Cruddas endorsement of David Miliband divides the left

Labour MP Jon Trickett attacks the “unilateral decision”, but Compass is more reserved.

Jon Cruddas's endorsement of David Miliband (exclusively revealed by the NS) hasn't gone down well with all of his comrades. The Labour MP Jon Trickett, who served as Cruddas's campaign manager during the 2007 deputy leadership election, attacked his "unilateral decision" to back the leadership candidate "most clearly identified with the failed policies of the Blair era".

Here's Trickett's full statement:

I was proud to have worked on the "Choose Change" campaign which argued for a renewed Labour Party at the time of Jon Cruddas's deputy leadership bid. This movement was a collective endeavour to put the party on an election-winning path after the Blair years.

Those who participated in the campaign seeking such progressive change will be very disappointed with Jon's unilateral decision to back the leadership candidate most clearly identified with the failed policies of the Blair era. The progressive Labour left will continue to argue the case for Choosing Change, set against the backdrop of an election defeat and a deepening economic crisis.

A more nuanced response came from Compass, the centre-left campaign group with which Cruddas is often identified. In a statement, Compass's general secretary, Gavin Hayes, said:

Compass is a pluralist not a Stalinist organisation, and we live in a democracy where individuals are entitled to make their own personal views known. Just as Chuka Umunna MP decided to back Ed [Miliband] early on, so Jon Cruddas MP has every right as an individual MP to say who he is supporting.

Jon has expressed his view not that of Compass just as Chuka and others have done so before him. Meanwhile, Compass's voice will be made known at the end of next week when we publish the result of our ballot. I urge all Compass members to take part in our Labour leadership ballot.

Cruddas's decision to support Miliband surprised many Labour activists but, for those watching closely enough, the signs had been there for months. Both figures share an interest in mutualism, social responsibility and the future of communitarian politics. And Cruddas had previously formed a political alliance with Miliband's close friend and ally James Purnell (tipped by some to return as Miliband's chief of staff if he wins).

The lesson of the Cruddas endorsement is that both he and Miliband are far more complex political figures than many of their supporters and detractors imagine.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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I'll vote against bombing Isis - but my conscience is far from clear

Chi Onwurah lays out why she'll be voting against British airstrikes in Syria.

I have spent much of the weekend considering how I will vote on the question of whether the UK should extend airstrikes against Daesh/Isis from Iraq to Syria, seeking out and weighing the evidence and the risks.

My constituents have written, emailed, tweeted, facebooked or stopped me in the street to share their thoughts. Most recognised what a difficult and complex decision it is. When I was selected to be the Labour candidate for Newcastle Central I was asked what I thought would be the hardest part of being an MP.

I said it would be this.

I am not a pacifist, I believe our country is worth defending and our values worth fighting for. But the decision to send British Armed Forces into action is, rightly, a heavy responsibility.

For me it comes down to two key questions. The security of British citizens, and the avoidance of civilian casualties. These are separate operational and moral questions but they are linked in that it is civilian casualties which help fuel the Daesh ideology that we cannot respect and value the lives of those who do not believe as we do. There is also the important question of solidarity with the French in the wake of their grievous and devastating loss; I shall come to that later.

I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister as he set out the case for airstrikes on Thursday and I share his view that Daesh represents a real threat to UK citizens. However he did not convince me that UK airstrikes at this time would materially reduce that threat. The Prime Minister was clear that Daesh cannot be defeated from the air. The situation in Syria is complex and factionalised, with many state and non-state actors who may be enemies of our enemy and yet not our friend. The Prime Minister claimed there were 70,000 ground troops in the moderate Free Syrian Army but many experts dispute that number and the evidence does not convince me that they are in a position to lead an effective ground campaign. Bombs alone will not prevent Daesh obtaining money, arms and more recruits or launching attacks on the UK. The Prime Minister did not set out how we would do that, his was not a plan for security and peace in Syria with airstrikes a necessary support to it, but a plan to bomb Syria, with peace and security cited in support of it. That is not good enough for me.

Daesh are using civilian population as human shields. Syrians in exile speak of the impossibility of targeting the terrorists without hitting innocent bystanders. I fear that bombing Raqqa to eliminate Daesh may be like bombing Gaza to eliminate Hamas – hugely costly in terms of the civilian population and ultimately ineffectual.

Yet the evil that Daesh perpetrate demands a response. President Hollande has called on us to join with French forces. I lived in Paris for three years, I spent time in just about every location that was attacked two weeks ago, I have many friends living in Paris now, I believe the French are our friends and allies and we should stand and act in solidarity with them, and all those who have suffered in Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Tunisia and around the world.

But there are other ways to act as well as airstrikes. Britain is the only G7 country to meet its international development commitments, we are already one of the biggest humanitarian contributors to stemming the Syrian crisis, we can do more not only in terms of supporting refugees but helping those still in Syria, whether living in fear of Daesh or Assad. We can show the world that our response is to build rather than bomb. The Prime Minister argues that without taking part in the bombing we will not have a place at the table for the reconstruction. I would think our allies would be reluctant to overlook our financial commitment.

We can also do more to cut off Daesh funding, targeting their oil wells, their revenues, their customers and their suppliers. This may not be as immediately satisfying as bombing the terrorists but it is a more effective means of strangling them.

The vast majority of the constituents who contacted me were against airstrikes. I agree with them for the reasons I set out above. I should say that I have had no experience of bullying or attempts at intimidation in reaching this decision, Newcastle Central is too friendly, frank, comradely and Geordie a constituency for that. But some have suggested that I should vote against airstrikes to ensure a “clear conscience” ’. This is not the case. There will be more killings and innocent deaths whether there are UK airstrikes or not, and we will all bear a portion of responsibility for them.

A version of this article was originally sent to Chi Onwurah's constituents, and can be read here