I watched with interest the leaders debate with Mr Boris Johnson and Mr Jeremy Corbyn, it was interesting to observe the extremely contrasting styles. Both men have their critics, Boris was laughed at by the studio audience when he spoke of honesty, similarly the audience scoffed at Mr Corbyn for his ambiguity over Brexit, overall for me it was a score draw, with both winning on safe policies. Boris won the Brexit bit, and Jeremy scored with his defence of the NHS. However, with the opinion polls putting the Conservatives anywhere between 8 and 12 points ahead, the Labour battle bus will have to clock up a fair few more miles to overcome the deficit.
So, it was with great interest that I settled down to watch the launch of the Labour Party manifesto, it was without doubt the most revolutionary manifesto that I can ever recall. Sweeping nationalisation across the water, rail, mail and bus industries, huge investment in green technologies, the creation of 100,000 new homes every year, free social care for the elderly, no more tuition fees for students, retaining the retirement age at 66. Clearly these are ambitious reforms that will be expensive to implement, however, the staple Labour Party formula of taxing the rich individuals and Corporates would be the cash cow to finance these ambitions.
As for the bus industry, the plan would be to give Local Authorities powers to take ownership of bus networks, specifying routes and fares. In addition free bus travel for the under 25’s and even more radical the return of subsidised rural services. Designed to support social inclusion, and stimulate economic growth, in reality rural bus services are virtually extinct, after decades of Tory austerity. Where I live in the Clent hills there is 1 bus a day and that is your lot, it would indeed be great to be able to rely on a regular bus service, I would certainly use it. However, this nationalisation begs some big questions, what will happen to the present bus groups, how will the shareholders be compensated? Just who will decide who operates the bus networks, who will determine the routes, and regularity, will the bus network be cross subsidised to run loss making services at night, and at the weekend.
For someone like me, who was brought up and indeed trained by the National Bus Company, it is the ending of the circle. From the public sector to the creation and involvement of the private sector ( I worked for First for 20 years, as well as Go Ahead and Rotala) it looks possible that if the Labour Party win the General Election, or more likely enter into a coalition with others. Then it looks likely that the Bus industry may well end up as part of the state. We will have to wait until after December 12th and see where the fickle fate of the public vote will take us.