Jon Cruddas: We must fight the narcissistic dash for personal glory

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The Independent Online

The past few days haven't exactly been the Labour Party's best. Even going by the political developments of the past 12 months, this week we seem to have been peering over the edge of a large cliff. We have not exactly covered ourselves in glory with some unedifying behaviour by senior members of the party.

Voters will forgive us for many things, but engaging in an internal row that would make student faction-fighting look pretty cool is not one of them. Some Labour politicians should know better. Their excitable advisers clearly don't.

We need to be bigger than this. The danger is that we appear as simply indulgent: preoccupied with a narcissistic dash for personal glory within the party structures rather than searching for real solutions to people's concerns.

Many voters are struggling; they find that times are tough through no fault of their own. Put simply, stoking up a big row inside the party does nothing to bring energy prices down, deal with food prices or soften the almost palpable sense of insecurity that stalks many. Policy-lite introspection steeped in code around "narratives" does nothing to provide real policy remedies.

Although we were great in 1997 with a radical but realistic manifesto, the past few years have seen a collapse in the confidence and vitality that marked the earlier years of this Government. At times over this past week, it appears we've become once again stuck in the 1990s. But what worked in 1995 isn't what is needed now. People want change, and that's why we must go forwards.

The Tories want to use those tough times as a cynical political tool in an effort to grab power. But we must focus on Labour's solutions to the problems people face. For a start, we could intervene to ensure energy prices are brought down: a windfall tax is one tool we should look at using, but we must also reflect on the failure of the regulation put in place after an ideological rush to privatisation. Moreover, in tough times it is more important – not less – that we give people fairness at work. Mums and dads deserve more flexibility at work to spend time with their kids. People want protection from rogue employers who cut corners.

The recent Crosby report signalled a radical but responsible way to use the state to support the mortgage sector and ensure people have access to homes. And, let's crack on and build some affordable homes to rent.

And, yes, we must have a conversation about tax. We're stuck in a situation where too many low-paid people pay too much tax, and where middle-income earners are being caught in the upper level of tax, while the super-rich are frankly taking the mickey. Most voters are more than happy for people to enjoy the full fruits of their hard work, but some of these super-rich are out of control, and it's not on. Let's have some fairness: tax cuts for the many, and a fairer share from the super-rich.

This isn't some cut-and-paste manifesto – these are the sort of ideas firmly in play in the party at large. The mainstream of our party must come together and bring some sense to what is an increasingly damaging situation. We cannot once again become captive to a small faction in our party that immaturely seeks to gain advantage.

We're in a dangerous position this weekend. We promised change, and we haven't delivered yet. We should be humble and accept we have made mistakes – we are not perfect, just politicians, after all.

The recent policy discussions going on within and without the party show that we are, at our best, a vibrant movement – and it is this policy renewal that must be centre stage this summer.

The past week has drowned out a lot of this heavy lifting; that is why it has all been so indulgent. Let's have the confidence of those ideas and get on with what we do best: trying to take the country forward.

The writer is a Labour MP