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Cruddas didn’t investigate why people think what they think nor how we win them back

jon cruddas with question markIt’s been picked over already, but there are a couple of points that need picking up on re: the Jon Cruddas inquiry into why Labour lost. For him, the findings confirm that anti-austerity politics is spurned by the majority of those asked – the subtext being, of course, that Jeremy Corbyn’s course will sail the Labour ship into very choppy waters. This drew a Corbynite response arguing that Jon has spun the results to fit his own preferred conclusions. In fact, if anything, they underline the position Camp Corbyn has taken. Who’s right?

Unfortunately the data sets have not been released so I can’t go swivel-eyed pouring over them. Thankfully, Jon’s own commentary provides meat enough to be going with. His overall view is that the British electorate are fiscally conservative but economically radical. Most voters, including Labour voters, agreed that “we must live within our means so cutting the deficit is the top priority“. So this doesn’t stand in isolation, other views were sought on whether they’re more likely to vote for a party promising rich-to-poor wealth redistribution, favour parties that meet their individual financial interests, and whether the British economy works for the benefit of the rich and the powerful. The first two cases found a plurality in support, and the last affirmed by a majority. As Jon observes:

The Tories won because voters believed they would cut the deficit, even though a majority understand that the economic system is unfair. The Tories’ message on the deficit was clear, Labour’s was not. The Tories were trusted to manage the country’s finances, Labour was not.

Does that justify the anti-austerity spin? When considered in tandem with the supportive Graun piece, yes. Punters’ comments on why Labour didn’t win were full of stuff like “Free stuff! We’ll give you free stuff and somebody else will pay!” and “Chaos, more public spending, more borrowing, more tax! Strong anti-business rhetoric.

Even then, should that be counted as support for austerity? Well, no. On two counts. As Jon well knows, “cutting the deficit” does not necessarily mean public spending cuts. We’ve addressed it many times here, as have others elsewhere. Since 2010 the Tories performed a great confidence trick and have connived with their media chums to reduce the measure of economic competence to perceptions of deficit cutting, of transforming a crisis in the economy into a crisis of public spending. On this score they failed their own targets and abandoned tight spending completely during the election campaign. Labours response however was hopelessly contradictory: it half-criticised deficit determinism while capitulating to its “commonsense”. Mixed messages make a muddle. The key, which Ben Folley makes in his Corbynite reply, is coherence.

Another disappointing aspect of Jon’s inquiry is not so much how he leaves his inferences open to easy criticism, but the rather naive empiricism with which he approaches the issues. Surprising considering his previous life as a philosopher, and doubly so that he doesn’t address himself to them as a politician. When we’re dealing with social facts, when individuals and organisations undertake mass surveys, what they uncover is a snapshot. A moment not just in the life of individuals, but a snippet of what a cross section of society is thinking and doing. The truths established are not eternal, they are always shifting, always changing.

Where Jon’s inquiry falls down is he establishes the reasons why a significant sample of people did not vote Labour. But as someone au fait with epistemology and politics, he should have also asked why those surveyed thought what they thought and what Labour can do to win them back. He did not capture where they were coming from or where they were going. In other words, the truly useful information the party needs wasn’t even investigated. For instance, every single quote used in the Graun piece simply regurgitated Conservative attack lines. They bore absolutely no resemblance to Labour’s real manifesto. What Jon has done, and the party is in danger of doing, is accepting this as established wisdom instead of trying to change things. That is not political leadership, that is not meeting people on their own ground and seeking to persuade them the merits of your position, and that is not the way you can win people back.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

16 Comments

  1. Mervyn Hyde says:

    Jon Cruddas was supposed to be the person who directed the last Labour Party’s policies to get Labour elected.

    Is it any wonder his review would turn out to be a whitewash.

    I gave up on Cruddas years ago.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      I completely agree with you; it’s complete and utter bunk, from a man so far up his own rectum that he hasn’t seen daylight or had a normal conversation with a normal person for at least a decade, but that goes for most of PLP and a good majority of the constituency parties equally.

    2. David Pavett says:

      “I gave up on Cruddas years ago.”

      Me too. His infatuation with Catholic Social Teaching and his embrace of Blue Labour is a bit of a give away.

      The idea that he has any philosphical subtlety is utterly far-fetched (perhaps Phil B-C meant that as a joke or was being sarcastic) since he has never given the slightest indication of this. His analyses are completely superficial. Anyone who is not convinced of this should read half a dozen of his speeches over the last few years.

      Cruddas directed the sham democracy of the Policy Review and has no authority to advise on the way forward for Labour. He is an empty vessel.

      1. Mervyn Hyde says:

        Absolutely David.

  2. Billericaydickie says:

    A good constituency MP who led the fightback against the BNP in that constituency which is still largely white and working class and who is far more in touch with the real world than Corbyn and his Trotskyist Guardianista electorate.

    1. Robert says:

      Thank fully knowing who you are, I can take your comment with a massive pinch of salt.

      1. Billericaydickie says:

        But you don’t know who I am Robert.

        1. Robert says:

          Not to hard to find out though is it.

          1. Billericaydickie says:

            Don’t be shy Robert! I have done a bit of research on Terry Fitzpatrick including talking to some of my relations who still live in the East End. I’ll share it with you later.

    2. john Reid says:

      confused, so Cruddas points out research proves we were seen as not accepting austerity is needed,then there’s comments form those who think cruddas isn’t very left wing, although this has never been in doubt,then Cruddas is prasdied for doing some ogood work over the years,by someone who shares a monicker with a bloke who did anti racist work,fell out with lee Jasper due to Jaspers own racism,so he walks into Jaspers trap of using a racist word in a email that Jasper refered himself too, then if someone defends Cruddas,they’re compared to the unfortunate male who said the one racist comment and Cruddas, work and his facts that we need to accept we lost the austerity debate if we want to win should then be ignored

  3. Bazza says:

    Perhaps grassroots Labour members don’t really need (apart from Jeremy a facilitator of grassroots power) Labour’s ‘great men and women of history’.
    Perhaps we just need each other; to make policy from our lifetimes’ experiences, to try to politicise our fellow human being, so they feel like we do.
    And our brothers and sisters doing the same in every country of the World.
    Yours in peace.

    1. Billericaydickie says:

      Bazza. Great stuff! You have transported me back to the summer of love in 1968.

  4. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    I fact I think that weight being given to these comments, from yet another overrated nonentity like Cruddas, (who?) as with, (though for entirely different reasons,) the, “election,” (if that’s even the right word; for Labor’s completely rigged electoral process; you can choose any of the usual suspects but no one else, got it,) of a multi millionaire property spectacular living a North London Mansion worth over £2.6 million, which to anyone outside the Labor club seemed simply crass, illuminates perfectly, not only just how completely disconnected from the UK electorate the post Blair Labor party have now become, but increasingly how disconnected even from reality they all are.

    JC comes like a cleaner breath, of if not quite fresh air, then certainly a breath of something far less tainted with the putrid reek of the Westminster sewer.

    That’s the polite version.

  5. Billericaydickie says:

    I wonder how much Corbyn’s house is worth, if in fact property prices are an issue in choosing a leader.

    1. James Martin says:

      Wonder how much your brain weighs, if in fact brain cells are an issue in determining idiocy.

      1. Billericaydickie says:

        Run that past us again James, would you?

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