Jon Cruddas: You Ask The Questions

The Labour MP for Dagenham answers your questions, such as 'Why is Gordon Brown a disaster?' and 'How about Fabio Capello instead?'
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The Independent Online

Why do you think Gordon Brown turned out to be such a disaster as Prime Minister? Steve Elliott, by email

I don't agree he has been a disaster – the PM has led the world in ensuring that the recession didn't turn into a depression, a fact recognised by leaders across the globe. But sure we haven't used the opportunities of the last few years. I think he has not been as bold as I hoped – I hoped for more.

Is there any hope of you and James Purnell forming a dream ticket to replace Brown? You'd get my vote. Bob Anderson, Birmingham

James is a top guy and a mate. We're from pretty different parts of the Labour party but he has a lot of interesting stuff to say. I respected his honesty in resigning and saying his piece, not whispering behind his hand while taking the pay cheque or undermining the party by resigning the day before the local elections. Am afraid to disappoint you, though on this "dream ticket" thing – not interested.

Why did you join Labour? And what have your initial reasons for joining got to do with the Party that you are currently a member of? Cheryl Penning, Stoke

I joined the Labour party because I thought it was the best vehicle for making Britain a better place, a fairer place where ordinary people get a fair deal and have more power over what happens to them in their lives, at work and with their families. It's why I am still a member.

Do radical militants like you bother with music, or culture generally? What's on your iPod? And when did you last go to the theatre? Roger Crawper, Warrington

Like all self-respecting radical militants, I am off to see David Hare's new play, The Power of Yes, which opens in a couple of weeks. The theatre is good, but sports and cinema are more for me. I am still grappling with making my iPod work properly, but Miles Davis, Bobby Womack, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita Baker are on most of my On The Go playlists.

Have you ever wished Tony Blair was still Prime Minister? Martin Clark, Wolverhampton

Yes and no. Tony Blair was a superb communicator and top politician. From 2001 the government drifted away from a core vision, got obsessed with a more sour politics and with markets; preoccupied with getting market involvement in public services and the like. I think he was right to turn the page when he did.

Why do you think it took our beloved Prime Minister so long to be honest about cuts, just as it took him so long to come out with an opinion over Andelbaset Ali al-Megrahi? Andrew Cronin, Swansea

Al-Megrahi was a tough one. Labour brought in devolution for a reason, and you can't just trample over that when the going gets tough. It was pretty grim to see Al-Megrahi on parade, but that's one for the Scottish government, not the British government. We should be honest about the cuts coming down the track though, and I think that when people see the hard work that Labour will put into helping people as much as possible, versus the Tories who can't wait to slash and burn, they will take the right decision.

Labour has moved so far to the right under Blair and Brown, that the two main parties now have little to distinguish them from each other. As an ex Labour voter, how would you persuade me to vote Labour at the next election? H Rimmer, Lancashire

The two parties aren't the same and this will be sharply exposed over the next few months in terms of what to cut and what to defend. I'd say look at what Tory councils are doing up and down the country and ask whether you want that writ large across the nation. Would you rather have a party that twists with anguish at every pound cut from public services, or a party that writhes with glee? But it's not good enough to say vote Labour because we're not the Tories. We need a positive vision for our country. We need to be bolder, more optimistic about the society we want to create.

Are you a class warrior? Does the modern Tory Party make you even more of one? Ian Thirgood, Milton Keynes

I am not in the slightest but am proud of where I come from and will not deny the significance of class in Britain today. It pains me that working-class culture is sneered at and ridiculed. Fifty years ago it was seen as noble and dignified. Labour has to stand for progress for all, not just some, unlike the Tories.

You supported the Iraq War. Mistaken or not, why should you have any credibility given you got the biggest issue of the last decade wrong? Joe Parkes, by email

It's a fair point Joe – you won't get any wriggling on that one from me. I made a mistake by voting for the war. It has been a disaster. I voted because I was convinced Iraq had WMD and because of its totalitarianism. Wrong decision. I admire your certainty though.

Does your knowledge of economics extend to understanding that low taxes encourage entrepreneurs to take risks, and boost productivity? Hugh Branning, London

I am not into taxing people for the sake of it – but there should be fair taxation. Trickledown economics had a fair shake in the 1980s and did not work. Low taxes, sometimes non-existent taxes on banker's bonuses proactively encouraged the lunacy that has put millions out of work across the world. It created a class apart and look at the consequences.

Why are British troops in Afghanistan? What is the mission statement? John Bell, London

You'll have to ask the MOD for their mission statement, but if you ask me, it is ensure the Taliban are not able to restart their support for terrorists who struck on 9/11 and who killed one of my constituents on 7/7, and to ensure that Afghanistan is freer to develop as a nation, unyoked from a brutal and medieval ideology.

Who do you believe will be the next leader of the Labour Party? David Aspinall, Newcastle on Tyne

Why – are you heading to the bookies?

Who was your academic hero at Warwick University, and which intellectuals have most influenced you since? Matthew Donne, Birmingham

E P Thompson towers over Warwick, so this is an easy one for me. Read The Poverty of Theory, his attack on Althusser, immense! Others: bit of Foucault and Raymond Williams, bit of Oscar Romero, Stewart Hall and Charles Taylor.

When will any Labour politician apologise for wrecking the lives and finances of millions? David Garforth-Bles, London

Politicians of all parties, and in many countries, made big mistakes.

I didn't make much noise about the way we were managing things and I'm sorry about that. The real issue is not point scoring with petty party politics – look, an economic policy based on an obsession with "earning and owning" as the guiding principle to living your life, pushed by the Conservatives and some in Labour, is what is to blame here. Getting away from that is the most important thing.

As a Roman Catholic, do you think the Pope is infallible? Emma Ward, Guildford

The recent re-introduction of some right-wing extremists back into the church was not a great demonstration of infallibility.

Do you ever think Fabio Capello would make a better Prime Minister than Brown? Freddie Collins, Southampton

Eight wins from eight is a record the Labour Party wouldn't complain about. Capello has an amazing knack of motivating and organising his team in a quietly determined way. Anyone can learn a thing or two from a guy like that. I spent a lot of my youth on the Fratton End in Portsmouth so really don't want to talk about football at the moment.

Who is your favourite Tory? Will Henderson, by email

Charlie Walker, Tory MP for Broxbourne. Great guy – we go fishing together.

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