James Forsyth

Cruddas’s intervention

Cruddas's intervention
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Jon Cruddas’s speech tonight poses a question that cuts right to the heart of Gordon Brown’s leadership, ‘what does Labour stand for any more?’ There is no clear answer to this question, which explains why Labour has no clear domestic policy message.

The retreat into ‘the philosophical framework of the right’, Cruddas argues, means that Labour has lost its language, empathy and generosity. Considering Cruddas’s decision to stay on sidelines during the most recent leadership plot played a key part in saving Brown, this is a pretty devastating assessment (it also suggests that Cruddas made the wrong call in not intervening then). The speech is making clear that the soft left of the party does not think that Brown has delivered on policy as he promised he would. The reckoning that Cruddas thought Brown needed to survive has not happened.

Having said that, the policies Cruddas is proposing do not seem to acknowledge the state of the public finances. He is calling for a ‘massive investment in social housing’ and the index linking of benefits, pensions and the minimum wage to average income. But Cruddas’s proposals would certainly put some heart back into Labour’s activist base and give Labour a purpose again.

The question is whether any of this matters this side of the election. Or, was what we saw tonight a marker being laid down for the post-defeat debate that Labour is bound to have about what the party should stand for?