So, the Labour Party’s most popular politician, a man respected for his honesty and outspokenness, Jon Cruddas, is backing David Miliband for the leadership. Many are surprised; some are elated – citing it as proof of the that David represents a ‘board church’; some disappointed.
Our guest writer is Arthur Baker, a 17-year-old Young Labour member from south east london and a member of Compass
So, the Labour Party’s most popular politician, a man respected for his honesty and outspokenness, Jon Cruddas, is backing David Miliband for the leadership.
Many are surprised; some are elated – citing it as proof of the that David represents a ‘board church’; some disappointed, saddened to be criticising a man for whom they have enjoyed campaigning while he was doing such good work defeating the BNP in Dagenham, a man for whom one has such a deep respect.
There is disappointment that one of Labour’s best, most outspoken, and leftist MPs has made a huge compromise, giving his loyalty – which may mean an awful lot in this election – to the rightist candidate, with may seem to some to be very murky reasoning.
In this week’s New Statesman, Cruddas says he is backing David because “there’s a pluralism I detect in David that I hadn’t witnessed before”:
“We see it around issues of party reform, devolution and local government, and around the question of national identities within Labour — are we heading towards a federal form of Labour, for instance? And, actually, he’s not just attacking the Liberals, as some of the others have.”
“What was interesting to me about this was when he started talking about belonging and neighbourliness and community, more communitarian politics, which is where I think Labour has to go.
“He [David] is the only one [of the leadership contenders] that has got into some of that. He’s tackling some of more profound questions that need to be addressed head-on. What is the nature of the reckoning?
“We should not just be running from the record but having a nuanced approach to some of the things that went wrong, as well as defending the things that went right.”
Cruddas, many assumed, would support Ed. He says that he respects David for “having a nuanced approach to some of the things that went wrong, as well as defending the things that went right”. Interestingly, while Dave still stoically defends the Iraq war, ID cards, tuition fees, etc, Jon “deeply regrets voting the way he did” on Iraq, and accepts that the war was a mistake – though he did himself vote in favour of military action in March 2003.
Many feel Cruddas and Ed have got the balance right when it comes to admitting mistakes and defending Labour’s achievements in office. Ed admits that mistakes had been made with ID cards, stop and search laws, and Iraq, and that a graduate tax would be “fairer than tuition fees” – in a way, even a Cruddas/Ed Balls coalition would have been a better fit, he too admits many of these things, some of which Cruddas was against at the time, are mistakes.
In a recent article, Ed commended the Liberal Democrats’ “proud traditions of social justice” whilst criticising their current leadership. Another facet of David’s that Cruddas says he was impressed by is the “fact that [David] Miliband had not just been attacking the Liberal Democrats” – an attribute that is obviously also shared by Ed.
Jon laments the fact that “by 2001 New Labour’s policies were essentially based on a mythical ‘Middle England’”, and criticises the Blair administration for “ignoring their traditional support in the chase for middle-class voters”. This was in his 2009 speech to Compass, for whose organising committee he is currently standing. This position seems to be a lot closer to Ed’s; Ed recently wrote an article about how Labour must not forsake the working classes in order to chase the middle class vote.
David, however, insists that “it [Labour] cannot retreat into its working-class heartlands” and describes the working classes as “a minority”. Don’t get me wrong, at least the first of those statements may well be right, and I’m sure all of the men agree votes are needed from all social classes, but it is clear that while David puts the emphasis on gaining middle class votes, Ed and Jon put the emphasis on working class votes. But it is not just about the votes you go for, it is about the values voted for. Was the New Labour project a means to an end or a permanent ideological shift? That is what we are deciding in this election.
Jon says that David “is beginning to touch on some of those profound questions that need to be addressed head-on”. Again, a description that seems more fitting to Ed, especially from a centre-leftist point of view, and anyway, what exactly are the profound questions that David’s been addressing head on?
It is also important to note that Ed, though focusing on the lost C2 and DE voters, recognises the importance of having wide appeal. In a speech only yesterday, he said Labour must reach out to “affluent voters”, explaining how “New Labour’s unwillingness to act to shape the economy let down the squeezed middle who turned against the party as they found themselves working harder for longer for less”.
It has been suggested that Jon has been tempted by David’s promise to create an elected chair of the Labour Party, a position Jon has campaigned for, and would almost certainly get. Perhaps, like the Lib Dems, he thinks it is worth helping the right wing candidate win in order to temper some of his policies – which Jon admits he disagrees with.
I suspect that as Party chair he could ensure David carries out his promises to “rejuvenate Labour’s grassroots” and give more power to the members. Many, many people can’t think of anyone more suited to that job – but to support David for this, in spite of the clashes on policy and ideology, seems to be letting the ’94 bathwater back in with the baby. Jon doesn’t even pretend David is his closest match for policy, and his reasoning about “profound questions” sounds a bit vague.
Perhaps it has nothing to do with the elected chair either, but is to do with their friendship from their days together working for Tony in Number 10. Either way, one can’t help but feel that if he had thrown his weight behind Ed, it could have made all the difference, and he may well have ended up as chair anyway.
• To vote in the Labour leadership election, you must join the Labour Party before 8th September.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.