Show Hide image

Momentum criticised by Stella Creasy for sharing “xenophobic” rail fares hike video

The Labour MP has criticised the video which highlights the fact that European nations can make money from our privatised railways.

It seems the season of goodwill is over for Labour. Momentum, the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group, have been accused of playing on xenophobic stereotypes and acting like Ukip by the Labour MP Stella Creasy over a video they shared on social media on Tuesday.

The video, made by the TSSA Union, was designed as a protest against the annual 2.3 per cent rise in rail fares which have left some paying 43 per cent more for season tickets than they did seven years ago. But it appears to have backfired — with debate raging on Twitter as to whether the short film plays upon anti-EU sentiment.

Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy was outspoken in her criticism of the video tweeting: "I want to mutualise our railways not because I demonise other Europeans @PeoplesMomentum but because I think we'll ALL get a better deal...".

She continued: 

In the video, Europeans from France, Germany and the Netherlands discuss the hike in UK rail fares, and point out that their countries can make money from our privatised railways.  

EU citizens are filmed saying: "So when you buy a ticket...the profits go to make our railways cheaper. In 2012, we got £3 million just from Greater Anglia.

"Not only that, the British taxpayers pay our franchises massive subsidies, without which we could never make a profit. So even if you catch a train, you're still sending us money!"

One scene features two Germans football fans watching England lose a match to their nation and saying “thank you” to the British people. 

The video ends by asking if the public want to “take back control” of their railways and end the “great rail rip off”. The first part of which, sounds to the mole, rather similar to the Leave campaign’s famous Brexit slogan.

A Momentum spokesperson told the Telegraph: "The video is a tongue in cheek comment on the absurdity of Britain's privatised railways.

The mole agrees that it is certainly absurd, but is unsure why this aspect of the problem was highlighted instead of focusing the attack firmly on the Tories for continuing with privatisation.

The hashtag #RailFail, used to promote the video, seems rather appropriate. 

I'm a mole, innit.

Show Hide image

Tackling tuition fees may not be the vote-winner the government is hoping for

In theory, Theresa May is right to try to match Labour’s policy. But could it work?

Part of the art of politics is to increase the importance of the issues you win on and to decrease or neutralise the importance of the issues your opponent wins on. That's part of why Labour will continue to major on police cuts, as a device to make the usually Labour-unfriendly territory of security more perilous for the Tories.

One of the advantages the Conservatives have is that they are in government – I know it doesn't always look like it – and so they can do a lot more to decrease the importance of Labour's issues than the Opposition can do to theirs.

So the theory of Theresa May's big speech today on higher education funding and her announcement of a government review into the future of the university system is sound. Tuition fees are an area that Labour win on, so it makes sense to find a way to neutralise the issue.

Except there are a couple of problems with May's approach. The first is that she has managed to find a way to make a simple political question incredibly difficult for herself. The Labour offer is “no tuition fees”, so the Conservatives essentially either need to match that or move on. But the one option that has been left off the table is abolition, the only policy lever that could match Labour electorally.

The second, even bigger problem is that it it turns out that tuition fees might not have been the big election-moving event that we initially thought they were. The British Electoral Survey caused an earthquake of their own by finding that the “youthquake” – the increase in turn-out among 18-24-year-olds – never happened. Younger voters were decisive, both in how they switched to Labour and in the overall increase in turnout among younger voters, but it was in that slightly older 25-35 bracket (and indeed the 35-45 one as well) that the big action occurred.

There is an astonishingly powerful belief among the Conservative grassroots, such as it is, that Jeremy Corbyn's NME interview in which the he said that existing tuition fee debt would be “dealt with” was decisive. That belief, I'm told, extends all the way up to May's press chief, Robbie Gibb. Gibb is the subject of increasing concern among Tory MPs and ministers, who regularly ask journalists what they make of Robbie, if Robbie is doing alright, before revealing that they find his preoccupations – Venezuela, Corbyn's supposed pledge to abolish tuition fee debt – troublingly marginal.

Because the third problem is that any policy action on tuition fees comes at a huge cost to the Treasury, a cost that could be spent easing the pressures on the NHS, which could neutralise a Labour strength, or the financial strains on schools, another area of Labour strength. Both of which are of far greater concern to the average thirtysomething than what anyone says or does about tuition fees.

Small wonder that Team Corbyn are in an ebullient mood as Parliament returns from recess.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.