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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Cruddas launches Prescott job bid
Jon Cruddas
Jon Cruddas worked at No 10 between 1999 and 2001
Ex-Downing Street aide Jon Cruddas will attack his former boss Tony Blair's foreign policy as he launches his bid to run for Labour's deputy leadership.

The Dagenham MP will say ministers and politicians have played "fast and loose" with religious tensions during recent debate over full face veils.

He will add that Labour is "not ready" to fight the next General Election.

Other declared contenders for John Prescott's job include Alan Johnson, Peter Hain and Harriet Harman.

'Hostilities and suspicions'

Beginning the official launch of his campaign for the deputy position, Mr Cruddas will say: "We have to admit openly that our foreign policy over the last few years has reinforced a sense of insecurity, fear and isolation within some of our own communities."

National politics needs to be linked to local communities because "these insecurities and vulnerabilities lead to a rise in political extremism as hostilities and suspicions between communities grow", he will say.

We need a new agenda for involving activists - we need to start being more open when we make policies
Jon Cruddas

"The solution does not lie in an ever more muscular bidding war amongst politicians to demonstrate who can be tougher on migrants, asylum seekers and minorities.

"Nor is it in using racial or religious symbols to create controversy. That only makes the situation worse.

"It is not the role of politicians to play fast and loose with symbols of difference, especially when they drive the political centre of gravity to the right as a consequence."

Mr Cruddas will speak out a day after the prime minister said the wearing of full face veils by Muslim women was a "mark of separation" and made some "outside the community feel uncomfortable".

The 44-year-old, who has close links with the trade unions, announced his intention to stand for Mr Prescott's job at Labour's party conference last month.

'Drastic changes needed'

He says he wants to distance the role of deputy leader from the deputy prime ministership.

On Wednesday he will tell supporters at his east London constituency that there have been "many great achievements" for the government since coming to power in 1997.

But he will warn that there were still many problems to be dealt with and the party needs to make drastic changes in order to stay in office.

"As it stands, the party is not ready to fight the next General Election. We have lost over half of our members since 1997," he will say.

"Change needs to happen across the board - we need a new agenda for involving activists. We need to start being more open when we make policies."

Rebel

Mr Cruddas was Tony Blair's deputy political secretary between 1999 and 2001 and has been MP since 2001.

Married with a son, he was an assistant to two Labour general secretaries from 1994 before joining the prime minister's staff.

Despite his work for Mr Blair, he is seen as on the left of the party and has rebelled against the government over the imposition of university tuition fees.

He is a vocal opponent of the British National Party, which has tried to build a stronghold in his east London seat.

He has also criticised the prime minister for neglecting Labour's traditional working class constituencies in favour of those inhabited by the middle classes.

BBC News 24's chief political correspondent James Landale said Mr Cruddas was the "outsider candidate" and that he could have a "real task" gaining the support of enough MPs to stand for deputy leader.


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