there can be no limit on profiteering. They can never be rich enough.

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It’s this form of ruthless profiteering by large corporations – many of which spend millions lobbying Parliament to ease “restrictive” practices and toughen anti-trade union legislation – which the old Labour Party was founded to oppose. At its core was a fundamental commitment to protect workers and their families from the greed of extreme capitalism.

It forms the basis of Clause IV: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership and the means of production, distribution and exchange, the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

Starmer has simply changed “to secure” with “to oppose securing”. In doing so, he has become the first Labour leader to abandon the workers and to embrace the forces which have always sought to exploit them.

In the rest of the UK, no political force remains to protect working people and their families from institutional, state-sponsored greed. If the SNP know what’s good for them, they can stand in the gap.

But they need to start doing so very soon.