Jon Cruddas: Stop these rogue elements rampaging on the Labour right

There's a dreary nostalgia for the market-obsessed Blairism of 2001

Share
Related Topics

right-wing factions can be dangerous things. Just ask the Pope: recently, Benedict XVI overturned the excommunication of four bishops, which many people saw as a deliberate political move, aimed at appeasing traditional elements of the church. But there’s a problem: one of the four bishops, Richard Williamson, is a notable Holocaust denier, so the Vatican has tried to distance the Holy Father from this part of the controversy by claiming he didn’t know about Williamson’s views. Another problem: where does this leave the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, first stated in 1870?

In the Labour Party, it’s the doctrine of “Market Infallibility” that’s triggered manoeuvrings on the right, and is now causing plenty of trouble. Since the weekend, the press has been awash with precise briefings against Harriet Harman for having the temerity to develop a policy agenda of her own, flagged up by her hard line on City bonuses – hardly seditious, in the current climate. Last week, anyone sympathising with strikers in the energy sector was dismissed as xenophobic, protectionist and anti-European. The attacks are aimed not just at anyone remotely of the left, but Gordon Brown and his allies; in the midst of renewed leadership gossip. For example, some of those who threw David Miliband in front of a train last year are generously offering to help Alan Johnson out of his siding.

It’s easy to miss the political context behind the tittle-tattle, but there is one. In another newspaper yesterday, Tony Blair’s former speechwriter Philip Collins crystallised the politics that runs with the poison in an article headlined “Labour’s positioning has left it left of sensible”. The thesis was simple enough: Brown has crashed in the polls because he has turned down the volume on Blairite public service “reform”; is lukewarm on “freeing schools from the control of local authorities”, and has failed to grasp that “Labour was never going to win on the economy”.

The solution: hit the rewind button by reactivating an agenda that the recession looks to have all but killed, and hope that people can focus on something other than jobs, repossessions and banking failure. No, I don’t get it either, but to his credit Phil doesn’t hide behind anonymous briefings.

Power is draining away from those who are briefing the press; there’s a painful sense of loss, mixed with a dreary nostalgia – not for the idealistic, gently social-democratic Blairism of 1997, but the market-obsessed version that kicked in around 2001.

The ashes of this approach are all around us. Rather than “reforming” the public sector, New Labour’s beloved Private Finance Initiatives are being squeezed out of existence by the credit crunch. The old wonkish talk about “personalising” services, squashing Local Education Authorities and using the alleged dynamism of private firms, won’t just founder against the current public mood, but actively contradict it. The global crisis is immovably in the political foreground, and Labour needs to come up with credible answers to the great issues of our time. As ever, “it’s the economy, stupid”.

This is not an argument exclusive to the left. Listen to the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose election campaign was advised by Alan Milburn. He talks about the end of “free-market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed”, and the death of “the economic orthodoxy of our time”. Charles Clarke – no radical leftie – recently said: “The grand story is very clear: 30 years of Thatcher/Reagan, tempered by Clinton/Blair, are over.”

Plenty of Labour people know what that means: a new, thoroughly modernised agenda. We need to talk about not just fair pay, but fair taxes, and urgently address insecurity at work. Our reaction to the financial crisis should be proactive; we should make the case for remutualising some banks. Instead of the craven decision on the third Heathrow runway, we should be advocating a jobs-creating Green New Deal. These are the priorities the moment demands; the politics of the past won’t do.

The Labour Right has a noble history – as a source of reliability, honesty and dependability for the leadership. It has usually understood changing times. But a rogue element has developed since the departure of Tony Blair. Their personal attacks, anonymous briefings and confused diagnoses are symptomatic of an inability – or simple refusal – to grasp the end of an era. With echoes of current events in the Vatican, the Doctrine of Market Infallibility is collapsing: as Blair used to say, “we should leave the past to those who live in it”.

Jon Cruddas is the Labour MP for Dagenham

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree Group have been well es...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'