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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 14:05 GMT
Jon Cruddas answers your questions
Jon Cruddas
Jon Cruddas is running for the Labour deputy leadership
The BBC News website interviewed former Downing Street adviser Jon Cruddas this week about his views on the party, and why he is running for Labour's deputy leadership.

Here he replies to some of the questions and comments emailed in by readers.

Mr Cruddas, Do you think Mr Blair was right to send soldiers to Iraq, while we all know and knew then that there were no weapons of mass destruction in the country? Is there a possibility that the troops will return if Labour delivers a new prime minister, be it Mr Brown or someone else?
Nick Delafontaine, Bruges, Belgium

Jon Cruddas: I did think he was right at the time Nick, and I voted with the government for the war. We were asked to vote for the Iraq war on the basis of WMDs and to bring democracy to a country used to dictatorship.

Clearly the premise on WMDs was wrong, as we haven't found any, and at the moment there is a bloody conflict rather than a stable democracy. Its turns out the case for war was flawed, and I now deeply regret voting the way I did. If I knew then what I know now, I would have voted differently, and I hold my hands up on that one. The important thing now is to ensure that we get our troops home as soon as possible, while not abandoning progressives in Iraq.

I have just finished reading your interview with Justin Parkinson and I just want to say, what a breath of fresh air you are! As a Labour member, I have struggled to find anything inspiring in the options open to us from the usual suspects (other than perhaps, Hilary Benn).

I, and many of my colleagues and fellow party members are tired of the rhetoric, the phoney political positioning and the stump speeches about the promises of 'renewal' and how the party must 'reconnect' with its members. To me, the likes of Harriet Harman, Hazel Blears and Alan Johnson are empty vessels, too closely connected to the misgivings people have about the government.

I am not a rabid left winger who thinks the party died when Blair took over. Nor, I think are you. The Labour government has done some fantastic things, most notably in my view, the introduction of the minimum wage, tax credits and the equality legislation. We are rightly proud of most of Labour's record in government. However, I agree with you, the seduction of power has left many within government unresponsive, even ignorant to the voices of the very people they were sent to Parliament to represent.

We just want to be listened to. To many, the government has become detached and I believe, indeed, I hope you offer something different. My hope is, you get the support needed to get on the ballot and I get a chance to vote for someone who can articulate the views of party members in Government. After all, the Labour Party should be the voice of the many, not the few. Thank you for listening, Darren
Darren, Cardiff

Jon Cruddas: You're right to say that members just want to be included more Darren. I think that ministers do a tough job in running departments 70, 80 hours a week, and then having their party responsibilities on top of that. I don't question their integrity. In my experience, MPs of all parties are actually in this for the right reason. But I think that's why we need to have a full-time deputy leader who is dedicated to the party, and is the members' representative to government, not the other way round.

That's why I have promised that if elected, I would turn down the job of Deputy Prime Minister, and just be the members' voice in cabinet.

Politicians used to have kitchen cabinets and now have advertising groups. Both served to isolate them from the public. Would you agree?
Vinay Chand, London

Jon Cruddas: I know it's not a very popular view Vinay, but I actually think politicians are in it for the right reasons, they're trying hard in a world where they are under extraordinary pressures. Of course politicians have to work harder to be in touch with the people we represent, and I have concerns that focus groups and opinion polls mean you end up focusing on a tiny number of voters at the expense of the rest of the country. I want to carry on having as much focus on swing voters, but extend that out to everyone.

A good friend of mine has worked with your people on fighting the BNP in places like Dagenham, what a great job you are doing; so I warmly wish you the best in the contest and hope you win. I am saddened by the decline in morale amongst our people, particularly as expressed in articles in the Guardian (where we might expect support). Do they think the decline in unemployment is bad? in the NHS waiting list? in class sizes in schools? in child poverty? What do they think about the minimum wage? Do they think the Tories will help our people better? Also, i think you are right to respect Cameron. He may be a member of Whites, an Old Etonian, a shooter of stags and all the rest, but he is clever and shrewd; he knows people don't mind about that, he makes them think he's a "good bloke". All the best in your campaign
Jim Fisher, Ridge, Herts (Hertsmere CLP)

Jon Cruddas: Do you know what Jim - I have been pretty impressed by Cameron's presentation skills. He's good at marketing you know. But I think the thing about Cameron being a shooter of stags is very unpleasant. When I saw that in the papers, I was reminded of Helen Mirren in "The Queen" trying to save a stag on a shoot. That could come and hurt the Tories.

Agreed, but easy to say if you are MP for Dagenham. What if you are prospective Labour candidate for Harlow, Kettering or Watford. Sad fact is given our present voting system marginals matter enormously. Dagenham, Hackney and Huntingdon do not.
Les Roberts, St. Neots, previously Hackney

Jon Cruddas: I want Labour to have a 650 seat strategy where Harlow and Kettering matter, but where safe Labour seats, and seats where Labour might not win count too. I am not convinced that this Labour government is the only type of Labour government available under the current voting system, actually.

You are as guilty as the rest of them and your piece seems like more NL spin. Tapping in to the voter's sense of disengagement is one thing but putting forward just one idea or principle behind which you are prepared to stand is another. For example; keeping the state out of private individual choices, defending the principle of national sovereignty when it comes to military interventionism or standing up for habeas corpus and our right to be judged by our peers.

There must be principles in politics otherwise it is stripped of meaning and becomes merely the technical exercise of power. New Labour's legacy in truth. Genuinely tragic and dangerous for our future.
Dave Humphrey, Manchester

John Cruddas: Thanks for that Dave! I don't agree with all you say, but it doesn't follow that people who don't agree are therefore unprincipled. This Labour government has got loads to be proud of. Like Jim from Hertsmere says above - is bringing in a minimum wage where millions of low paid - mostly women - workers are getting a fairer wage unprincipled? Of course not. We have done a great job - there's more to do of course, but let's not pretend that Britain isn't a better place now than it was in 1997. That'd be ridiculous.

I am very impressed by Mr Cruddas' comments. It does feel like Labour (and indeed the other two political parties) only seem to be targeting one particular category of voter whereas I think they would be more successful (and offer a wider range of voter choice) if they tried to appeal to the vast numbers of people with left of centre political views and who - while feeling disillusioned by the current Labour government - are reluctant to vote for the Conservative Party or Menzies Campbell's Lib Dems.

Personally I feel Labour will lose power if they elect Gordon Brown - I believe people want a change and I simply do not feel Gordon Brown is detached enough from the current regime to provide that.
Paul Hawkins, London, UK

Jon Cruddas: Interesting comment - thanks Paul. I don't actually agree with you about Gordon Brown though. I haven't decided who I will support to be Labour's next leader, I want to hear what all the candidates have got to say, but Gordon Brown is someone who I think can move to rebuild a new sense of public service. He is an impressive guy, and I think we will see him setting out more and more interesting policy ideas over the next few weeks.

John, you voted for the Iraq war. You voted for the introduction of student top-up fees. You voted for the introduction of ID cards. What makes you think that you can offer anything new for the party?

Jon Cruddas: I voted against top-up fees actually. But on your broader point, let's not start pretending that somehow all of the last 10 years have been bad. A massive majority of our work has been great stuff. Yes, I think we have lost our way over the last couple of years and need an injection of fresh thinking, but if you have a list of policies you want to me tick off, I am the wrong person to vote for.

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