Sunday 27 September 2009

Who's doing the whining?, Cruddas asks Prescott

Jon Cruddas was not impressed by John Prescott's interview in yesterday's Independent, speaking at a Fabian fringe event in conversation with James Purnell and Mart Riddell.

Did anyone see it? It was an extraordinary piece of work. He let fly at everyone. Except David Cameron, who seemed to get away.

Firstly, the deputy leader of the party for wanting to do more for equality, which is a strange criticism to make of a Labour Cabinet Minister. And then everyone else.

And I thought, blimey, if that is going to be the tenor of the discussion this week, we could be in trouble.

But in the last couple of hours, it hasn't been like that. I have found the mood to be upbeat. Apart from John's intervention, everyone else has not been focused on internal issues. They are more focused on David Cameron and how we take the fight to him - and about alternative policy ideas we need which can bring us hope. WIthout hope, there is no vitality. That creates huge issues with our leadership as to whether they are going to be bold. But I think the tempo is upbeat.

We know David Cameron is getting away with murder. If you look at what they are doing in councils in London, and in Essex, they are laboratories for a quite extreme Thatcherite agenda. They want to step up and have a row about that.

Both Cruddas and Purnell have cited Paul Keating's comeback victory in Australia as evidence that the party can't be written off at the election.

Paul Keating held an election that he won. He called it "an election for the true believers" and he won it. You don't have to be Wittgenstein to work out that its going to be tough.

And both dismissed the idea of fighting a factional civil war in the party.

"If we were to lose, and I don't think that is certain, then the big question would be how we hold it together and rebuild the party as a vibrant and plural coalition. John Prescott suggests that anyone who thinks think-tanks have a role in that is some sort of class traitor. I think it might be part of the resurgence we need", said Cruddas.

"I don't think there is any chance of civil war", said Purnell, commending John Stuart Mill's idea that "we don't know which of our opinions are wrong, or they wouldn't be our opinions" as an insight too often forgotten in politics.

"We think other people having different views are a reason for denunciation - rather than a conversation. I think Jon is right to say that when Labour has failed is when it has fallen back into a conservatism - whether it is a conservatism of the left or the conservativism of the right", said Purnell.

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