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Jeremy Corbyn wants to win promising hope, but despair is his best weapon

"Things can't go on like this" is the underlying message of Labour's messaging.

There are only ever three messages at election time. If things are going well, the government runs on “Life’s better under [insert party name here] don’t let [the Opposition ruin it]”, and if things are going badly, they run on “[The Opposition] is a change you can’t afford”. One reason why politics is easier for governments than oppositions is that the Opposition only ever has one message: “time for a change”.

Labour’s new party political broadcast, which aired tonight on ITV, is in many ways a fairly typical entry in the “time for a change” genre. There, are, however, some distinctive twists.

As the party did with its last party political broadcast, Labour is using a documentary-style format, with the personal stories of ten ordinary people, in their own words, and the consequences of the cuts. rather than a focus on the party’s Shadow Cabinet spokespeople or even particularly Corbyn himself.  (The Labour leader is mentioned at the end but does not appear on screen himself.)

The film is one of a series of films that will air between now and the local elections, all directed by Josh Cole, who was also behind Labour’s “Somewhere Only We Know” video which aired the night before the election, and all using the same documentary format.

The previous broadcast focused on frontline workers in the NHS, generally seen as the most comfortable of Labour territory. Crucially, however, the video was intended to signal a breach not only with the Conservatives but Labour’s recent past, with the implicit message that frontline workers are those best equipped to run and direct the NHS.  The second film moves to ground that has usually been less hospitable to Labour: that of crime and policing.

The Labour leadership got a lot of joy out of this area at the election, successfully linking their wider anti-austerity message to the specific question of Theresa May’s tenure at the Home Office and the cuts to policing. The gambit worked but still raises eyebrows at Westminster and in the Labour movement, both among Corbynsceptics and the Labour leader’s traditional allies, given Corbyn’s longstanding support for civil liberties causes and scepticism of police power.

While crime is rising and the Conservatives are led by a woman who made her name in part by standing up to police cuts, a decision that Labour strategists believe is only going to cause more pain to the government as time goes by, the party will continue to major on the issue.

The big difference in this film is that the party is widening the subject to the issue of how crime is prevented, beyond merely increasing the number of police on streets to community centres and other work, areas on which Corbyn – and Labour in general – are generally more comfortable than the Conservatives. For Labour, the hope is that “it doesn’t have to be this way” is a sufficiently exciting message to get their voters to the polls outside of a general election year, when the actual prospect for change is limited.

You can watch it in full below.

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.

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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.