A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cruddas launches deputy campaign

Generally I think Jon Cruddas MP is a big asset to Labour and makes a very intelligent contribution to the debate on the future of the Party.

Although I don't expect to be voting for him I am pleased that he is formally launching his Deputy Leadership campaign today, as he will inject an important set of topics around the union link and rebuilding Party activism into the contest.

What I don't get is his vision for the strategic political positioning of the Labour Party.

It seems to be based largely on what he perceives as the lack of attention paid to his constituency, Dagenham, and others like it, because New Labour has been focussed on "middle England".

I think this is fundamentally mistaken. I don't claim to know Dagenham well, but I'm very familiar with the political attitudes of the culturally working class white diaspora from the East End having fought nearby Castle Point, just along the A13, in the '05 General Election and campaigned in one of last summer's council by-elections against the BNP in Barking. My partner was the Agent for John Cryer in next door Hornchurch so as a household I think we have a reasonable take on the politics of that part of London.

My perspective is:
- New Labour was actually specifically targeted at precisely the kind of skilled white working class voters who live in Dagenham. We are basically talking people who used to vote Labour until 1979 then lots of whom defected to the Tories in the '80s. Right-to-buy on council housing would have been a huge factor in generating support for Thatcher in Dagenham. It should have been a heartland Labour area and now is again but certainly wasn't then - in both 1983 and 1987 the Tories came within 3,000 votes of winning Dagenham. They also came within 4,000 of winning Barking in '83 and '87, and less than 3,000 off winning even Newham South in 1987 and 1992. The same would be true of seats with similar demography: "white flight" from the inner city and automotive industry jobs in the Midlands. New Labour wasn't about ignoring these kind of seats - because the voters in them are the same demographic who in smaller numbers are critical to winning key seats like Basildon and Harlow - it was all about listening to their concerns and getting them back to their historic party, Labour.
- Whilst voters in that part of the world are sometimes quite left wing on say, public services or support for manufacturing, they are highly aspirational (by definition - they are either first or second generation East Enders who did a Tebbit and "got on their bikes") and that aspect of New Labour's positioning appeals to them. Dagenham isn't Surrey but it isn't the inner city either - people moved there to escape the inner city.
- The majority of the discontent with Labour that exists in the easternmost bit of London/inner Essex is not because Labour is "too right wing" or too "middle England" - it's because Labour is (wrongly) perceived in that part of the world as "too left wing", "politically correct", "obsessed with helping immigrants". Hence the main opposition in Barking & Dagenham is the BNP. The voters in this part of England are even more obsessed by crime/ASB, immigration and terrorism than "middle England" is (and remember recent polls have said these are the top 3 issues for voters nationally).

So my difference of opinion with Cruddas is:

- I think most Labour policy is actually targeted at his constituents, not neglecting them
- The security agenda around crime, immigration and terrorism is actually essential to him keeping his seat and kicking the BNP off Barking & Dagenham Council, and he shouldn't dismiss it "an ever-more-muscular bidding war amongst politicians to demonstrate who can be tougher".

I think there is room for Cruddas to develop some radical policies that will inspire working class voters and get these taken up by a new Leader. Particularly these might be in the areas of support for manufacturing industry, workplace and trade union rights, combating poverty, regeneration and public services. But it would be an electoral disaster for us in Dagenham and other places like it if that is combined with a retreat on the security agenda and the return of the leftwing rhetoric that caused the same voters to defect to Thatcher in the 1980s.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Cruddas will turn left. He is a blairite through and through who is making a few noises at the mo. I actually think he'd make a good DPM and wish him all the very best.

9:51 pm, October 18, 2006

Anonymous Nick said...

Cruddas is critical - deeply so - on some policies like top-up fees and choice-based reform in general; on others he rightly demands far better, like social housing, working rights, manufacturing.

He also demands both a higher priority for what are called our core voters but as you rightly point out are not necessarily so; and a regeneration of the labour movement.

But I think it would be wrong to characterise him as a generic left-winger, opposed to tackling crime and ASB. Indeed, he's been harshly criticised by the McDonnellites.

On immigration his position is more nuanced than either the left or the leadership - he makes clear that there is no problem with migration and promotes the rights of refugees etc very vigorously; but thinks that this must be on the basis of upholding labour market standards and ending the exploitation of migrant workers, which drives down the conditions of all workers.

In short, the problem is the exploitation by employers not the migration itself; the other problem is that because illegal migration is off the govt's statistical radar it means that his area doesn't get the extra resources to cope with its real population.

Who are you backing then Luke? Johnson or Straw, I'm guessing?

12:04 am, October 19, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I don't think we have the full line up of candidates yet. I'd like some women other than Harman to run.

11:01 am, October 19, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So there we have it, Luke will be backing Lynn Jones!!

Seriously, are any women apart from Harman likely to stand?

11:13 am, October 19, 2006

Anonymous nick said...

Tessa Jowell is often mentioned but she has a lot to lose and not much chance to win.

Hazel Blears is an outside bet but she could hardly do it while Party Chair, and would probably be reluctant to step down for it given that she'd not have much chance.

I'm struggling to work out who else Luke could be thinking of. But I'm guessing it wasn't Lynne Jones! :-)

11:34 am, October 19, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

"I'm struggling to work out who else Luke could be thinking of. But I'm guessing it wasn't Lynne Jones!"

I think we can also exclude Glenda Jackson and Clare Short from his choices

12:14 pm, October 19, 2006

Anonymous Dr V La Placa said...

Luke is absolutely right. Many working class and lower middle classes are unhappy by what they perceive to be too high levels of immigration, too many people claiming benefits who have never contributed to the welfare bill, lack of prisons, and what they see as softness on crime and terrorism. Being perceived as soft on these issues is hardly an electoral advantage. Were not we one seen as soft on defence and the Russians?

1:13 pm, October 19, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On immigration then Dr la Placa (if that IS your real name!) , isn't the position Cruddas has laid out the same position for the same reasons as you say?

10:43 pm, October 22, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke, you mentioned that you fought Castle Point. In my opinion looking at Castle Point shows exactly why we need the major rebuilding of the party that Cruddas is advocating.

We had a Labour MP and a Labour council there not too long ago. Now we have only one single councillor in the whole constituency. The CLP is run by two or three people who work very hard but can't make any headway at all.

Won't get into the historical reasons for the collapse, but a party in a health state would have been able to help Castle Point recover by now.

1:42 pm, October 23, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Tom - Vincent La Placa is a real person - a Branch Chair in Hackney South CLP.

Anon - there are rather more than 2 or 3 very active people in Castle Point CLP - Eastern region thought we ran the best campaign of any non-key seat in the region. It's a very volatile seat where all the council wards can change hands on a very small movement of votes. Castle Point suffers from a very exagerated form of a general problem in Essex and to a lesser extent North Kent - which is that the Michael Howard dog whistle tactics of mobilising core Tories by going on about Europe and immigration really resonated there - despite people there having done really well out of a Labour govt as far as public services and the economy goes. My worry would be that Cruddas' party regeneration stuff might be good for Castle Point CLP (though I'm sceptical that there is some huge group of young Canvey & Benfleet residents all just waiting for a recruitment leaflet to arrive - I delivered enough direct mail that if winning that seat through organisation was possible it would have happened) but his political message i.e. a more left party - would have the opposite effect on voters there.

8:56 pm, October 23, 2006

Blogger parburypolitica said...

I have decided to support Cruddas in the deputy leadership election unlike Luke. Essentially I see him as being able to deliver the change that the party needs and I think separating being DPM and deputy party leader is something of a masterstroke that'll flummox the cabinet wannabe's

But if you want my reasoning in more detail try this post on my blog at 1300 words it's a little long for comments


5:42 pm, October 25, 2006

Anonymous Matthew Hall said...

People outside London and the South East are concerned about genuinely different things.

The three big issues that you mention; Crime, immigration and terrorism are, here in the North East, obviously a concern, however they are inflated here because our televisions happen to be linked to the national stations. Gun Crime for example is not really an issue but is talked about because it is a London (Manchester and Birmingham) problem. Crime is an issue, but again I feel very much overblown by the London-centric nature of politics. Support the police to do their job, inspire civic responsibility, but it shouldn’t be made the number one issue at all times

Terrorism is a concern, but the likelihood of Hartlepool Town centre being attacked are pretty slim and people are aware of this, and in terms of non-EU immigration, there really isn’t an issue. What is needed is politics that inspires rather than frightens people. Don’t be soft but if the future of Labour politics lies in horror premonitions about a doomed future, people become insecure, not inspired. Concentrating on things that make people fearful rather than hopeful is a toxic not a potent force.

The problem with EU enlargement, which I see as different from the immigration that has been traditionally on the agenda, is that it is either argued as a massive economic advantage, or as a deluge of foreigners. I see it as neither. I think we should begin to acknowledge that it benefits a lot of us, but the skilled and unskilled working class are being disadvantaged economically in many areas. Tradesman across the country are being undercut and are losing money and if this is not addressed by targeting employers and supporting union expansion into this area then the right wing will have a wealth of bitter people to pick off. It is furthermore insulting to the working class to consistently hear that the jobs being filled are the jobs “That British people won’t do”. This simply is not true and is propaganda that has been oozing from employers and businesses.

So an optimistic agenda around workplace and union rights, training and stable employment for working class people, modern manufacturing, employer and business responsibility and public services, as well as remaining strong but not obsessed on security is an approach to re-energise politics, draw people back into it, make them less fearful and more hopeful and inspire the party to see off Cameron.

2:20 pm, October 27, 2006


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Free Hit Counters
OfficeDepot Discount