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, August 25, 2010

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.


Anonymous AJ2 said...

I think your analysis of how the party should be confronting the Con-Dem government is absolutely spot on. Which is why I will be voting for Ed as well. I may even vote for you!

10:04 am, August 26, 2010

Anonymous dereck pringel said...

Poor old Diane Abbott! She was always just the useful idiot for the party machine to make sure McDonnell didn't get on the ballot paper. And now they've used her, she's been ditched. Something about supping with the devil comes to mind...

10:38 am, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Rob said...

"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."

Will it also stop silly attempts by the Ed 'camp' to stop portraying David as the right-wing, pro-war, 'New Labour' candidate, as Ed constantly implies?

10:44 am, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Laughing Guy said...

"Poor old Diane Abbott! She was always just the useful idiot for the party machine to make sure McDonnell didn't get on the ballot paper".

Because McDonnell really was such a big threat, wasn't he? You're having a laugh, mate!

11:02 am, August 26, 2010

Anonymous tim f said...

I don't think it's that the left is "split" - people on the left have been very comradely over differences on the leadership issue. It's more that lots of people see Abbott as an inadequate candidate who's run a very poor campaign.

The leadership contest has in some ways been very encouraging. Just as lots of people on the right have grown up and not backed the candidate who's marginally the furthest to the right and will bash the left hardest (you're a case in point), lots of people on the left have chosen not to back a candidate just because she's rebelled most often in the past, but candidates in Ed Balls and Ed Miliband who, during the campaign, have shown more understanding of key issues affecting the labour movement, more prowess at attacking the Tories and campaigned more competently.

(btw, I too am considering voting for you on the NEC despite differences on lots of political issues - I want a range of people on the NEC with different things to offer & it's important to have people who are sound on organisation and campaigning. I may be the only person who could vote for you and Susan Press!)

11:02 am, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Cruddas and Compass supporter said...

"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".

Utter bull. I have checked the Compass Yoof website this morn and it says not a word about Jon Cruddas' endorsement of David Miliband and as for Jon Trickett, he has no right whatsoever to tell other MPs how to vote. There is no "line" in this contest only people's consciences. Quite frankly some of us who support Compass are utterly fed up at attempts by hard left troxyists groups to try and take it over. Compass was ALWAYS pluralist and supported alliances with the broader left (greens and liberals as well) as did early Blair. Cruddas' endorsement is entirely consistent with that line of thought.

11:07 am, August 26, 2010

Anonymous tim f said...

"Cruddas & Compass supporter" - remind me how many people voted in the Compass NEC elections again? And how many votes you needed to get elected?

No offence, but if any remotely well-organised group - trotskyist or otherwise - thought it was worth taking Compass over, it wouldn't be difficult.

"Laughing Guy" - you'd be surprised how many people (not just from the left) have told me they'd have voted for McDonnell but won't vote for Abbott. There is no doubt in my mind that McDonnell would not just have done better than Abbott, but he'd have run a much better campaign challenging the other candidates and building an ongoing left movement. He wouldn't have won but he'd have "threatened" in that sense.

12:50 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's Ken Livingstone's statement on the leadership:


1:00 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Here's Ken Livingstone's statement on the leadership:


Good. Let's hope E Balls takes votes off E Miliband...

1:37 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous graeme guch said...

McDonnell would have been a far better candidate for the left (not that he would have won) so he needed to be prevented from getting on the ballot paper to deny the principled, intelligent, articulate left any time in the spotlight during the campaign and have a cartoon lefty instead.

Diane presumably knew she was being used but must have thought she'd get more out of it than this.

1:41 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That banana will define Labour for the next decade.

1:53 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That banana will define Labour for the next decade.

1:53 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous AJ2 said...

I think its certainly the case that McDonnell would have been a much better candidate from a hard left perspective. I dont agree with much that he has to say but he might have succeded in forcing the other candidates to sharpen up and develop their arguments in response. Abbott on the other hand has very very poor and made no impact,which is hardly a suprise.

2:14 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Justin Hinchcliffe said...

I think your attack on Abbott is quite personal, Luke. If I were her, I wouldn't lift a finger in New River. If Labour lose, then you'll get the blame as Agent, not her. Maybe you ought to aplogies and sent her a box of chocs?

2:34 pm, August 26, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

What attack? I was expressing sympathy that some of her expected allies are not voting for her.

3:33 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes what do you mean by Compass Yoof going bananas?

4:29 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...a rival party that has been trying to steal votes of (sic) us..."

One political party cannot 'steal' the votes of another party because no political party owns its votes. They belong to the voters.

Unfortunately, this basic fact was often overlooked by Blair and Brown on so many occasions when they tried to outflank the Conservative Party. The scrapping of the 10p tax rate was one of many examples. It ended in disaster because Brown assumed he could treat Labour voters with contempt. He was wrong and the Labour Party paid a very heavy price for such arrogance.

4:34 pm, August 26, 2010

Blogger Simon said...

It is a pleasure to agree with you Luke.

5:17 pm, August 26, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The attacking of the Lib/Dems could backfire. The election result threw up the almost inevitability of a coalition and would we have really wanted to continue having regard to our leadership problems and loss of voter appeal.

In many ways it was a blessing the Lib/Dems aligned with the Tories and let them face our national financial problems whilst the Labour party sorts out its leadership and regroups.

In the broader context of general elections it has always seemed to me that the Lib/Dems cause more damage to Conservatives. They have a knack of taking seats in middle class affluent SE surburbia where Labour hasn't a prayer. So is the party's best interest served by destroying them.

As for the grandees of the left not supporting Diane Abbott, one would have to say that the left has always had the tendency to shoot itself in the foot. Perhaps the very nature of militants on the edges of parties makes unity difficult. The Tories have the same problem with their right wingers.

As for stealing votes, well you lost me there, Luke. Parties can win over the support of the voters or lose it but, short of voting irregularities, you cannot steal votes.

8:14 pm, August 26, 2010

Blogger susan press said...

Luke, I largely agree with what you say(!)
If Diane Abbott is disappointed she did not get Cruddas's endorsement I find it hard to symapthise as indeed she was the "useful idiot" (to use Lenin's phrase) who stopped a far more credible challenge from the left.
Neal Lawson's statements on this are nuanced but wrong.
How can anyone criticise a candidate for having a go at the treachery of the Lib Dems?
Cruddas has blown hia credibility with many people. I am not in the slightest bit surprised however.

8:16 pm, August 26, 2010

Blogger Harry Barnes said...

Before voting in the Labour Leadership contest see the Candidates' Manifestos which were today issued (or linked to) on "Dronfield Blather" here -

10:53 pm, August 26, 2010

Blogger james said...

Perhaps it's time to ditch the left/right talk when talking about debates and people within our party. It's supposed to be shorthand, but it's pretty confusing.

3:15 am, August 27, 2010

Blogger Conor Foley said...

A good analysis Luke. You have become my favourite reference source for what is happening within the British Labour party these days. I think that I will re-join it if Ed M gets elected leader.

5:25 pm, August 27, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

I agree with you on this although my politics are by no means identical - I am more to the left on defence and some civil liberties issues, but not all - but the very last thing I want to be doing at the moment is schmoozing up to the sodding Liberals. They are going to be utterly wiped out of the north in any case. Looking forward to the demo outside the conference in Liverpool!

I'm also sceptical about localism - we need strong state intervention and a bit of good traditional Fabian planning to sort out the mess this government are making. I'm glad that Ed M, and it seems Ed Balls too, are stressing the traditional Keynesian social democracy which Liberal-loving former NL supporters like Martin Kettle in the Guardian decry. For me that's what the right wing of the party has always been about and why I have always allied myself with it, despite my unilateralism !

I tend to think that perhaps people like you are recognising that there are some on the NL wing who really don't have that sort of social democratic outlook.

6:17 pm, August 27, 2010

Blogger TeonGordon said...

This was a good read. I especially agree with you on the fact that the left/right dichotomy within the Labour Party is not all it seems. It reminds me of something The Economist pointed out. Labour constituencies span a large (some may say impossible) area, and so will have to talk in ways that appeal to different voices. Take crime. The inner-city voter on a council estate of Hackney will only be interested in a strong right-wing attitude to crime i.e 'lock 'em up and throw away the key', whilst the Hampstead cognescenti will want to take a more high-minded approach to crime i.e. bothering themselves with such questions as 'Does prison work?'. This is the task Labour has - it must reconcile these two groups (not an easy task)

9:40 pm, August 27, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a big fan of Cruddas and Compass I feel I should declare myself thoroughly unbananas regarding his endorsement of D-Mili - it's a bit of ashame, as I think his democratic socialist leftiness and Ed-Mili's social democratic leftiness would be good foils for one another, but - as other Compass fans have said in the comments - it's his decision and I accept his reasons for making it (Ed M has, after all and unlike David, said very little that is up Cruddas' street).

2:20 am, August 28, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ask what the actual left of the party feels about Cruddas...... he is not one of them.

2:07 pm, September 01, 2010


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