Jon Cruddas’ appointment as Labour’s policy Csar has been met with bog-standard dismissiveness by the Conservative Party.  Baroness Warsi – the Conservative Party’s usually excellent co-Chair – described Cruddas as a ‘former union man’ as though his past affiliation with the trades union movement somehow automatically disqualifies him from being taken seriously. This contempt is a very bad mistake indeed.

First of all, it smacks of snobbery.  The allusions to Mr. Cruddas’ life outside politics are not going to put people off – the very reason for popular contempt of our politics is the notion that a political class of homogeneous and out-of-touch metro-liberals runs the country from a Westminster bubble.  Jon Cruddas has successfully distanced himself from that clique (despite his past as a SpAd to Tony Blair) and it is his hinterland that makes him a popular politician with a rare ability to connect.  Lady Warsi should know better than to pour scorn on opponents for not appearing to come from the magic circle of privilege – she has been a victim of such condescension herself.

Second, the Conservative Party needs to stop treating ‘trades unionist’ as a catch-all insult and a conversational full-stop.  As Robert Halfon MP points out in his recent Demos pamphlet Stop the Union Bashing, around a third of trades union members voted for the Conservative Party at the last election.  What is more, there is a natural affinity between the principles of unionism (mutual self-reliance, volunteerism, social responsibility) and any winning, modern, conservative agenda. The big society is alive and well in the trades union movement and a striving, communitarian Conservative Party – one that really stopped bashing the unions – stands a good chance of improving its share of the union vote considerably.

Rather than dismiss Mr. Cruddas the Conservative Party should love-bomb him zealously.  We should treat him as what he is – a thoughtful, working class politician likely to be frustrated by the uber-liberal prejudices of his Leader and the majority of the Shadow Cabinet.  Take his support for an in-out referendum on the EU, his belief in a sons and daughters policy for council housing, his concerns about unchecked mass-immigration and use them as sticks with which to beat his Leader.  Like Maurice Glasman, with whom he shares much ground, Cruddas represents a Labour movement that might be electorally successful but which is terrifying and ugly in the eyes of the Parliamentary party and its networks in Westminster.  As James Forsyth has pointed out – reading the Cruddas promotion as a tack Leftwards is a mistake.

The Conservative Party won’t toxify Jon Cruddas.  But it can point to the weakness and the knee-jerk liberalism of Ed Miliband through the lens of his policy chief’s boldness.  Through Cruddas, the Conservative can illustrate just how daft the notion that Miliband is ‘rewriting the rules of politics’ really is.

 

Richard

"What is more, there is a natural affinity between the principles of unionism (mutual self-reliance, volunteerism, social responsibility)"

Those principles alone and you deceive only yourself by ignoring the others.

Max Wind-Cowie

Sorry Richard, I'm lost. How do you mean? I'm certainly not arguing that all the values espoused by Trade Union leaders are conservative. Merely that their history and institutional values have broad areas of overlap. Maurice Glasman has a nice phrase distinguishing between TU members - who, on the whole, are small-c conservatives seeking to protect their professions - and their leadership who are often more interested in advancing wider utopian and esoteric interests; he calls the latter the TUs 'progressive crust'. I'd be inclined to agree.

Malcolm Rasala

Golly what a mis-reading and delusional understanding of Labour thinking. To try and pretend there is a divide between the front bench
and Jon Cruddas, at least at this stage, is to impose Tory think on the event of his appointment. Firstly he was appointed with Ed Milliband's approval no? Secondly, what should an opposition be doing but preparing policies for government?. Some might be controversial. Some ignored. Others might become the next Labour manifesto. To assert he is "likely to be frustrated by the uber-liberal prejudices of his Leader and the majority of the Shadow Cabinet" is totally unevidential and petty. How do you know 100% of his ideas will not be taken up? Are you gifted with some miraculous clairvoyance? Stop pretending Max that you possess some amazing insight that none of the rest of us possess. You do not. Your thinking is just as fallible as that of the rest of us. You are not a God....yet!

Max Wind-Cowie

Malcolm. Thanks for your comment and for the welcome reminder that I am not a God (I'd like to reassure that I'm very aware of this fact). I do not claim clairvoyance, merely the insight of one who has followed, observed and largely admired Mr. Cruddas for some time. I say that it is 'likely' that he will find the knee-jerk liberalism of his Leader frustrating because it is that frustration that has, in the past, led Mr. Cruddas to tack his own path rather than play a role Cabinet etc.

I think Ed Miliband deserves praise for appointing Mr. Cruddas. It is a bold and intelligent decision. But this blog is explicitly concerned with how the Conservative Party should respond. As Mr. Cruddas is a good, radical and effective politician who has demonstrated his independent spirit it is daft to try and paint him as a 'union lackey'. That is the point of my post. I'm sorry you struggled to appreciate it.

Malcolm Rasala

Thanks Max. But struggle? Hardly! On the contrary it was - as it always is - very easy to understand your attempt at clairvoyance. But to seek to
undermine somebody even before he has made a single recommendation is not the mark of intelligence is it? Rather it is simply a tribal political knee jerk reaction. We expect more from you. Give the guy a chance to present his ideas and if, as you clairvoyance, Ed sweeps them aside then don your tribal helmet. Until then wisdom dictates silence. Can you manage this?

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