Liam Byrne remains as shadow work and pensions secretary while Lord Adonis will run the industrial policy review
Ed Miliband has appointed Jon Cruddas to co-ordinate Labour’s policy review, displacing Liam Byrne.
Cruddas is viewed as one of the most ideological figures in the Labour party and his appointment will be seen as a gamble over whether his big and sometimes abstract ideas can be translated into practical manifesto-ready policy.
But a concerted attempt by some within the shadow cabinet to push Byrne out altogether was blocked, and he will remain as shadow work and pensions secretary. Miliband’s aides explained Byrne’s loss of the policy review by saying it was not felt possible for him to carry on both his shadow portfolio and the policy review.
In a limited reshuffle, Miliband has also appointed the Labour peer Lord Adonis to run the industrial policy review. Adonis had been seen as a candidate to run the entire policy review, but other commitments and his connections with Tony Blair as former head of his policy unit are thought to have counted against him.
Owen Smith, a shadow Treasury minister, has been promoted to the post of shadow Welsh secretary, replacing Peter Hain, who has stepped down.
Angela Eagle, shadow leader of the house, will take over Hain’s role as chair of the national policy forum in addition to her existing responsibilities.
Cruddas has spoken of the canyon between politics and the working class, pointing out that one recent poll showed 60% of working class voters believe they have no political voice in the UK.
In recent interviews he has argued that Labour needs to ground its basic values, partly by building links with European social democratic parties, before considering fresh policies. Miliband rates him both for his ability to think big and the way in which those ideas are grounded in the every day experience of his own Dagenham constituency.
He stood as deputy leader in the 2007 Labour elections, but failed to beat off Harriet Harman or Alan Johnson.
Privately he recognised the failings in Gordon Brown’s leadership, but he held back from a role in ousting him. He backed Ed Miliband’s brother David for the Labour leadership, but is said to be increasingly impressed by the themes emerging from Ed Miliband’s leadership, especially responsible capitalism.
In an interview for the political magazine Total Politics six months ago, he was critical of the state of the Labour policy review, saying: “There’s no ideology. There’s no attempt to construct a hegemony, a new political project or language. It is totally fragmented. They have to be orchestrated. There has to be a conductor. It’s about the sort of intellectual leadership, that they have to be part of a bigger story about where Labour’s going. Otherwise, you’re just going to have 22 different reports that add up to nothing.”
In his most recent speech to the University of East Anglia he conceded “What interests me is not policy as such; rather the search for political sentiment, voice and language; of general definition within a national story. Less ‘The Spirit Level,’ more ‘What is England’.”
A close student of Labour history, he has repeatedly written about a loss of social norms, and the need for politics to reclaim words like compassion, hope, duty, patriotism, family and even religion.
He has argued that New Labour lost its ideological bearings during the years of growth He recently argued: “Fifteen years – sixty uninterrupted quarters of growth – have gone. We were able to swerve around the big distributional issues – and indeed the laws of politics – given the supposed end to boom and bust. Politics became transactional, allocative, rational. Its language cold; yet functional until the money tap stops and so does the music”.
He argues that by 2005 Blair had exiled himself from Labour’s ethical traditions, looking to acquisitive individualism, modernity, and focus groups at the expense of the party’s utopian traditions. He has also warned that unless the politics of the left re-engage there is a danger that Britain and Europe, in the face of the euro crisis could see a shift to the right forced through a more visceral and culture-based politics.
In specific policies, Cruddas has shown an interest in the importance of housing, nation building and has also backed a call for a referendum on European membership.
He has argued that the 2010 election was as bad for Labour as the 1983 and 1931 elections, arguing Labour at times of crisis has in the past retreated into orthodoxy and economic liberalism.