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.

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To win power, Labour needs to start talking about giving it away

From the House of Lords to First Past the Post, the Labour Party must seek reforms to return power to the people.

The signs were there in 2010. The British electorate failed to give any single party a majority in the Commons, delivering what amounted to a vote of no confidence in Westminster. Since then, voters have taken every opportunity to inform to those sitting on the green benches that they are not content.

The independence referendum in Scotland was closer than many had predicted. The Labour leadership election [in 2015] brought another rejection of the Westminster way of doing things when hundreds of thousands joined the party to elect a leader who opposed the New Labour platform. But David Cameron assumed that the Conservative Party was immune to this spirit of insurgency. Confident that he and his chums could convince the electorate of the wisdom of EU membership, despite decades of anti-Brussels headlines, he rashly called a referendum without considering the implications of defeat.

As with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, those who felt that their voice was no longer heard at Westminster saw the referendum as an opportunity to have their say. Driven by a dispiriting sense that they had lost control of their fate, to the extent that they felt this was no longer their country, they voted to make the rest of us feel the same.

The urge to dismiss this as nothing more than spite should be resisted. These voters feel vulnerable. If we are to believe the majority of them when they say they are not racists – and I do – then we must accept that their complaints about immigration mask other concerns. My hunch is that if they were asked to rank security of employment, of housing and of health care in order of importance, each of these would be a higher priority than security of our borders. And the terrible irony is that a Brexit driven by free-market libertarians is likely to create an economy that is even less secure for low-paid workers and those who rely on support from the state.

If the Labour Party hopes to engage with those vulnerable voters, it needs to win back trust by first showing that it trusts the people. Labour should make accountability its watchword, giving all employees statutory rights, especially those kept on precarious terms by profiteering corporations. A reformed voting system would stop parties listening only to the voices of those living in key marginals. A democratic upper house would offer another opportunity for engaging with people from beyond the Westminster bubble. Devolving power to the English regions, giving them the final say over housing, employment and health care, would allow voters to take back control over their lives and also create a better balance between London and the rest of the country.

To win power, Labour first needs to start talking about giving it away.

Billy Bragg is a musician and campaigner

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition