Jon Cruddas’ first interview since joining the Shadow Cabinet to coordinate the Policy Review was encouraging. In particular I like the fact that he seems to be able to look beyond the sterile argument about whether Labour should appeal to middle England or its traditional support. He knows Labour needs to appeal to both and that low turnout amongst Labour voters is just as damaging as failing to attract floaters. He is portrayed as a man of the left but his flirtation with Blue Labour and his support for David Miliband as Leader show a much more complex political position. He has a sensible critique of the Labour Government, working on the inside for Tony Blair at Downing Street before becoming alienated from the ‘policies and language’ in the later years.
So, he says he is not going to ‘dust down the record’ and that ‘caution is not an option.’ “There is no safe route through this, really. We have to be bold. We have to develop a sense of vitality and energy. What we have to have is bold, radical solutions.” He seems to have taken the bull by the horns, reducing the 29 policy reviews to just 3, focused on the economy, society and politics.
In his interview it is encouraging that the word ‘housing’ appears several times. We know, for example from his speech at the London Labour Housing Group AGM last year, that he is critical of the lack of attention Labour paid to affordable housing supply during its years in Government, a position that only changed when housing investment was made a centrepiece of the Keynesian response to the recession. He talks naturally and with understanding about housing and the wide range of issues that are a feature of his constituency on the eastern fringes of London with a bit of Essex.
In housing terms appealing to both traditional and floating voters means having a comprehensive housing policy. Having for many years talked about little except social housing, then for two decades talking about little except home ownership, Labour needs to look at the housing market as a whole, increasing supply in all tenures, fixing the supply of mortgages, agreeing a new settlement for private renting, and restoring key rights to social tenants and homeless people, aiming to improve affordability across the market as a whole. Maybe, just maybe, Cruddas’ determination to look for the radical might even take us in the direction of a major reform of land and property taxation and the freeing up of the public corporate sector to behave in a business-like way.
As Cruddas says, “Things could move quite dramatically if we get it right. But it is incumbent on all of us to step up, roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.” With victory in 2015 now looking more than a pipe dream, consolidating support for Labour by proposing sound but radical policies that appeal to a wide cross-section of the population is a crucial next step.