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.