The identity crisis of Jon Cruddas
Jon Cruddas may have been asked to lead the Labour opposition’s policy review but the Dagenham MP is not, truth be told, especially interested in policy. ‘What interests me is not policy as such; rather the search for political sentiment, voice and language; of general definition within a national story. Less The Spirit Level, more what is England’, he said, speaking on ‘the good society’ at the University of East Anglia (Cruddas, 2012).
The public lecture series was entitled ‘Philosopher kings? How philosophy informs real politics today’, making contributions from Cruddas and Conservative David Willetts perhaps inevitable. But the utility of philosophy in political battle is not universally acknowl- edged. ‘Perhaps when they find out what is England they will let us all have the answer’, said Chancellor George Osborne, deploying this Cruddas passage for a little partisan polit- ical knockabout. The mockery will have chimed with Labour MPs who worry about whether their new policy chief leading Ed Miliband on an elusive quest for the essence of national identity will prove a particularly direct route to a winning agenda on the deficit, growth, jobs and housing.
Ed Miliband has placed a significant political bet on Cruddas as Labour’s philosopher king. It was not just a bet on the man himself, and his ability to somehow cajole the disparate actors within the byzantine, opaque, and dysfunctional Labour policy review and manifesto-making process into some sort of coherence. It was also a significant endorse- ment of the Cruddasite disposition about what matters most in politics, a view with which his leader has increasingly come to empathise.