Page last updated at 08:00 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 09:00 UK

Labour 'lacks a compelling case'

Jon Cruddas MP: "We don't know what Labour stands for anymore"

Labour is in serious danger of drifting into opposition, influential backbench MP Jon Cruddas has warned the party.

Mr Cruddas told a meeting arranged by the left-wing think tank Compass that Labour did not know what it stood for.

He said: "There are plenty of initiatives and announcements but no sense of animating purpose, no compelling case for re-election."

But the Dagenham MP said he still thought Labour could win the next election if it re-engaged voters.

Mr Cruddas is a former Downing Street official who came third in Labour's 2007 deputy leadership contest and turned down a job in Gordon Brown's cabinet in favour of campaigning for change from the backbenches.


He has accused the party of ignoring its working-class heartlands in favour of swing voters in "middle England".

"The danger is that we are drifting into catastrophe in this party," he told Tuesday evening's meeting, adding: "We don't know what Labour stands for any more."

We need a fundamental re-examination of our identity and the kind of society that we hope to create
Jon Cruddas, Labour MP

He spoke of the "dwindling number of committed activists" at a grassroots level and a "dazed and disorientated Parliamentary Labour Party and centre of government," adding: "A sense of loss pervades the Labour Party, not just power sliding away but a loss of identity."

"Whether Labour remains in government or returns to opposition, we need a fundamental re-examination of our identity and the kind of society that we hope to create," he told the meeting.

The MP blamed New Labour for adopting a "sour, illiberal" form of politics which assumed the worst in people and "equated aspiration with nothing more than crude acquisitiveness".

He urged a return to more "generous" and "fraternal" vision of society based around traditional Labour values - and predicted the party was heading for an historic collapse in support unless it adopted a more radical policy agenda.

Tory victory

Among a long list of policy ideas, the MP called for more redistributive taxation, a fairer deal for Labour's core supporters on housing and immigration, an end to airport expansion and scrapping Trident, which got the biggest cheer of the evening.

He also urged the party to seek out an alliance with the left wing of the Liberal Democrats, which he said could be kick-started by a referendum on proportional representation, which could be included on the ballot paper at the next general election.

"We need to discover that sense of social democracy otherwise we will go down to a catastrophic defeat - and deserve it," he warned.

Mr Cruddas was joined on the platform by the former work and pensions secretary, James Purnell, who resigned from the cabinet earlier this year arguing that Gordon Brown's continued leadership of Labour made a Conservative election victory "more, not less likely".

Mr Purnell described Mr Cruddas's speech as "brilliant" but did not echo its prescription for Labour's future, beyond agreeing that New Labour needed to take a more "rounded" view of people and needed to "pick up votes across the spectrum of voters we have lost" to avoid defeat.

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