Ed Miliband: Nationalisation could help fix ‘deeply inadequate’ energy market

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Ed Miliband - Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Ed Miliband - Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Ed Miliband insisted there is a "role for public ownership" in the UK's energy market as he appeared to distance himself from Sir Keir Starmer's decision not to support nationalising the Big Six energy firms.

In what seemed to be a division between the former Labour leader and the incumbent, Mr Miliband said some element of nationalisation may be needed for power providers.

"It's a deeply inadequate market and of course we need to look at all of these issues in relation to the market, and that's what we're going to do," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday.

Asked whether the energy system should be renationalised, he said: "There are many elements to the energy system – there is generation, there is distribution, there is transmission and supply, and I see a role for public ownership in relation to the energy system."

His commitment to nationalisation, which Labour usually refers to as "common ownership", comes after Sir Keir said he would not bring the biggest energy firms under public control despite pledging to do so when he ran to be leader.

‘We need a fundamental look at this market’

One of his leadership pledges, viewed as a significant concession to the Labour Left, read: "Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water."

But asked directly whether he still supported nationalisation at last month's party conference, the Labour leader said: "No. When it comes to common ownership, I'm pragmatic about this. I do not agree with the argument that says we must be ideological."

Sir Keir appeared to draw a distinction between nationalisation and common ownership but did not explain the difference between the policies.

His U-turn came just two weeks after Mr Miliband was sent out to defend the common ownership policy in a BBC Newsnight interview. He was reportedly frustrated when Sir Keir publicly abandoned the pledge.

On Wednesday, the former leader and shadow business secretary said: "I think what's happened is we've started off with a very liberalised system. We have introduced, if you like, market constraints including the price cap – we need a fundamental look at this market and there is a role for ownership."

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