See: Vote Peter Hain!
Jon Cruddas is busy campaigning for change, impressing many at the Sandwell launch of his deputy leadership bid; a venue chosen for its unfortunate associations with the BNP (who Cruddas is expert at fighting) and not being London.
And yet I’ve found it hard to get a handle on the man and the changes for which he’s campaigning. As a former Downing Street aid, who nominated Gordon Brown, he doesn’t appear particularly radical. Although given that 85 per cent of MPs nominating him had voted against the Labour whip plenty seem to hope that he is.
That Roy Hattersley’s endorsement is rather convincing, is a backhanded complement (though not against Hattersley). Roy points out that, like so many deputy positions, the job isn’t worth much and that Cruddas’s proposal that Brown to do away with the deputy prime minister bit is a good thing. Indeed, I don’t see what the deputy leadership has to offer someone like Alan Johnson who, unlike Jon Cruddas, should have little difficulty securing a cabinet position with a good portfolio.
What the role does offer is a party appointed seat at the cabinet table, creating the only minister the PM cannot sack and so a powerful voice for an important section of the government coalition that might otherwise struggle to be heard.
There’s little of more immediate concern to people than where they live and where they work. So Cruddas’s prioritising the neglected policy areas of housing and union rights goes strongly in his favour. Holding Brown to his commitment to build more affordable homes and encouraging the restoration of employees’ workplace freedoms would improve the lives of a great many, while removing some of Thatcher’s most egregious legacy.
His apparent amnesty for illegal immigrants (‘…the cornerstone of our flexible labour market. They would cost £11,000 each to deport…) is tamer than that proposed by George Bush in similar circumstances and his accepting Migration Watch statistics is worrying. (A dodgy Migration Watch paper I discussed on 3 January has now disappeared, though something making a similar point is there dated 13 January.)
But unlike Margaret Hodge, he seems able to put migration on the agenda without conflating it, and so housing, with race. (Nowhere is housing a bigger issue than in Salford, a city with a non-white population of 3.9 per cent against a national average of 9.1 per cent. This is a class issue not a race issue.)
So I’ve struggled to get a handle on what Cruddas is campaigning to change, but I reckon it’s the same things Gordon Brown wants to change and Tony Blair wanted to change. But instead of leaving the difficult stuff to fester, Cruddas might get something done. Then again I’m still tempted by Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson, Peter Hain and Hilary Benn.