Labour’s election campaign in 1997 involved a thorough reconstruction o f the party’s identity. Often this centred on set pieces, which symbolised the advent of ‘New Labour’ and the rejection of traditional loyalties and sentiments. On the last Saturday of the campaign Tony Blair travelled by train from London to Manchester. The service was provided by the new private operator of the West Coast Main Line, Virgin Trains. The Labour leader was accompanied by the head of Virgin, Richard Branson. Here was a clear statement that under a Labour Government, the complicated and controversial privatisation o f the railway system would not be reversed. The arguments o f the railway unions, and of many others within and beyond the party, would count for nothing. The public ownership of rail transport had been party policy for decades before its achievement in 1948; thereafter it had seemed uncontroversial until the 1980s. Now New Labour was abandoning an historic position.