Still life

A latent radicalism still exists in the Labour Party, says defeated Labour deputy leadership contender Jon Cruddas. Now the left must tap it

September 24, 2007 · 3 min read

Alex Nunns\’ analysis of the state of the left makes a compelling case, and identifies some of the key issues that need to be tackled over the next few months.

He is especially right to say that it was only after my campaign had made the ballot (by securing the support of over 45 other MPs) that we managed to tap into the deep reserves of support for a new agenda. This raises concerns about both the threshold and strategies for the future in generating support within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). The fact that I managed to secure the largest vote in the first round was despite only just managing to avoid last place among MPs – almost all of my support came from grassroots members and trade unionists.

There are two lessons here.

First, the left in Parliament is weak. There’s no point pretending that’s not the case. But I think the very fact that I got onto the ballot – mainly through the strength and organisational capacity of leading Compass MPs alongside elements within the Campaign group and old Tribune group – is a positive sign for the future. How is that prospective coalition in the PLP to be constructed in the future?

Second, by using new technology and energetic open campaigning, we managed to reach out to huge numbers of new supporters – many of whom, if I am frank, had never even heard of me before the election started. Questions arise about how to tap into this latent desire for change amongst the membership and the role of new technology.

The larger question here is how we build an agenda that will appeal across the broadest range of the party, across both the centre and left. Moreover, how is this to be linked to broader movements outside of the party?

To my mind, as reflected in the analysis supplied by Alex Nunns, there are no ready-made answers. We need space to deliberate in terms of policy and organisation in a transparent, non-sectarian form within and outside of the federal architecture of the party. Recognising that ‘we are where we are’ and trying to develop ideas – and new techniques for campaigning around these ideas – is the challenge that confronts us.

That much is self evident. My experience over the last year is that the party is not irretrievable; that there still exists a radicalism, albeit latent. As such, it should not be beyond our political will or ability build a coalition to articulate it and organise to achieve it.

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