Is Cruddas back in the race?

Labour MP now refuses to rule out leadership bid.

Jason Cowley's interview with Jon Cruddas in this week's magazine is perhaps most noteworthy for Cruddas's new stance on the leadership question. Asked if he wants to be leader, he says:

Listen, no one knows what's going to happen. Actually, I thought it was wrong how one gang tried to get rid of Blair and then how the other gang tried to get rid of Brown. It puts so much poison in the system.

What matters is the real issues -- of political economy, the future of social democracy, what's happening on the right . . . It's fair to say that Compass, myself and a few others will make sure that we have a contribution to make when the time comes.

At first glance this may look like a fairly standard "never say never" answer, but it's significantly at odds with his previous replies. As I've noted before, and as Sunder Katwala reminds us today, Cruddas, in a 2009 interview with Mary Riddell, in effect ruled himself out of the race, saying:

I'm not interested in Westminster, or parliament really. [The leadership] doesn't interest me. There are certain identikit characteristics which a leader has to have, and I don't have them. I don't have the certainty needed to do it. I couldn't deal with it. I have a different conception of how I want to live my life.

As the parliamentary figurehead of Compass, the most well-organised and intellectually confident faction of the Labour left, Cruddas could draw on significant support from the party's activists.

There are three strong arguments for Labour electing Cruddas as leader. First, his election would mark a credible break with the Blair-Brown years and the tedious personal divisions that have so damaged the party. Cruddas would put paid to any hopes of Ed Balls, the most toxic figure in the cabinet, securing the leadership.

Second, he enjoys a high level of support, not only among Labour members, but also on the non-aligned left, the group of voters Labour lost in 2005 and needs to win back. Third, Cruddas has a rare ability to discuss issues such as immigration, housing and the family in a language that resonates with the left.

We'll learn over the coming months whether these attributes outweigh his lack of ministerial experience.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Paul Nuttall is like his party: sad, desperate and finished

The party hope if they can survive until March 2019, they will grow strong off disillusionment with Brexit. They may not make it until then. 

It’s a measure of how far Ukip have fallen that while Theresa May faced a grilling over her social care U-Turn and Jeremy Corbyn was called to account over his past, the opening sections of Andrew Neill’s interview with Paul Nuttall was about the question of whether or not his party has a future.

The blunt truth is that Ukip faces a battering in this election. They will be blown away in the seats they have put up a candidate in and have pre-emptively retreated from numerous contests across the country.

A party whose leader in Wales once said that climate change was “ridiculous” is now the victim of climate change itself. With Britain heading out of the European Union and Theresa May in Downing Street, it’s difficult to work out what the pressing question in public life to which Ukip is the answer.

Their quest for relevance isn’t helped by Paul Nuttall, who at times tonight cast an unwittingly comic figure. Pressing his case for Ukip’s burka ban, he said earnestly: “For [CCTV] to work, you have to see people’s faces.” It was if he had intended to pick up Nigel Farage’s old dogwhistle and instead put a kazoo to his lips.

Remarks that are, written down, offensive, just carried a stench of desperation. Nuttall’s policy prescriptions – a noun, a verb, and the most rancid comment underneath a Mail article – came across as a cry for attention. Small wonder that senior figures in Ukip expect Nuttall to face a move on his position, though they also expect that he will see off any attempt to remove him from his crown.

But despite his poor performance, Ukip might not be dead yet. There was a gleam of strategy amid the froth from Nuttall in the party’s pledge to oppose any continuing payment to Brussels as part of the Brexit deal, something that May and Corbyn have yet to rule out.

If May does manage to make it back to Downing Street on 8 June, the gap between campaign rhetoric – we’ll have the best Brexit, France will pay for it – and government policy – we’ll pay a one-off bill and continuing contributions if need be – will be fertile territory for Ukip, if they can survive as a going concern politically and financially, until March 2019.

On tonight’s performance, they’ll need a better centre-forward than Paul Nuttall if they are to make it that far. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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