Thursday, 29 January 2015

Blue Labour Is Happening

Take it from the Telegraph. For, as Mary Riddell writes (even if she does go a bit awry when she takes seriously certain whimpering old dinosaurs of whom most people had never heard even in their day):

From the first, bitter election skirmishes, a curious example of cross-party harmony has emerged. Today Jon Cruddas, Ed Miliband’s, policy reviewer, will give a speech on what politics should be for.

As co-author of his lecture, he has chosen not a Labour colleague but David Cameron’s former speech writer.

This marriage of minds, reflected in a speech to the counselling service Relate, might be read as a lament for lost chances in what Mr Cruddas will call “a dirty and depressing” election.

His themes – love, work and time – explore the duty of politicians to provide the conditions in which human relationships can flourish.

That message underpins the vast policy review which Mr Cruddas undertook at Mr Miliband’s behest.

It recommended the devolution of power and money to city, region and citizen, and its aim was to end the long tradition of top-down government.

By now, Mr Cruddas should be focused on translating his review into the forthcoming manifesto.

Instead he has been collaborating with a former key aide to the Tory Prime Minister on a speech lamenting that “the challenges we face are big but our politics are small.”

Although Mr Cruddas’s text contains no whiff of criticism of the Labour leadership, his choice of co-writer is telling.

Danny Kruger, a former adviser to Mr Cameron, was a prime architect of the Big Society and thus a founding father of compassionate conservatism.

For a while it looked as if his ideas would reshape the Conservative Party.

But Mr Kruger, who helps disadvantaged young people through his Only Connect charity, was to see his hopes dashed.

By early last year, he was pronouncing Mr Cameron’s attempt to resurrect big society ideas “a disappointment.”

The Prime Minister, he wrote “sounded like he sees Britain as a nation of litter pickers and that progress in 2014 would mean a few more church hall tombolas.”

His work, however, did not lack admirers, one of whom was Mr Cruddas.

“I share Danny’s belief that what is missing in our politics is the idea of fraternity,” he tells his audience today. Some might think that the two men have more than a credo in common.

Like Mr Kruger, Mr Cruddas may not see his best ideas realised.

Promoted to be the key figure in reshaping the Labour party, he produced a prospectus for grassroots revival that initially found great favour with Mr Miliband.

But others within the party warned that Labour’s offer should be more modest than the shake-up of the state proposed by Mr Cruddas.

Proponents of a 35 per cent strategy, under which Labour hoped narrowly to make it over the line, appeared to win the day.

Meanwhile Mr Cruddas’s devolution plan for cities was seized on eagerly by the chancellor, George Osborne, as Labour dithered.

There has been little talk of late of the Cruddas vision, and he is not thought to be at the heart of the election team.

Yet Mr Cruddas’s ideas remain hugely popular within powerful elements of his party.

They have bridged a gap between the traditional, Blue Labour wing and New Labour stars, such as the shadow care minister Liz Kendall – mentioned in the Cruddas speech and a possible future leader.

Mr Kruger also has his admirers, but for now the Tory direction is established. Not so the Labour machine, which appears in turmoil after a grim week.

The latest internal rows, on the plan for the NHS, yesterday prompted Lord Kinnock to warn his party that it must stop sniping and start uniting.

But behind what banner should the party rally?

Mr Cruddas’s policy review, which many fear is gathering dust, may still be the best foundation for a Labour victory.

His collaboration with Mr Kruger begs the question of why neither a Tory nor a Labour leader has dared to harness the ideas of their most transformative thinkers.

With the odds of a Labour victory lengthening, it is not too late for Mr Miliband to revive a plan for a politics that appeals to hearts and minds.

If he does not seize on his best chance to reconnect policy and the people, then it may fall to some future Labour leader to rectify that omission.


  1. You are right, she goes funny at the end. But she has a livelihood to protect, I suppose.

    It's all coming together.