Labour risks becoming irrelevant outside urban areas, says former policy chief Jon Cruddas

The MP says Labour needs to offer something to socially and fiscally conservative but economically 'radical' voters

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Indy Politics

Labour is in a “state of decay” outside urban areas of Britain, the party’s former policy chief has said.

In a speech Jon Cruddas dismissed a recent surge in membership since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

“Outside of a few urban centres Labour is in a state of political decay,” he told his audience at London's Queen Mary University on Tuesday night.

“The fantastic recent growth in our membership and supporters does not change this reality. Our structures are broken, our culture is decaying. If we don’t change we will lose those who have joined us.”

Mr Cruddas said Labour needed to radically change both its economic and social policy and risked becoming irrelevant to an electorate he said was in large part socially and “fiscally” conservative.

The former policy chief, who quit the shadow cabinet to conduct a study into why Labour lost the 2015 election, said voters did not trust his party the country’s finances.

He argued that Labour needed to understand identity and “belonging” as a driver of politics and said it needed to do more to appeal to socially conservative voters.

“Labour needs a new political economy that is pro-business and pro-worker. We have to re-establish relations with the business community and build a coalition of support amongst the self-employed, private sector workers in key sectors, and forward looking businesses,” he said.

Mr Cruddas maintained that the country still supported redistribution of wealth, however.

Previous polling commissioned by the TUC and carried out by GQR Research found that the public’s biggest doubts about Labour were of economic competence, its approach to welfare benefits, and the potential influence of the Scottish National Party in a hung parliament.

 

The latest numbers released by Labour show that over 50,000 people have joined it in the week since Mr Corbyn was elected as leader.

More than 15,000 people joined the party in the 24 hours directly after Mr Corbyn’s victory. Total party membership, which is still rising fast, is now around 360,000.

The figure is approaching the 400,000 figure recorded at the 1997 election – though the party previously had as many as a million members in the 1950s.

Labour increased its vote by 1.5 per cent at the 2015 general election, but lost 26 seats compared to its result in 2010 because of the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote.

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