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26 August 2010

Cruddas endorsement of David Miliband divides the left

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

By George Eaton

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.

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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:

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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.