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Richard Leonard will show whether Jeremy Corbyn is a personality or a policy

Brexit and Corbynism may not prove as compatible in Scotland. 

“I often feel deeply embarrassed by it,” Jeremy Corbyn said in 2017 of the hero worship that has surrounded him since his election as Labour leader two years earlier. “It's not my wish, and it's not my doing.”

Corbyn has always maintained he is merely articulating the demands of a wider movement (the first time I met him, at a pre-leadership anti-austerity march where his name was everywhere, he attributed it to “maybe something I said”). His popularity stemmed not from his apathy towards ties, or the fact he is an old, white man who can get away with saying things that are socialist, or even his personal attributes, like his ability to make people feel he was listening to them, but the ideals he espoused. There is now a chance to put this leadership theory to the test. His name is Richard Leonard.

Scottish Labour's new leader has insisted he's not a Corbynista, describing himself as "too long in the tooth”, since he has held the same unfashionably left-wing views for roughly the same length of time. In many ways, though, this makes him resemble Corbyn more. The Campaign for Socialism promptly embraced him, and this McMomentum embarked on a social media campaign that Leonard - only a recent convert to Twitter - could hardly have envisaged six months earlier. Leonard has strong ties to unions. He also faces the same awkward quandary as Corbyn - his rival, Anas Sarwar, won the bulk of endorsements from parliamentarians, but Leonard gained the majority of party members and affiliated supporters. Here, though, Leonard has an advantage. Even during a campaign that many Sarwar supporters denounced as divisive, Leonard himself continued to be spoken of warmly. Despite his outsider rhetoric, his years knocking on doors for candidates he disagreed with ideologically may have helped. 

On Monday, Scottish Labour supporters could get the chance to make the comparison between Corbyn and Leonard first hand, when they spoke side by side in Glasgow. In a speech citing Robert Burns and Irvine Welsh, Corbyn spoke of a “radical Labour Government in Westminster and Richard Leonard leading a radical Labour government in Holyrood”, while Leonard promised to take his policy programme to the membership. So far, the Corbyn formula is working. 

After years of elections and referendums, however, bar another snap election there is unlikely to be a forthcoming opportunity to try it out for real. In the meantime, Brexit chugs on, and here Leonard is at his weakest in a country where every local authority area and every mainstream politician backed Remain. Back in August, I followed Corbyn to the isle of Lewis, whose residents have been traditionally synonymous with fishing, but today are more worried about the loss of vital EU grants, and watched as school children quizzed him on staying in the single market and customs union.

Leonard is not a Europhile, and he succeeded in winning while maintaining a Corbynite Brexit fudge in the face of the pro-Remain Sarwar. All the same, the latter's campaign was marred by questions over his family's decisions, rather than his stance on the EU. The Scottish National Party-led Scottish government continues to rail against Brexit (although a third of SNP voters surveyed voted Brexit, SNP insiders are not unduly worried about a Nigel Farage in tartan trews). The Corbynite Brexit fudge may go down well enough at the moment. But appetites can change. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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Labour’s renationalisation plans look nothing like the 1970s

The Corbynistas are examining models such as Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham, Oldham credit union and John Lewis. 

A community energy company in Nottingham, a credit union in Oldham and, yes, Britain's most popular purveyor of wine coolers. No, this is not another diatribe about about consumer rip-offs. Quite the opposite – this esoteric range of innovative companies represent just a few of those which have come to the attention of the Labour leadership as they plot how to turn the abstract of one of their most popular ideas into a living, neo-liberal-shattering reality.

I am talking about nationalisation – or, more broadly, public ownership, which was the subject of a special conference this month staged by a Labour Party which has pledged to take back control of energy, water, rail and mail.

The form of nationalisation being talked about today at the top of the Labour Party looks very different to the model of state-owned and state-run services that existed in the 1970s, and the accompanying memories of delayed trains, leaves on the line and British rail fruitcake that was as hard as stone.

In John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn’s conference on "alternative models of ownership", the three firms mentioned were Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham, Oldham credit union and, of course, John Lewis. Each represents a different model of public ownership – as, of course, does the straightforward takeover of the East Coast rail line by the Labour government when National Express handed back the franchise in 2009.

Robin Hood is the first not-for-profit energy company set up a by a local authority in 70 years. It was created by Nottingham city council and counts Corbyn himself among its customers. It embodies the "municipal socialism" which innovative local politicians are delivering in an age of austerity and its tariffs delivers annual bills of £1,000 or slightly less for a typical household.

Credit unions share many of the values of community companies, even though they operate in a different manner, and are owned entirely by their customers, who are all members. The credit union model has been championed by Labour MPs for decades. 

Since the financial crisis, credit unions have worked with local authorities, and their supporters see them as ethical alternatives to the scourge of payday loans. The Oldham credit union, highlighted by McDonnell in a speech to councillors in 2016, offers loans from £50 upwards, no set-up costs and typically charges interest of around £75 on a £250 loan repaid over 18 months.

Credit unions have been transformed from what was once seen as a "poor man's bank" to serious and tech-savvy lenders where profits are still returned to customers as dividends.

Then there is John Lewis. The "never-knowingly undersold" department store is owned by its 84,000 staff, or "partners". The Tories have long cooed over its pledge to be a "successful business powered by its people and principles" while Labour approves of its policy of doling out bonuses to ordinary staff, rather than just those at the top. Last year John Lewis awarded a partnership bonus of £89.4m to its staff, which trade website Employee Benefits judged as worth more than three weeks' pay per person (although still less than previous top-ups).

To those of us on the left, it is a painful irony that when John Lewis finally made an entry into politics himself – in the shape of former managing director Andy Street – it was to seize the Birmingham mayoralty ahead of Labour's Sion Simon last year. (John Lewis the company remains apolitical.)

Another model attracting interest is Transport for London, currently controlled by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan. TfL may be a unique structure, but nevertheless trains feature heavily in the thinking of shadow ministers, whether Corbynista or soft left. They know that rail represents their best chance of quick nationalisation with public support, and have begun to spell out how it could be delivered.

Yes, the rhetoric is blunt, promising to take back control of our lines, but the plan is far more gradual. Rather than risk the cost and litigation of passing a law to cancel existing franchises, Labour would ask the Department for Transport to simply bring routes back in-house as each of the private sector deals expires over the next decade.

If Corbyn were to be a single-term prime minister, then a public-owned rail system would be one of the legacies he craves.

His scathing verdict on the health of privatised industries is well known but this month he put the case for the opposite when he addressed the Conference on Alternative Models of Ownership. Profits extracted from public services have been used to "line the pockets of shareholders" he declared. Services are better run when they are controlled by customers and workers, he added. "It is those people not share price speculators who are the real experts."

It is telling, however, that Labour's radical election manifesto did not mention nationalisation once. The phrase "public ownership" is used 10 times though. Perhaps it is a sign that while the leadership may have dumped New Labour "spin", it is not averse to softening its rhetoric when necessary.

So don't look to the past when considering what nationalisation and taking back control of public services might mean if Corbyn made it to Downing Street. The economic models of the 1970s are no more likely to make a comeback then the culinary trends for Blue Nun and creme brûlée.

Instead, if you want to know what public ownership might look like, then cast your gaze to Nottingham, Oldham and dozens more community companies around our country.

Peter Edwards was press secretary to a shadow chancellor, editor of LabourList and a parliamentary candidate in 2015 and 2017.