Monday, May 07, 2007

Jon Cruddas in the press


In an interview on GMTV on Sunday, left candidate for the Labour Party deputy leadership Jon Cruddas branded Tony Blair as delusional for saying that last Thursday’s defeats for Labour were a “springboard for future success”

Jon warned that the party is in “real, serious trouble”, having lost around 500 councillors. One of the reasons that Cruddas’s campaign is so important is that he understands the importance of how Labour needs to address its progressive electoral constituency, rather than spin policies for undecided voters in middle England. As Cruddas notes, the councilors are “the core activists, and they have been defeated”.

It has been a good few days for Jon’s campaign, with an extended interview in today’s Independent , where he comes over very well. Particularly in his recognition that the party needs to change direction, and be more supportive not only of left policies but also of the unions: “We can't go down this route of a "virtual party" where members are just cheerleaders for people at the top. We need to involve members much more. If they had been listened to over issues like top-up fees, or the need to build more council houses, we would be in better shape now. … It's up to us to change. And we do have to change. Labour's lost half its members in 10 years. we can't pretend that it's just one of those things. I'm not going to spout a load of platitudes but people deserve better from us, we have to show you that we've changed. … Trade unions form the bedrock of a free society and the basis of our party and the wider labour movement. As a party, we've treated the unions badly over the last few years, that needs to change”

He also had a recent column in the Guardian “For too long the demise of the party has been treated as a convenient truth for those wanting to circumnavigate frustrating party structures and impose policies but the result has been the pursuit of an agenda that is neither in tune with our members or the country at large.”

Of the declared candidates for Deputy Leader, Cruddas is the one who progressive activists and trade unions should back to send a clear message to Gordon Brown that a change of direction is necessary. The beauty of the Deputy Leader campaign is that it allows a debate about policy and direction that the unions can participate in, without explicitly breaking from Brown. We need to recognize that for the big unions, their leaderships are going to make a calculated decision to back Brown, whatever, just to keep the doors open.

The worry I have is that most of the labour left have not grasped the significance of Cruddas’s campaign. There is not a single mention of him in this month’s Labour Left Briefing. It seems these labour Left activists have an exaggerated estaimation of the importance of the individual members of the party, and are ignoring the wider significance of the party's grounding in organised labour and the affiliated unions, where the Deputy leadership contest may well be more important than the leadership contest.

There are many dangers for the left of focusing entirely on John McDonnell’s leadership campaign, not least because he may not get on the ballot paper.

I am a supporter of John McDonell; my union branch (Wiltshire and Swindon GMB) is backing him. But some of his campaigners seem to be neglecting the fact that he will not win, and they need to prepare an end game. There is also a lot of moralism from his camp towards those activists who do not hold indiviudal membership of the Labour Party, that is entirely counterproductive. (For example the argument that the votes of individual members count more than the votes of members through affiliated u nions - this would only be true if McDonnell could win - whereas as his campaignn is really only to consolidate and demonstarte opposition, then votes in the unions are in fact more importnat than the individual members, as the unions can still exercise influence, whereas the rule changes have made the structures open to individual members entirely toothless)

The attacks on Michael Meacher are also entirely counterproductive and na├»ve. Michael’s campaign may be problematic, but there is no need for McDonnell’s supporters to join in the criticism of Michael. The public criticisms that Meacher is making of Blairism are correct and should be entirely welcomed, whatever the wisdom of his leadership challenge. By sniping at Meacher, and questioning the foundations of his support, the McDonnell campaign are feeding into the Life of Brian culture of the left.

The significance of Cruddas is that the hard left John McDonnell cannot win, and may not even be able to get enough parliamentary support to get on the ballot paper – but the left still needs a campaign to the left of the current party leadership, to tactically break the Party’s centre ground away from the Blairite/Brownite right.

The task at this stage is to use the leadership and deputy leadership campaigns to give the best possible platform for progressive politics opposing the neo-liberalism of a Brown government. Yes, an important component of that will be a significant vote for McDonnell. But whether or not McDonnell gets on the ballot, there will be a Deputy Leadership contest, and it is inexplicable to me that the Labour Left are not banging Cruddas’s drum more loudly


Mikael said...


I have posted a reply to your allegations made against me on Dave Osler's blog. Please, take a second to check it out.



AN said...

Well this is ironic. Our friend Mikael here is a McDonnell supporter who cannot distinguish between the tens of thousands of left-wing activists who have resigned from the Labour party on the one hand and the Leninist groups on the other, for whom he admits contempt.

He assumes that everyone who does not believe that the Labour party can be won to opposition to neo-liberalism is a member or supporter of a far left group.

This is exactly characteristic of the bonehead sectarianism coming from some in the McDonnell camp. After ten years of a Blair government, many many left-wing social democrats have abandoned hope in the party, there isn't a single individual member of the LP on my union branch's committee, yet for McDonnell supporters like Mikael, we are all ultra left and marginal.

This is what Mikael wrote. of course he did not read my post on jon Cruddas - what could he have to learn, after all he gained access to the font of all wisdom when he joined the LP (density of union membership 29%)

Mikael said...

First of all, I did read your post, Andy. I simply "advertised my reply, as you put it, on this thread as it was the first one available when I visited this blog.
This is what AN is referring to, judge for yourselves:

Andy based his claims of "admitted contempt" on this statement:

In brief, my feelings of "contempt" (to use your own word, if asked, I might, in the first place, have used another term - but that's neither here nor there) are solely directed towards the "far-left" (Ultra-Left, extreme-Left, Fringe-left or any other description which can be found in your own - to say the least, diverse - literature) groups, which have managed to "absorb" some of the "socialist activists" in question after their (in some cases quite understandable, if unjustifiable) departure from the Labour Party.

This is hardly an admission of "contempt"; simply I didn't want to make this a discussion about semantics, and, what's more, answer Andy's contemptful statements in his very own condescending logic!

This is what Andy replied:

I reacted to his response in the following way (reproduced below, as it is shorter than the other posts):


1) Well, I don't remember saying that you belonged to any group whatsoever. I clearly pointed out that I simply assumed it to be the case. So, you can't really make any case there.

2) Here, you're the making erroneous assumptions, I fear. I did read your post, in fact, I am beginning to share some of your feelings - though Cruddas still has failed to convince me entirely (but that's another story, which I am willing to discuss more in depth on your blog, if, that is, I am welcome to!).

3)Be that as it may, I still believe that T.U. memembership in the Labour Party is still greater than in the ISG. Furthermore, you cannot deny that there exists an organic link between the T.Us and the Labour Party - so there's no point in claiming the contrary.

4)Never said that at all, maybe you ought to read what I wrote again!

"There is a curiously circular logic to your argument because you have contempt for anyine [sic] who does not believe the LP can be reclaimed."

Ridiculous, not an argument, really.

"But what if it cannot be reclaimed? What if the victory of the Blairites is too complete for that to happen?"

This was not the SATIFACTORY argument that I was looking for!

grimupnorth said...

Maybe McDonnell suporters would have been far more supportive of Cruddas had he backed John. Even implicitly, which as far as I know he hasn't.
Meacher's campaign has been hugely disruptive - and unwanted.The man is a bad joke.
I still don't know who I wil vote for as deputy. Cruddas, for all his hype, is not doing any better in the polls than John McDonnell.I hopoe they both get onthe ballot nevertheless.But Cruddas could have helped .Significantly.

AN said...


I think that misses the point, and looks at the question too much from the piint of view of the mcDonnell camoaign.

Objectivelly, what is in the best interests f the u nions and the left. It is for there to be a significnat vote in the deputy leadership contest for a candidtae calling for a change of course. Who is the best of the decalred candidates in expressing that? Answer: Jon Cruddas.

Your approach displays excessive illussion in the prosects of John McDonnell. John McD is not a candidate who can split the centre away from the Blairite/Brownite right.

Cruddas can.

Mikael said...


If you had ever read Grim's blog, you'd know that she keeps things quite real about McDonnell's chances.

Now, on Cruddas. He may well be calling for a "change of course", but how could he truly do so without breaking with Brown??? You, if anyone, should have this quite clear in light of the fact that, at least as far as I have understood, you feel NuLab has moved so far that you can no longer be a member (a feeling which, as you know, I do not share).

He needs to show solidarity with John; especially given that (I think) it is a hidden secret that most McDonnellites will cast their votes on him at the time of the election.

AN said...

You are right tha it is impossible to stand for a complete change of course without breaking with Brown,

But in the world of real politics there are intermediate positions where we are setting down a marker.

The unions are the key, and CRuddas allows then to both make a point that there needs to be change, without making a public show of opposition to Brown.

It is all a question of what s the best achievable outcome, that puts us in a better position than we are in now.

AN said...

BTW MIkael

If you kive in Belgium and went to University in the USA before that, how come you are in the British Labour party???

Mikael said...

Oh, good (actually quite understandable) question! I now live in London... Or rather, on the road between London and Brussels... Wherever I've lived, I've been in the S.I. !
:-) Furthermore, as a political organisation, the Labour Party has a much more interesting structure than most of the other S.I. parties and is, therefore, a much more interesting area of investigation than its fraternal organisations - so I might still have intervened on Blogs concerning it had not had any connection to England, whatsoever! I hope you will find this last bit a fair point, after all, Socialism is international or it is nothing!
I did, by the way, not go to university in the USA, but to an "American College", the name given to American-operated international schools abroad!

Now, about Cruddas. I think wer're both right! You are right when you say what you just said :-) , but I still think that Cruddas could make more of a "noise" in favour of a proper leadership contest. I mean, how much influence does a Deputy Leader have over the way things develop anyhow???

AN said...

Thanks Mikael

Of course you are perfectly welcome to comment wherever you live, I just thought it odd for you to be in thr LP if you lived in Belgium, but I understand now.

Let's see how you get on in the LP :o)

Mikael said...

I fear it won't be any different (i.e any better, fundamentally) than in any other S.I.-section.
:-) or should I say :-(

grimupnorth said...

You missed my point entirely. Cruddas could have helped John see off Meacher and get on the ballot.He didn't. So why should he get my vote?

AN said...


As I understand you point, your point seems to be that JOhn McD's campaign is the meaure by which we should judge things.

Whereas, if we look at the wider context we need to judge by what mechanism can the disatisfaction about New Labour be expressed from Labour's broadly progressive electoral base, and its trade union affilates - who are closer to the concerns of working people.

Now one mechanism is of course the hard left leadership candidature of John mcD. And although i support JOhn, we have to recognise the limited traction his campaign has in the wider movement. He has not been backed by a single major union, nor will he be.

the question of whether or not the left supports Cruddas should not be contingent on what attitude he takes to John mcD. Rather we should judge the question of what is in the interests of the wider movement to back a candiadte saying candidly that labour must embrace an emancipatory project of social change in the interests of working people.

if the LP left don't support Cruddas then they are weakneing the messge sent to Gordon brown that the party party needs to change, on a seemingly childish basis, judging it from the standpoint not of otganised labour as a whole,. but instead from the narrow viewpoint of the John McD campaign.

Mikael said...

I don't think you have interpreted Grim correctly.

The truth - appart from the fact that I am beginning to sound like a broken record - that Cruddas should, from a "Party-democratic" point of view, have come out in favour of a contest. He wouldn't even have had to vote/"endorse" John, he could simply "nominate" him - like Diane Abbott-Portillo did.

So, whilst Cruddas is likely to attract more support accross the Party (i.e. "Left", "Right" and "Centre") than John, he certainly beyond criticism; not least on the basis which Grim put forward.

AN said...

But so what?

All you have establishehd is that Jon Cruddas's political project is a different one from John McDonnell's.

So obvioulsy Jon Cruddas could have backed John mcD, and fairly mainstream MPs like David Drew have, but the fact that he hasn't is not tremendously significnat in my view. Only if you have an exagerated assessment of the significnace of John mcD's leadership campign does that become a deciding factor.

It is much ore importnat that Cruddas criticises Balirism explicity and Brownism implicitly over policy agenda.

A more significant weakness of Cruddas is that he hasn't explicitly come out against PFI.

Mikael said...

Yes. Or that he was for the Iraq war. And foundation hospitals. The list could be longer, but that's not the point.

The point is that Cruddas has a record of "flip-flopping" whilst McDonnell has a record of consistency (as does, say, Ed Miliband, but you know what kind of consistency I'm referring to). THAT is what his campaign so significant.

AN said...


the question of the how importnat it is to support McD is not under dispute. We both support McD.

I don't care what Cruddas is like as an individual or even that he has been a Blairite in the past, the question is what his campaign symbolises now for the affiliated unions.

And whether or not there is a leadership contest, the key contest for gauging which way the wind is blowing in the unions will be the deputy leadership, beacasue the big 4 (now 3) absolutley won't explicitly criticise brown, and if they were goig to back a challenger it wouldn't be McD.

Given the symbolic importance of a left deputy leadership challenge, who do you suggest - of the decalred acandiadtes - fulfills that position better than Cruddas?

Mikael said...

I don't remember having mentioned Cruddas' personality, I simply put his political record in question - in my opinion, it is very "questionable" to put it mildly. So, if he is to be supported, support should only be granted with extreme reservations.

"Given the symbolic importance of a left deputy leadership challenge, who do you suggest - of the decalred acandiadtes - fulfills that position better than Cruddas?"

You little ***** :-), that's an unfair "trick question", to which I'd of course be tempted to answer "none of them". however, having said that, you have yourself admitted that the DL position is a symbolic nature. If Cruddas won it would, arguably represent (symbolise?) a shift - and a most welcome one, at that -to the Left within the Party. Good. But at this point, Cruddas isn't directly "riding on the polls" as he enjoys the same 10% worth of support as John McDonnell. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised that each of the 10% in question were the same, if you see what I mean (i.e. the 10% of Labour Party activists backing Cruddas are, quite possibly, one and the same as the 10% which stand behind John McDonnell).

AN said...


You say the deputy leadershio is a symbolic post but so is McD's leadership campaign because he cannot win.

the important thing is developing and consolidating trade unuion opposition to new labour, and in a sense any candidate in either contest can do the job.

The debate among the individual members in the CLPs is much less relevent .

Mikael said...

"You say the deputy leadershio is a symbolic post but so is McD's leadership campaign because he cannot win."

We'll have to see... I hope you're wrong. I presume you too hope to be proven wrong by events, do you not?

"the important thing is developing and consolidating trade unuion opposition to new labour, and in a sense any candidate in either contest can do the job."

Yes, I agree...

"The debate among the individual members in the CLPs is much less relevent . "

I think you're wrong here...

Pistols at dawn or swords at dusk??? :-)

AN said...


Iit is inconceivable that mcD can win, and i think irreponsible to promote such an unrealistic expectation.

Mikael said...

" i think irreponsible to promote such an unrealistic expectation"

Per-lease... you're taking what I said a wee bit to far, comrade! How 'bout some revolutionary optimism for a change??

AN said...

I think the danger is if yu talk up an impossible expectation than it leads to demoralisation when it doesn't happen.

it also defelcts from the important task of planning an end game for how to move on and consolidate after John McD doesn't win.

Mikael said...

"it also defelcts from the important task of planning an end game for how to move on and consolidate after John McD doesn't win. "

Not necessarily... Though I do admit that excessive demoralisation on part of some John's supporters after his possibe - I said, and I repeat, "possible - defeat would not be a very good springboard for the future consolidation of a "new, re-invigorated, Labour Left - at least on the assumption that this "new" and re-invigorated Labour Left would require the collaboration of every single McDonnellite; which it most likely will, so, as you can see, I'm not fooling myself here. I'm not even trying to do so at this point!

This is slightly unrelated, but check it out (it's by Grim, and its very sensible, in my opinion. I don't know if she still feels that way though, can't speak for her!):