* Leftist has surprised party to emerge as top contender
* Scrapping ‘Clause 4’ was key part of Blair era
* Corbyn wants to renationalise rail, power sectors
By Andrew Osborn
LONDON, Aug 9 (Reuters) - One of the leading contenders to head Britain’s main opposition party said he might make state ownership of key industries a central part of Labour’s ideology once again, restoring a policy famously scrapped by Tony Blair.
Jeremy Corbyn, 66, the most left-wing of four leadership candidates, wants to return the centre-left party to its socialist roots, but his centrist rivals say the perception that Labour was anti-business was one of the reasons it lost a May election so resoundingly.
Corbyn had already said he would take the railway and energy networks back into public ownership if he won power.
But in an interview with The Independent on Sunday newspaper, he went further, saying he would like the party to consider re-establishing what used to be its guiding credo: support for the “common (public) ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.”
Former Labour leader and triple election-winner Tony Blair scrapped the policy in 1995, amending clause four in the party’s constitution to reorient Labour towards the free market.
“I think we should talk about what the objectives of the party are, whether that’s restoring the Clause Four as it was originally written or it’s a different one, but I think we shouldn’t shy away from public participation, public investment in industry,” said Corbyn.
“I would want us to have a set of objectives which does include public ownership of some necessary things such as rail.”
Britain’s next national election is not until 2020. The new leader of Labour, which suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in May, is expected to be announced on Sept. 12.
Corbyn’s emergence as a front-runner has surprised many people as he initially struggled to secure a nomination. Blair, in office from 1997-2007, has urged Labour to reject Corbyn and embrace a more centrist candidate if it wants to regain power. (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)