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Miliband rejects calls for rail renationalisation

Ed Miliband with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.
Ed Miliband with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.

Ed Miliband rejected calls from party members to renationalise the railways and introduce free energy, telling them all policies must be “properly costed”.

During a question and answer session with activists in the main conference hall in Brighton, the Labour leader was pressed to introduce a raft of more radical pledges by activists.

Following a unanimous vote on the conference floor earlier to put the railways back into public ownership, activists urged Mr Miliband to make such a promise in the next Labour manifesto.

Jill Murdoch, from the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, called on him to “listen to the wishes of party members” by renationalising rail franchises when they became available while another delegate said reforms should ensure that the railways “put people before profit”.

Mr Miliband said: “On the two questions that were asked about rail, we said we believe that East Coast should remain in public hands. The Government’s wrong to get rid of it as a matter of ideology.

“I just want to make this point to you though we can only make commitments that are properly costed and so, of course, the discussions have to continue on this but we will make properly costed commitments at the time of the election and that’s true of this area and every area.”

Mr Miliband’s interventionist announcements on energy and land-banking saw the return of the “red Ed” tag, a label he rejected, telling Sky News: “I’m One Nation Ed.”

The Labour leader went on to say at the conference: “On the point about the utilities, I think what I have chosen is the right way forward.

“I think the right way forward is to reform this market so it works and there is proper competition in the market and that actually consumers get a better deal we have got to go out and argue for this people and fight for this policy because it can make a real difference to families and businesses across the country.”

Mr Miliband was pressed on the party’s approach to the European Union, something that has been little discussed during the conference, and claimed Conservative attempts to repatriate powers were a fancy way of trying to “weaken social rights”.

He said:“We aren’t for the Europe of the status quo but we are not for a Europe of austerity and unemployment, we are for a Europe of jobs and growth.

“Cameron talks about this repatriation of powers, that is just for him, it is fancy language basically saying I want to weaken social rights.”

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