‘Why can’t it be a co-op?’ It’s time to advocate for large-scale mutualisation Labour needs to be very cautious that in ending rail privatisation we are not simply holding the assets on ice for the Tories to re-privatise later. Luke Pollard Labour & Co-operative MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport 11th June 2018 Share 120 Tweet Labour’s superb 2017 manifesto advocated bringing the railways and utilities back into public ownership. There’s massive public support for ending rail privatisation and taking on the utility fat cats. The next Labour Government will bring these former state assets back into state ownership. But then what? We’ve seen from the antics of Tory Prime Ministers since 2010 that selling public goods off at below market rate is a tactic they’ll use in pursuit of their dogmatic view that the private sector should run our trains and provide our water, power and gas. Labour needs to be very cautious that in ending rail privatisation we are not simply holding the assets on ice for the Tories to re-privatise later. That is why co-operators need to be loud in our advocacy for genuine democratic public ownership. This means once the railways have been nationalised, let’s mutualise them. Let’s create shareholdings that turn our great public utilities into truly great mutually owned public utilities. Where the cost of upfront nationalisation is too great, let’s create co-operative insurgencies within the share ownerships of those utilities. These co-op share clubs would reinvest profits back into expanding the mutual ownership proportion over time. Decisions would be democratically made and those in charge held accountable in ways that utilities are not at present. One member, one vote would transform public utilities putting power back into the hands of the people. Jeremy Corbyn has done much to create an environment where these policies could be welcomed. As a proud Labour and Co-operative MP, it is people like me that must raise our voice within Parliament, our parties and in the national debate to insist on what we believe to be a necessary second step: once a Labour Government has renationalised, then a Labour and Co-operative Government, one and the same, integrated and determined, must mutualise. The Tories cannot privatise what they don’t own. As co-operators we know that mutual businesses are fairer, more accountable, more environmentally friendly and come as standard with the interests of individuals and our communities at heart. We need to think big and be ambitious. Our co-operative values are all too frequently only exercised and deployed at the margins, in well-meaning periphery pursuits. It’s time for the values and approaches we hold dear to be mainstreamed. With a collapse in confidence in mainstream capitalism and caution about old school socialism, the time for co-operation has truly arrived. Let’s seize that opportunity, advocate for large-scale mutualisation and pose the challenge: why can’t it be a co-operative? Ask yourself that too, you’ll find it to be a powerful tool for re-imagining a fairer Britain.