Mr Cruddas breaks cover
The leadership election is throwing up some interesting counter-intuitive endorsements.
The most recent being that I have been outflanked to the right by Jon Cruddas...
This was rather predictable - Kevin Maguire hinted at it in his New Statesman diary back in May: http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2010/05/david-cameron-labour-cruddas.
Perhaps this endorsement of David Miliband by someone clearly from the left will mean that his camp stop their silly attempts to present Ed Miliband as a dangerous leftwinger and David as somehow the official/establishment candidate.
It's also a reminder of Cruddas and David Miliband's shared background as Blair advisers in No10 in the first term.
The key thing for people to understand is that this leadership election isn't a neat left right spectrum where you pick the candidate nearest your own ideological point on a line from Benn to Blair. Some candidates are in different places on the spectrum depending on the issue, as are different members (I'm fairly near, some of my critics would say off, the right end of the spectrum of Labour opinion on crime/ASB, civil liberties and defence/foreign policy, but a lot nearer the centre - i.e. further to the left - on the economy, immigration, public services and redistribution - there are other Labour members who hold the reverse of these positions). And there's a whole other axis to measure candidates against based on charisma/personality and voter appeal, and on capability. Think back to 1963 - lots of Labour rightwingers detested Wilson as a person and for his politics but voted for him over George Brown in the final round because of Brown's character flaws.
Presumably Cruddas also got some assurances about the creation of the elected Party Chair role he wants.
I found his arguments for his choice rather convoluted and in some cases confusingly abstract. He is quoted in the New Statesman saying: "he (D Miliband) started talking about belonging and neighbourliness and community, more communitarian politics, which is where I think Labour has to go". I'm not as clever as Jon so I need this translated into shorter words ... I'm not sure it bears much relation to the immediate concerns of his constituents in Dagenham or David's in South Shields.
It would have been more straightforward for Jon to say "I'm voting for this guy because he's my friend and I trust him to a good job, and he's agreed the job I want will be created" rather than dress it up with a lot of theorising.
Some aspects of Cruddas' endorsement I just plain disagree with "Cruddas warns that it's a grave mistake for Labour to attack and disparage the Liberal Democrats. "David is not just attacking the Liberals, as some of the others have been."". Run that past me again Jon ... a rival party that has been trying to steal votes of us by presenting itself as to our left suddenly goes into coalition with the Tories and backs savage cuts to public services and a regressive budget and you don't think we should attack them for it? We shouldn't just be attacking them we should be trying to destroy them as a viable political entity. If that view reflects David Miliband's view then in itself it is reason enough why his brother should be leader instead. Whoever becomes leader, if I get on the NEC I will be pushing for attacking the Lib Dems to be a major part of our electoral strategy.
Jon's choice may have longer-term implications for the health of the Compass soft-left project, already discombobulated by the discovery that their Lib Dem mates are actually Yellow Tories. His erstwhile fan club in Compass Yoof and his parliamentary best mate Jon Trickett MP have gone bananas. Having had a Messiah, this particular cult now has a betrayal myth. They are a seriously unhappy crew.
Which brings me to yesterday's other endorsement - or rather re-endorsement - that of Ed Balls by Ken Livingstone. Ken is the person other than Cruddas who has real national stature on the left of the party. He is on a long journey rightwards across the party according to his rivals for the left franchise in Briefing and the LRC (with many of his Socialist Action supporters now deeply involved in Compass, seeing it as a more fertile recruiting ground for young activists than the traditional hard left). Ken's repositioning has drawn dividends as his list of supporters for re-nomination as London Mayoral candidate includes many people who are simultaneously backing leadership candidates from the right of the party.
Diane Abbott must be feeling seriously let down. She finally managed to get a leftwing voice into the leadership debate, only for Ken and Jon, the two most heavyweight names on the left of the party, to back other leadership candidates (the failure of Ken to back her given their long term political alliance must be particularly galling). Is this because of her flaws as a candidate, or is there a more significant unravelling of the left going on, mirroring the split into two NEC slates?
The kaleidoscope of alignments around the leadership is also evident at my own level in the NEC contest. For instance three of us on the moderate slate (me, Ellie and Oona) back Ed Miliband, as does Sam Tarry from the Grassroots Labour slate; whilst Shaukat Ali, Ken Livingstone and Johanna Baxter (respectively from the same slate as me, the Grassroots Labour one, and no slate at all) all back Ed Balls.
Finally, David Miliband's speech last night helped reinforce my position of supporting his brother. He called for us to echo RA Butler's approach (“The closest parallel I can think of is the Tories’ rethink under RA Butler after they lost the 1945 General Election”) in accepting much of whatever settlement the Coalition creates over the next five years. I can't sign up to that. It is pernicious to compare Butler accepting the settlement of a great progressive government in 1945, that implemented profoundly good policies like the NHS on the basis of a landslide election win, with us accepting the deeds of a thoroughly nasty coalition of convenience, implementing regressive policies on the basis of a con-trick whereby Lib Dem voters voted for a leftwing manifesto and got rightwing policies. Labour should be the party setting the long-term agenda and forcing the Tories to concede ideologically, not vice versa. I don't want this ideological timidity, this "surrender and apologise" politics and that's why, unlike Cruddas, I am not voting for it.