Cruddas feared that the party had not connected to "visceral" issues of "sentiment, belonging and identity, nationhood and loss" - and that it would not do simply by addressing policy concerns, such as around housing or agency workers, without a richer account of its political identity and mission.
"At times, the Labour leadership contest this summer - equality and fairness sounded like one long John Rawls lecture. All of the hopey change stuff is very good but it isn't enough", said Cruddas. If the left could not find a popular and radical response to issues of identity and belonging it would fail to counter a visceral politics "which is creating in England an embryonic tea party from a populist nationalist right. If we don't do this, we will find that growing populist response to a profound sense of economic and social rupture, with deep cuts coming", he said.
Cruddas' comments won praise from the fringe floor in Manchester Town Hall from Red Tory Phillip Blond, who said it was the first "properly visionary" account of Labour's challenge to reconnect to people's sense of group identity in rebuilding a sense of political mission.
Denham said that debates over values and identity had lacked context, giving the example of how discussion of Britishness had alighted on tolerance, democracy and the rule of law - which were not distinctive - but it had lacked a sense of being rooted in the specific context of 'who we are' and how, historically, those values came to embedded in our society: "We need to ask too: why has that, in our context, produced our sense of fairness and our way of looking at the world?", said Denham.
Both Denham and Yvette Cooper argued that Labour should be confident that its values around fairness were more deeply connected to a British sense of fairness than those of any party, but Denham argued that there had been a failure to locate and root these in an progressive account of identity and history.
John Denham, developing the themes of his Fabian on England lecture this summer, also warned that reconnecting Labour to lost voters couldn't be done by studying micro-psephological trends:
"We can not do it by targetting selected groups of voters. The voters we lost are different. It would be a fatal flaw to over-analyse swing groups of voters and pitch a particular appeal to them".
Only an approach based on a broad appeal to values which speaks to the whole country would work, he said.
That needed to understand that Labour had lost touch with voters who found that its approach to the economy and the labour market had ended up breaching the central New Labour promise that those who played by the rules would get on.
"The political economy we had as New Labour needs to change", said Denham. "It was a labour market which offered few rewards and little fairness for many of those in work", stressing again that "people in the south, as elsewhere in the country, believe in fairness - but it is a tough, reciprocal sense of fairness: what you get out reflects what you put in".
Yvette Cooper said that it would be a mistake to think these were southern issues, or that the south was different. There was a bigger swing against Labour in Yorkshire and Humberside, where many of the same challenges applied.
"Labour's political identity in Yorkshire may well be stronger than in the south-east. It is more part of the cultural politics - and so the issues of identity are different in different regions and places".
"The real challenge for us is a psychological shift for us - to believe that we are of the south, that we belong in the south, that we can win in the south. We will not win in the south because the Coalition becomes unpopular. I am convinced of that. We will only win if people want to vote for us. If we do not as a party aspire to be the party that is the first party in the south, then we will not win anything, and we will gradually lose our ability to appeal across the country, as the whole country is tending to become more like the south", said Denham, speaking to the 'southern discomfort' challenge.
"what does a contributory welfare system look like for the 21st century; we can't just write it out because its too difficult".
Denham also said that an important and difficult issue of the balance of regional spending and taxation The three areas where Labour did worse have the lowest public spending per head of population, while it had done well in London where spending was higher.
"These are difficult questions and I don't pretend to have all the answers. But the gap between tax raised and money spent was greatest in the areas that Labour did worse".
Cruddas also said he had been reading Tony Blair's early 1994 speeches and that they were rich, engaging with "identity, community and belonging".
"By 2005, it had become a dystopian worldview of individual acquisition where you sink or swim. I think we shifted away from hope over that arc and journey of eleve years".