Ed Miliband’s promotion of Jon Cruddas to be the Labour Party’s policy guru may the cleverest decision he has made so far as party leader and/or it may be the last roll of the dice for a real social democrat party in Britain and Ed Miliband’s leadership.
The first problem with Jon being the answer is that messiahs do not come more reluctant than him. He gives out signals that he really doesn’t want responsibility and would much rather not upset anyone. He seems to be happy with his leisure pursuits and his holiday and future home in Ireland. Yet if Britain is to have a social democratic party major changes will have to made. This isn’t only about what post-election policies a Labour government would propose, but also where the Labour Party sees the long-term future of British society.
This last point about Labour’s view of the future of British society has to be based on what ideology the Labour Party believes in. The ‘third way’ was bereft of ideology, in fact almost anti-ideology. In the worship of ‘realism’ as a Progress supporter on LabourList recently said New Labour was able to work with neo-liberalism and will work with whatever follows as neo-liberalism has now failed. The problem is that although it has failed, it’s not dead, and what follows it in Britain may be up to a future Labour government.
Now Cruddas is talking inclusivity and wanting everyone on board including even Blair. Possibly he just going through the motions before laying out his favourite ideas, but I believe he does want the entire party involved. Back to the broad church idea of the post-war years.
One problem we have is that the party is weighted well to right. The PLP was largely pro-David Miliband during the leadership election and one has to guess is sympathetic towards organizations like Progress. The CLPs, where once the left of the party had strength, are no longer so loaded against the right of the party. In fact to find Labour’s left you have to look inside the union leadership and membership.
Even this would be OK except the right around Progress do not even claim social democracy for themselves. At one time it was the right’s argument, although very much a misuse of the term, that they were the social democrats as opposed to the socialists of Labour’s left. This misuse of the term social democrat showed its true nature when the SDP merged with the liberals. There was no social democracy by its definition there.
So if the right of the party no longer believe in social democracy, what do they believe in? It’s hard to fathom because now we delve into the babble of spin and sound bites. We can catch words like social justice, but still no real definition. I suspect many would like to see Labour become more like the American Democrats. This would take ideology out of British politics and just have two parties, a hard right party, Republican/Tory, and soft right one, Democrat/Labour.
Well it’s certainly a challenge that Cruddas is taking on. He says he is socialist with a small ‘s’, but he is in a PLP with very few of those, either with a big ‘S’ or a little one. He says he is a liberal with a small ‘l’. Again there are few of them either. One only has to look at Yvette Cooper playing the law & order card to realize that.
Can he do it? Well first, will Ed Miliband support him? If not he may as well go back to fishing or playing golf. Is he hard enough to take the brickbats thrown for both the left and more certainly by the right? In the past this hasn’t looked obviously so.
So I will leave the last words to the man himself from a recent interview in The Observer.
He will not even contemplate “gang wars” between Blairites and other factions getting in the way because, he says, the task is too urgent. “We are beyond that. We have to be,” he says. Neither is he bothered about the flak that papers such as the Daily Mail may well throw at him. “I couldn’t give a toss,” he says.