Exclusive: new Cruddas publication reviewed

Jon Cruddas and John Harris are set to launch a new pamphlet this weekend – Fit for Purpose: a programme for Labour Party renewal.  The Daily has acquired a copy, which we review today.

In the pamphlet, Cruddas and Harris set out just how far the party has collapsed at the local level and how we lost over 200,000 members in nine years:

“A decade ago, senior figures were dreamily talking about the prospect of a ‘million member party’, and membership numbers had reached a high of 400,000; now, the figure is less than half that, and the organisation that remains on the ground is often moribund and broken. Some of this is unquestionably down to ill-advised policy decisions, compounded by the Blair government’s regrettable behavioural tic whereby it recurrently defines itself against party opinion. Equally important, however, is the sense that the party’s culture and organisation are out of kilter with modern needs.”

Their solution, that the party must reconnect with its base, is well argued:

“An active, engaged, socially rooted party is one of the key means by which Labour can ensure its own legitimacy, rooting itself in the communities that it purports to serve, and ensuring that its political approach chimes with the outlook of its supporters.”

To do this, Cruddas argues that the party needs a new modernisation:

“We argue, essentially, for a New 1906: a moment in Labour’s history in which the party reaches out and re-establishes itself as an immovable part of Britain’s society and culture.” 

The writers propose a range of practical measures to create a party rooted in the local community, a more effective campaigning machine and a more democratic vehicle for its members.

They hope to see Labour’s activity re-focused on community politics and local organisation, while at a national level the party is reformed to revitalise the union link and ensure members are represented.  They also reject the language of “renewal” that focuses on disenfranchising the membership even further with US-style primaries.

There are a few questionable proposals, as is inevitable in such a wide-ranging document, but some exciting new ideas and good answers to debates like state funding and the supporters’ network.

This is exactly the kind of positive contribution we hope to see more of in the near future and we recommend the pamphlet, which should be available from Compass as of Sunday evening.

18 Responses to Exclusive: new Cruddas publication reviewed

  1. Matthew says:

    I don’t often use the phrase “this sounds like an exciting pamphlet” but it does sound good from these exerts and the piece in Tribune. Maybe it is because he isn’t in the cabinet, but Cruddas is the only likely candidate saying anything interesting so far.

  2. HenryG says:

    If the pamphlet can identify the solutions and not just the problems, then I think it will become widely read. We’ve had a market-oriented approach to politics based around gathering the votes of swing seats (and allowing them to influence policymaking).

    I think a good example to follow of enthusing your membership base but reaching out to new communities and electorates is Sinn Fein. All the stuff about being a community-focused party is fine to a point, but it needs resourcing and heavy investment in terms of skills and techniques for local activists.

    A change in leadership is fine to a point, but the whole party infrastructure needs to be pointing to a different direction. Unless you are going to upskill people, acknowledge their importance through policy-making and democratic decision-making, we’ll end up relying on the same poor souls who are shouldering so much of the footwork. Like most parties in Western Party, we first must answer the question ‘why join and political party’? Then our offer to progressive people must be clear – you are joining a movement.

  3. HenryG says:

    I agree with Matthew – it would be hard for someone in the Cabinet to think outloud and hold credibility. That’s one of the major reasons why I’ll vote for Cruddas. The party’s crying out for some change, and since Brown is a part of the political furntiture, we need someone fresh who can say the things we can’t. I also get the impression that he cares as much about the party as he does the Government. Which would be a novelty.

  4. KC says:

    Jon Cruddas is great. He has my full backing for Deputy Leader and I can’t wait to get out and campaign for him. He is a total breath of fresh air.

  5. […] But I am afraid his apparent decision to write a pamphlet with John Harris makes me actively hostile to his candidature. […]

  6. Gregg says:

    Never mind the content – I’m amazed a Labour MP outside the SCG has written a pamphlet. It seems so long since that happened.

  7. Nick says:

    I think the fact that Cruddas’ possible candidacy has already brought forth a splenetic outburst from disgraced former dirty tricks operative and ultra-Blairite attack poodle Adrian McMenamin would make me even more enthusiastic for it to happen, if that were possible…

    I’m no fan of John Harris but we won’t develop new thinking by preaching to the converted. Ironic that a self-proclaimed “moderniser” can’t see that.

  8. Thomas says:

    That’s not Adrian McMenamin the former Labour Party database manager?! Wow – this blog has made it big, well done to the writer(s)…!

    If this guy thinks that Jon Cruddas is a bad candidate, no wonder his odds are tumbling.

  9. “Could Have Been A Contender” is indeed Adrian McMenamin’s blog.

  10. Benjamin says:

    Adrian McMenamin’s attack on John Harris is rather childish. Gosh, Harris wrote a book that was very critical of the Labour Party. Harris is no friend of New Labour, but he is on the democratic left. Seems just the type of guy who would be useful to offer a critique of current practices in conjunction with Cruddas.

    This should be about open debate not ostricization. If folk disagree with Harris and Cruddas, then publish a pamphlet – let’s have a debate.

  11. Benjamin says:

    This might be a good story for the Daily to cover:

    http://www.labourhome.org/story/2006/9/21/123144/401

    According to Labour Home, the the Conference Arrangements Commitee (CAC) has ruled out 17 motions from CLPs on the leadership election, and 140 contemporary motions on the leadership, Iraq, Trident and housing.

    Has anything got past the censors this year?

    I realise that open discussion is frowned upon at conference (it’s really just a rally and pep talk for the troops plus a bit of a trade fair) but it may look slightly daft if it’s seen to be incapable of discussing important issues of the day in an open and democratic way.

  12. Benjamin says:

    Well, at least a large part of conference is given over to taht sort of thing. Yes, there can be more interesting stuff at fringe meetings – sometimes.

  13. We’ll see what happened in the CAC interrogation rooms to the various appeals. They certainly seemed to have wielded the axe with particular relish this year – that may be the most motions ruled out ever.

    There is often a certain amount of debate on the conference floor – dissenting voices are included, it’s just that things are stacked against them – but the media pay less attention these days.

    However, this year I think the policy process is at year zero so I’m not sure there are any documents to discuss. At least we’ll be spared the endless set piece speeches by Cabinet Ministers introducing them!

  14. Arian McMenamenamenamin says:

    He wasn’t just the database manager…

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/01/30/new_labours_internet_dirty_tricks/

  15. Benjamin says:

    Interesting. It seems that Adrian does take party hackery to extremes.

  16. Nick says:

    He also managed Trevor Phillips’ London Mayoral campaign. And we all know what a resounding success that was.😀

  17. Lucy Powell's giro says:

    And don’t forget that he also used to be a key figure in Britain in Europe – probably one of the worst-run campaigns in modern British politics.

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