Labour leadership contest: Jeremy Corbyn warned over threat to seize back assets

Shadow Chancellor tells voters to make sure they 'make an informed choice'

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Jeremy Corbyn would be breaking one of the “fundamental tenets of well-ordered states” if he carried out a threat to seize assets sold by the Conservative government without fully compensating their new owners, Labour’s shadow Chancellor has warned.

Chris Leslie, who is backing Yvette Cooper in Labour’s increasingly tense leadership contest, has appealed to party members who have not yet voted to “look at the small print and make sure they are making an informed choice” before voting for Mr Corbyn.

The shadow Chancellor was reacting to a statement from team Corbyn’s campaign manager, John McDonnell MP, who alleged that the public has been “robbed” by the privatisations of publicly owned companies from the early 1980s onwards, and warned that if Chancellor, George Osborne, sells off assets at below market value, “a future Corbyn-led Labour government will reserve the right to bring them back into public ownership with either no compensation or with any undervaluation deducted from any compensation for renationalisation”.

Chris Leslie has urged Labour Party members to ‘look at the small print’

Mr Leslie challenged Mr McDonnell via Twitter to ask whether this meant that pension funds could have assets taken from them by a Corbyn-led government, for less than they were worth.

Mr McDonnell replied: “If you were a wise fund manager you wouldn’t risk your fund in speculating on dodgy privatisations.”

Mr Leslie told The Independent: “These issues about adequate compensation haven’t been raised for years because it was thought obvious that you don’t just sequester assets. That’s one of the fundamental tenets of well-ordered states.

“I have nothing personally against Jeremy Corbyn, but given this talk of a potentially serious prospect of Jeremy becoming leader of the party, we’ve got a duty to ask what his policies would be.

“It’s misleading to suggest that there is this lever that can be pulled and problems would magically be resolved without consequences. This could affect the stability of the currency, inward investment and the independence of the Bank of England.”

Mr Leslie added that though he considered Mr Corbyn to be “decent and honourable”, their views on managing the economy are so different that he would not serve in a Shadow Cabinet under Corbyn’s leadership, though he added: “I don’t suppose I’d be asked.”

Mr Corbyn has not said how a government he led would pay for assets it nationalised, but earlier this month called for the “Big Six” energy companies to be brought back into public ownership, though not under government control.

He also told The Independent on Sunday: “We shouldn’t shy away from public participation, public investment in industry and public control of the railways.”

Mr Corbyn came under further attack at the weekend from Betty Boothroyd, a veteran of the internal party battle warfare of 30 years ago, who went on to be the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House of Commons.

She said he was “deluding” his young supporters with the same “claptrap” that kept the Labour Party out of power during the 1980s.

Writing in The Sunday Times, she said: “My old party is galloping towards the precipice. I urge it to heed the jagged rocks before it is too late.”