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The Cruddas Report and winning in 2020

CruddasReportCoverThe independent inquiry by Jon Cruddas and others, ‘Why Labour lost in 2015 and how it can win again’ has just been published (late May 2016), although much of the material has already appeared. It does I think deserve another look, as there is fresh material, it is serious, as opposed to just being a means of attacking Corbyn, and it poses the ultimate question. Its conclusions are, I believe, largely but by no means completely wrong, and I will try to explain why.

The report uses a ‘Values mode analysis’, which classifies voters into three types: pioneers, (34%) who are socially liberal, idealistic and hold universal values, prospectors (37%) who are aspirational, acquisitive and pragmatic, and settlers (29%) who are socially conservative, traditional and value social order, family and community. (I do not have the expertise to assess whether this type of analysis is useful or just a form of spurious academic gloss which could have been expressed in more straightforward ways, but I will take it at its face value).

The analysis shows that Labour consists increasingly of pioneers, and is consequently less representative of the electorate as a whole, with prospectors having been lost to the Conservatives and settlers to UKIP. Although the report does not say so, this helps to explain  the support for Corbyn. Since 2005, with broadly the same level of support, Labour‘s support is more left wing. This is probably due in the main to a switch from the Lib-Dems.

The report claims that Labour lost because it did not convince voters that it would deal with the deficit or manage the economy competently. There is much in this, although that does not mean that there was no support, or potential support, for an anti austerity agenda. Labour however never put this forward, its messages on the economy came across as confused, and it effectively admitted its incompetence by failing to defend its record in government. Given that no-one was saying that the deficit didn’t matter (I can recall Bob Crow saying how important deficit reduction was!) it was hardly surprising that pragmatic ‘prospector’ voters backed the Conservatives whose messages on this were clear.

In Scotland the report notes the successful fusion of nationalism and radicalism by the SNP, and suggests that an English Labour Party would be a good idea. Quite possibly, and let us explore the whole question of English identity, federalism and regionalism. The problem is however that the political manifestations of Englishness are, unlike Scottishness, largely reactionary (UKIP) and accommodation in this area is fraught with difficulty. But the report is right to say that those who have deserted Labour for UKIP, many of whom have been loyal Labour voters for most of their lives, must be taken seriously (as opposed to the appalling bunch of chancers and ne’er do wells that lead them).

But this should not mean that Labour should become socially conservative, even if it does promote a more radical economic agenda. A move to the right on immigration, welfare, or the EU may attract some back from UKIP, but would be at the cost of huge demoralisation for those who were inspired by the radical vision  so successfully promoted during the leadership election by Corbyn. The ‘Blue Labour’ route, which is what is being advocated by this report, leads nowhere, and is unlikely to increase Labour’s appeal.


That does not mean that the things like family , community and individual responsibility are not important, but there will always be a tension between the desire for and the resistance to change, and older people will tend towards the latter, which is why a higher proportion of them vote Conservative, although many of these have gone to UKIP as well. This does however remain much more of a problem for Labour, because of the much higher propensity to vote amongst older people than younger people, and even if the latter was improved Labour must increase its ’grey’ vote. One way might be to remind this group of one of New Labour’s most significant reforms, surprisingly little remembered,  which introduced ‘Pension Credit’ in the late 90s which lifted large numbers of pensioners and older workers out of the poverty they had endured under previous Conservative governments. There must be many UKIP voters who are beneficiaries of this.

Labour will only succeed if it has a vision and an agenda for change, as it did in 1945, 1964 and 1997. The key problem with the report is that it is essentially passive in that it sees no alternative to an accommodation with social conservatism. This is highly debatable, particularly in a period which has seen so much political volatility and switches of political allegiance. Thinking and outlook does and can change, as the values methodology in the report accepts. Support can be built, but this will not happen until the left stops talking to itself and starts to fashion and widely  promote  a radical vision for change, backed by detailed policy proposals and a strategy for their implementation. This is the challenge for the coming period.


  1. jeffrey davies says:

    hmmmm he report claims that Labour lost because it did not convince voters that it would deal with the deficit or manage the economy competently no the voters were fed up with greedie mps mps who should have been in the cons party not a labour party untill the blairites cross the floor

  2. John Penney says:

    Just across the English Channel, the barricades are going up and workers in open struggle are not only closing down the French transport networks and power stations, but fighting the state’s forces on the streets, in the ever deepening fight against Austerity. More widely, the neoliberal strategy for economic growth for all across Europe is lying in ideological tatters.

    Into this ever growing political and ideological ferment , Cruddas and his Tory-lite co-thinkers throw the most banal , status quo-based, analysis and Little Englander , conservative, policy bundle proposals for Labour to pursue.

    The Labour Centre and Right and their banal profoundly individualist, neoliberalism-based “analysis” have simply been left behind by the train of history, as neoliberalism dies, and more radical routes forward (not by any means always those of the Left unfortunately ) are being sought by increasing masses of people across Europe.

    The time must be looming now when these class enemies “cross the floor” and realign with sections of the the now splintering Tories , as the long existing UK political party structures fracture in the febrile years of structural crisis ahead.

  3. Tim Wilkinson says:

    I don’t see any reason to call this report ‘independent’. The main survey was conducted from 30 Jun when Corbyn’s popularity was already apparent, and it was used to try to undermine support for him in a series of five ‘messages’ published by Cruddas from Aug 5-18 on Labour List & the New Statesman. An almost verbatim reproduction of these heavily spun ‘messages’, with their tendentious use of alarmist language such as ‘toxicity’, comprises the entirety of Chapter 1 of this report.

    The analysis (and survey design?) was carried out by The Campaign Company, set up by Cruddas’s old Blairite colleague David Evans when he jumped ship after having run the 2001 campaign in which Labour lost 22% of its vote but gained Cruddas as an MP.

    TCC was enthusiastic about the No 10 ‘Nudge Unit’ and the ‘Big Society’. It describes itself as a ‘behaviour change’ consultancy. Given that it has, as the article notes, shown no interest in influencing the electorate to change its ‘behaviour’ or opinions, one wonders (a touch rhetorically) just who it’s targeting with its ‘analysis’.

    I should probably reassure those easily frightened by the trigger-phrase ‘Conspiracy theory’ and its Emperor’s-new-clothes stereotype of the benighted, irrational, neurotic, social inadequate, etc etc. While there clearly was and is a concerted campaign against Corbyn, much of the problem here is just a case of ordinary right-wing bias, groupthink exacerbated by a seige mentality, and heavy investment in a ‘median voter model’ that appeared superficially to work tolerably well, until it didn’t.

    I haven’t gone over the additional material in detail yet, but I would urge extreme caution in taking anything it says at face value. It will obviously contain some observations that have a grain of truth or sound plausible, but where that is the case, that will be verified by independent sources of information such as the venerable British Election Study.

    Great care is needed to disentangle objective factual data from mere opinion (which coming from this source I’d be inclined to discount). This is especially important, and especially difficult, where apparently ‘hard’ data such as poll results are concerned. TCC is not regulated by the British Polling Council, and has not published all its poll questions or tabulated results. Polls are very easily manipulated, all the more so when the results and analysis can freely be cherry-picked. The report’s authors go to the length of stating that the ‘purpose’ was not to lead respondents – that they felt the need to do so is itself distinctly unreassuring.

    (Compare Tubs in The League of Gentlemen: ‘We didn’t burn him!’)

  4. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

    I really can’t take Cruddas seriously, everything the above have said is about right, Cruddas is just a Neo-Liberal apologist.

    IMF researchers have recently produced a report saying that We may have oversold Neo-Liberalism.

    This Business report comments on it’s failures:

  5. Tony says:

    3. “Labour is losing its working-class support and UKIP is reaping the benefits.”

    I do not think so. Labour has lost support to UKIP. But the rot seems to have stopped.

    This is well worth looking at:

    1. John P Reid. says:

      The rot may have stopped,but labour is not getting those votes back

  6. Tony says:

    I forgot to mention something else about this report. It makes no mention whatsoever of the widespread evidence of undeclared constituency spending by the Conservative Party. It started at some by elections and then at the subsequent 2015 General Election.

    I wonder why this was not mentioned.

  7. Tim Wilkinson says:

    There’s also a certain lack of perspective in failing to recognise that this “catastrophic defeat for Labour” was the first time Labour increased its vote since the Tory rout of 1997. By more than the Cons too; +7% to +4% (as a proportion of the electorate), even across the whole UK. Overblown rhetoric like that betrays a cavalier attitude to the facts.

    1. John P Reid. says:

      And labour vote went up in 1979′ on Ictober 1974″ for all the good it did us

  8. John P Reid says:

    The idea that the Attlee or Wilson governments were socially liberal is daft and although small things , were changed it wasn’t due to it

    In fact labour in 97 won by accepting Thatcherite ideas and… She won by being socially conservative
    The denial that we lof t working class votes to Ukip is ridiculous

  9. Bazza says:

    I think I must have been canvassing now for 40 years and I have had racists, homophobes, sexists – you name it so should we pander a little bit to these to win votes?
    Absolutely not – some talk as though our role is passive but we are a political party and we should be about politicising the masses and POLITICAL EDUCATION then we will be the many but some just want people’s votes and then to take the power for themselves.
    Before the General Election some of us were slaughtering the Tories on social media on the true blame for the economic crisis drawing on evidence of billion dollar fines mainly in the US for large banks for their role in sub-prime lending (drawing from the evidence in the financial pages of papers – its all there) whist Miliband and the Yuppies said nothing!
    But we were silenced during the election when the Tories paid hundreds of thousands to hire a US Democrat social media guru to post dozens of fake posts to neutralise any left wing comments and Labour next time needs to be wary of this!
    We just need left wing democratic socialist policies and to try to work these out with working people so we have power WITH and not FOR.
    As policy proposals come out there is nothing to stop CLPs, trade unions, affiliates holding open meetings say on housing, education etc. to give people a say & these could be quite exciting!
    Neo-Liberalism’s greatest achievement was perhaps to stop the Left from dreaming.
    But isn’t the purpose to change the World!

  10. Tim Wilkinson says:

    John P Reid outdoing himself in gratuitous wrongness there.

    1. Atlee: greater equality for women, inparticular in the context of marriage; restrictions on imprisonment of children; abolition of hard labour, penal servitude & corporal punishment; greater protections and reduced criminalisation for prostitutes.

    Wilson: liberalisation in respect of censorship, divorce, immigration, abortion; decriminalisation of homosexuality; abolition of capital punishment.

    2. Thatcher didn’t win in 79 because she was socially conservative – all that ‘loony left’ stuff started after the Tory/Murdoch partnership got off the ground.

    New Labour did indeed adopt Thatcherite ideas (good to see this acknowledged so openly – noted), but in the field of political economy, not ‘social’ issues or personal morality. (Incidentally, it did so out of choice, not because it needed to in order to win in 97. Its right-wing bent was not really advertised in advance, and once it became apparent just how Thatcherite it was it lost support sharply.)

    However, ‘social conservatism’ covers a number of not necessarily correlated attitudes (which makes it a crude tool for psephological analysis). Besides ‘moral’ issues and non-economic dimensions of inequality, it also covers penal & policing policy and civil liberties (or the reduction thereof).

    NuLab did pick up the authoritarian approach of the Thatcherite Right – which is after all part of the core right-wing politico-economic package. But on sex & race matters it was very liberal, led social attitude change and forced the Conservatives to adopt the same stance as a condition of regaining power (which incidentally confirms that leading the agenda can be done; it’s just that the Blairites preferred to limit themselves to corporate-friendly ‘social’ issues like gay marriage while affecting helplessness to do anything about the core Thatcherite programme but continue and extend it.)

    3. No-one has ‘denied that Labour lost votes to UKIP’ – only that this process is continuing and a serious threat. As the British Electoral Study confirms, the Conservatives lost far more votes to UKIP than Labour. And of course it remains to be seen whether UKIP remains any kind of force in British politics after the referendum.

    There is also a dearth of research on what UKIP voters are motivated by. The Labour right may as ever impose their own preconceived and self-serving ideas, put on their football shirts and indulge adolescent mockney fantasies about muscular no-nonsense Sun-reading proles, but real people are not so easily pigeon-holed. My own view is that there is a sizeable anti-establishment and inchoately anti-neoliberal element involved: a constituency Corbyn is well-placed to win over once news of the death of NuLab filters through to the general population.

    One obvious UKIP attitude, though in many cases quite possibly a superficial, epiphenomenal and remediable one is anti-immigration, and the answer to this is to place the blame for housing, health and wage policy where it belongs: with the Tories. It is certainly not to encourage the tendency – very helpful to the Tories – of blaming them on immigration.

    Ceding the narrative to the Right is appallingly bad strategy, because guess what? If the consensus is that the Right is correct, people will vote for the Right, not for a pale imitation.

    1. John P Reid. says:

      Surely the Wilson stuff was private member’s bills that got in with Tory support,no what you say about the Attlee government was minimal, as for the loony left, it helped that her win,it was just it took labour years to realize it, but the swings in certain seats such as Tony benns one speaks for it self
      As for by labour accepting certain Tory ideas ,selling council homes,or democratizing unions,they were originally labour ideas

  11. Historyintime says:

    The party that is judged as best able to manage the economy pretty much always wins. Labour lost because it was caught in a straddle -rather than establishing a new narrative of economic credibility and hope. And Milliband and co. Simply did not have the required political communication skills. So, it was “too weak’ and ‘too unskilled’. These are things that need correcting not a shift to the right on social policy.

  12. Peter Rowlands says:

    Some pertinent comments, particularly from Tim Wilkinson, although I think the report is not to be completely dismissed as crude Corbyn bashing.It highlights a serious problem about social conservatism and the Labour vote which none of the comments have addressed, although its solutions are wrong.
    On UKIP I recommend the excellent ‘Revolt on the Right’, R. Ford and M. Goodwin, Routledge 2014.

    1. Tim Wilkinson says:

      I addressed it a bit. But it’s not clear to me

      (a) which aspects of the not-really-unitary phenomenon ‘social conservatism’ are regarded as particularly problematic;

      (b) how much importance they have compared to other issues (it doesn’t matter if 100% of people disagree on an issue if that issue isn’t important enough to them to alter their voting behaviour)

      (c) in particular, how prevalent and important it is to UKIP (nad other) voters who are plausibly regraded as ‘targetable’ by Labour. There is no point at all in trying to entice UKIP/Con floaters.

      Thanks for reference – have heard it mentioned approvingly before & will take a look, though have also come across Ford before and noticed a tendency for Blairite allegiance to colour his views. Maybe less so on this topic and under the aegis of an academic imprint.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        Tim – on your points:
        a) None that cannot be overcome, perhaps in the ways we both suggest ie immigration not to blame for housing shortage etc., federalism a response to ‘Englishness’. As I said I think there will always be some sort of problem, which is to do with age and generation differences, and the left should be sensitive to this. There is a world of difference between overt racism which sees anyone with a different racial background as an unwanted immigrant, even if they are the second or third generation, and quite legitimate complaints about the pressure on local resources caused by an influx of, say, Polish workers.
        b) Difficult, as the prime attraction of UKIP is neither these things, or even opposition to the EU, but the feeling of being sidelined, of not being properly represented, and the consequent bitterness felt towards Labour. This can be turned around,but not if the UKIP vote is seen as one step away from neo fascism. You are I think right in seeing a potentially sizeable vote here that can be regained.The problem is not however just those who have gone over from Labour to UKIP, but those mainly from the same social group, older working class males, who have stopped voting at all, because they see it as pointless. Both groups have to be substantially won back if Labour is to have a chance of winning in 2020.
        ( See Ipsos Mori How Britain Voted 2015 for detail on the above).

  13. David Pavett says:

    I agree with Peter that the Cruddas report should not be swept aside as just more Corbyn bashing. On the other hand, I am rather more critical than him of its contents. He says that it identifies real problems but provides the wrong solutions. In my view the way in which the problems are identified is very superficial and deserves a thorough critique to be clear about what is of value. Peter says that he is not equipped to comment on the “Values Modes Analysis” used. I think that a critique of this approach is necessary.

    I am not an election analyst but even so it seems clear to me that dividing the electorate into a set of groups (pioneers, prospectors, settlers) poses many problems. First, it obscures underlying analysis in terms of class. Second, if presented in insufficient detail (as in the Cruddas report) it treates these groups as fixed and therefore doesn’t analyse the changing composition of the groups, Thirdly, once you start slicing and dicing to better understand a given electoral snapshot this can be done in many different ways which therefore need to be analysed and compared for their ability to answer specific questions.

    Consider, for example, the second point above. An IPPR report generally supportative of a similar line to the Cruddas report and which places emphasis on the value mode approach recognises nevertheless the wide shifts of the electorate from one groups to another:

    Moreover, it points out that shifts occur because of underlying social trends. Thus “The period 1973–2005 saw a shift away from Settler values – probably because of greater affluence meaning core needs were more often being met. Since the 2008 economic crisis, the survey describes a return, by some of the less optimistic Prospectors, to Settler values, perhaps as a result of resources being scarcer.” (Wikipedia article on Values Modes) This suggests that there is nothing fundamental about these groups and that to understand the current reasons for a preference for one set of values rather than another one has to dig deeper. That is not what the Cruddas Report does. It doesn’t even recognise the need for such analysis. It remains resolutely at the surface of things.

    It is valid to consider values and identity but when these are treated as the starting point for designing the Labour Party’s key objectives they are transformed into a tool for justifying the status quo. Any extablished form of society develops the reflexes and concepts needed for its own reproduction. That is why ruling class ideology appeals to the “natural order” of things. Those who would change society fundamentally cannot rely on this natural order but have to raise the level of understanding of the way society works and the need to change it. This problem is perfectly illustrated by the Cruddas Reports’ discussion of attitudes to austerity and fiscal probity. The state of public perception of these issues (generally based on nothing but the most biased media presentations) is taken as a touchstone. This is absurd. Labour was all over the place on the economy. It was deeply unconvincing. No wonder so many voters preferred to cling to the known and familiar, however defective, rather than a prevaricating alternative with no clear vision or argument behind it.

    1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

      The one thing that people seem to forget, is that Cruddas was the supposed architect of Labours election strategy who has been given the privilege of writing the epistle of it’s failure.

      Is it any wonder it completely misses the point.

      Ed Miliband said during his leadership campaign that Neo-Liberalism had gone too far, in his own words (and I have written this a number of times on these threads relating to Ed Miliband) he
      said, “I get it” and repeated it for affect “I get it”, what it was he got seems to be different to what his actions were after he became leader.

      Clearly there were people that voted for him because they believed he understood that Neo-Liberalism was the crux of the problem and wanted change. Only to lose grass roots support because it meant more of the same.

      I have also written this about Labour’s NHS policy before; which shows the direction of travel in the Labour Party led by Neo-Liberals; The integrated policy of the NHS and single budget was initially described by the Kings Fund as paraphrased “the NHS would become a commissioning body with a single integrated budget and NOT a provider of health care.

      In other words the Neo-Liberal agenda would roll on with more privatisation not less, which people in this country had come to realise was costing them dearly.

      We also at that time had the most pathetic shadow chancellor that I had seen in the Labour Party ever, to the point where John Harris of the Guardian, who had been promised an interview with him had to chase after him at Labour’s conference, and when he actually caught up with him Chuka Umnna, kept interrupting and tugging him away. Clearly a put up job to avoid being asked perhaps embarrassing questions.

      That was the kind of consideration that Ed Balls paid to a somewhat friendly journalist, where he could have briefly outlined Labours vision, was it any wonder he lost his seat. Notwithstanding the fact that he helped campaign in Europe for Brown and was responsible for increasing the liberalisation of the financial sector.

      Did I expect a forthright admission of failure by the Neo-Liberal wing of our party and the fact that they would admit guilt of peddling their failed policies, of course not.

      Clearly the Neo-Liberal political class (career politicians) are in deep trouble, the real economists in the IMF have pointed out in their own report, that they oversold NEO-LIBERALISM.

      Not only does this prove that Jeremy Corbyn is light years ahead of his Neo-Liberal colleagues in the Labour Party, but that his policies will actually work.

      That is what we can now build on, admitting we have a neo-liberal wing in the party that is hell bent on destroying someone who has the backing of their good friends in the IMF.

      1. David Pavett says:

        It is indeed amazing the Cruddas has been able get away with his pontificating about the failure of policies for which he held a central responsibility. Still, at least his political orientation has become crystal clear so that there is no longer any question of him being confused with the left of the LP.

        I share your views about Ed Balls.

        I only wish that I could feel as confident as you that “Jeremy Corbyn is light years ahead of his Neo-Liberal colleagues in the Labour Party, but that his policies will actually work”. He is clearly predisposed to oppose neo-liberal policies (unlike so many if his parliamentary colleagues). But having alternative policies is quite another matter, let alone having ones which are clearly and demonstrably workable. So far all we have got is some warmed up Keynesian suggestions which don’t even question the free movement of capital as Keynes did.

        But to get back to Peter’s article it has to be said that it was the weak basis for policy development and the consequential weak policies which did for Labour in 2015. That is the central explanation for the result beside which all the values analysis becomes, in Cruddas’s hands, a call to abandon any thoughts of radical social change. The said truth is that Labour policy is still in the same mess and Jeremy C is cleary unable to give it any central steer. The low quality of debate in the left, when there is any at all, and the lack of interest in policy development add a further very worrying backdrop to these issues.

        1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

          We are in Gloucestershire uniting all Momentum groups, Stroud, Cheltenham and Gloucester, Cirencester (Nicholas Ridley’s old seat), to formulate policies and get support for the candidates we want.

          We have already started by getting Stroud CLP to pass a motion to conference for Labour to adopt the NHS reinstatement bill, we are uniting to get the left wing candidates for the NEC, I have liaised personally with a Momentum Group in Peckham who are actively organising action to save the NHS.

          We are currently building up the structures so that we can reach as many of our members as possible, and have been frustrated by the lack of co-operation by some officers of the local parties.

          In short we locally are doing what you are suggesting.

          Clearly money creation is of paramount importance and too many do not understand it, when I say Jeremy is way ahead of the Neo-Liberal wing of the party, he at least understands how money enters the economy.

          I would argue he should go further than Peoples QE, but I realise that perhaps we need to learn how to walk before getting ahead of ourselves. Meaning that it will be difficult enough rebutting the Neo-Liberal lies that we can’t afford our public services and that QE will be inflationary.

          The facts are that money is printed willy nilly by the private banks day in day out and nobody challenges their economic prowess in doing so.

          The philosophy of the future is of public provision, the private sector will never deliver and you need only look at the trade figures over the past 50 years to understand why.

          To say that the Neo-Liberal doctrine of competition and free trade has failed, was substantially confirmed by the world wide financial crash. The private sector is in self destruct mode and the economic indicators are there for all to see, steel, and high street shops. Not that I don’t understand that internet sales do have an impact.

          We as 60 million or so inhabitants have a market so small as to be insignificant, Thatcher deliberately destroyed our manufacturing base and created the conditions for money and capital to escape.

          We need a radical self sustaining economy, and Neo-Liberal theology along with tying our hands behind our backs allowing the financial sector to get free money to indebt the population is shear madness.

          Jeremy is also gently outlining the direction of travel like this speech he made a day or so ago in Cornwall. It is still up to us though to organise- so that we get the policies we want and not have them watered down the many Neo-Liberal MPs who most don’t even know they are.

          Jeremy Speaking in Newquay Cornwall:

          Really worth listening to carefully.

          1. David Pavett says:

            Mervyn, I took your advice and listened carefully to Corbyn’s speech. I wonder what you found in it of special interest. It seemed to me to illustrate the problems of a leader not in control of his Party. It was big on general ideas (we must all come together to end injustice and end inequality ..,) which are clear crowd jerkers (you can pick them out by the applause spikes in the recording) but had zero discernible policy consequences that you might have expected a oarty leader to talk about. It was a rather rambling series of policy-free crowd pleasers. Sorry to be so negative. I voted fir Cirbyn and spend a lot of time defending him but we must speak honestly about our side. If we can’t do that then we are definitely stuffed.

          2. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

            David, I agree that it spoke in general terms, but even that is too strong for the Neo-Liberal wing of the Party.

            I am sure you are aware that both Jeremy and Tony Benn espoused that you should never sit back on your laurels just because you have elected your party, but ensure that they keep to their word as well as being the driver of policies.

            It is this that we are doing locally, we are firstly educating out supporters as to what is actually happening in the economy and public services, then putting forward proposals such as the reinstatement bill that will reverse everything the Tories have done, that is the only way forward.

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      I am grateful to David for having explored the ;values modes’ analysis behind the Cruddas report, and I agree with his conclusions.
      I make a similar point to his in my original article about Labour’s confused position on the economy in 2015.
      But although his solutions are wrong Cruddas has highlighted problems which Labour must face. ( See my reply to Tim Wilkinson above).

      1. Tim Wilkinson says:

        I agree with all David’s criticisms of the report and there are more. I don’t have time at present to drone on and on about it but may do so at some point. But in general almost nothing it says is backed up and all those aspects which can be checked at all look as though they are heavily slanted in the obvious direction. It may have mentioned some things which are real issues, but we know this only because we already know they are real issues. Given what we know already, the report’s angle on these issues shoudl not be accepted on trust. This applies in spades to new info the report purports to provide. I have little doubt that this has been put to together far more in the mould of a propaganda campaign than a genuinely helpful advisory one. Throughout the report, I can see evasive wording, eccentric choice of measures that suggests cherry-picking, implausible statements, a total lack of any citation or other substantiating matter – such as details of the two polls taken.

        THe only sources provided to back the paper up are a very cheeky bibliography at the end which consists basically of every book, paper and newspaper article they could find that backed up their basic position, and none (there are plenty, and include sources such as the BES that should obviously be included in such a bibliography).

        The two polls are a good example of what I’m talking about here – we have no information on questionnaire, no tabulation of results, only a few selected (selective) factoids. One of those factoids states that groups shifted their party support during a certain time frame. However, from the minimal info we have, we know that two polls had panels of different sizes and were almost certainly different groups of people. We therefore have a pair of polls in which two different groups, members of which have both been identified as of a certain type (we don’t know if the same questions and analysis were used to do this classification in each case) had differing party support. We’re not given any p values , confidence intervals but I’d guess the margin of error is getting pretty big here, given the size of the smaller sample.

        Psychological and opinion surveys are incredibly noisy and trying to indentify a real signal from them is a delicatre and intricate business. Here we are comparing pairs of data points based on small (thus especially noisy) surveys. To have any confidence that any of the observations are mkeaningful, we ouwl have to be assured not only that the samples were properly randomised and representative but also that various sources of pseudo-signal have been eliminated: differences induced by the fact that election was over and result known (e.g. via a bandwagon effect, possibly correleating with eth classifications made), random variation/imprecision in the two classification processes, effects of the election result in people’s answers to ‘attitude’ questions, thus feeding into the classification processes, to mention a few of the top of my head.

        And that is before we even accept that the classificiation into these three groups maps onto anything that is of interest to us in the real world and (& btw looking at only about a third of the sample reduces the confidence we should have in it to an even lower order).

        And just a note on that. From memory, the report states that this tripartite division of the population (even astrologers use 12, FFS) is based on some other classification system (i.e. is different; cf. ‘based on a true story’), some detail is given about this other (proprietary, i.e. non-peer-reviewed) system, in particular that it asks 1000 (or 1000s of?) questions. The way this was worded made me go back and check that the 1000 questions were not asked as part of the polls we’re talking about here (as that is highly implausible), inded they weren’t – some other set of questions were used, about which we know nothing. So not only is the methodology opaque, highly suspect and prima facie unconvincing, but the way it has been sold is misleading, at least on a first reading. Does anyone want to bet that this was iunintentional? I wouldn’t.

        In the end, all this stuff has to be taken on trust. The tables of figures are a bit of window dressing. I wouldn’t trust those involved in producing this report as far as I could throw them. This means, as far as I am concerned from the epistemic point of view, that this report is literally worthless. THere is no point looking at it and trying to guess which bits of it might happen to correspond with reality.

        So I disagree that we should be addressing any issues as raised in this report – instead we should look at the BES and other such sources that are more transparent, less partial, and less obviously methodologically dodgy (methododgy).

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          Tim, you and David have done such a thorough demolition job on the Cruddas report that I am no longer inclined to defend it in any way, although I hope its author will try to do so. However, my central point was always the issues raised by the report, but which are also there in more methodologically sound surveys, particularly the ‘gold standard’ BES. In brief Labour must win back a sizeable chunk of its previous vote, predominantly older male working class, that has either gone to UKIP or stopped voting, if it is to stand a chance in 2020.

  14. David Pavett says:

    Jon Cruddas is for me the very model of the major defect of Labourism: its failure to see that an movement seeking fundamental social change must invest significant effort into the critical analysis of received wisdom regarding society. A critique of such wisdom would have entailed a careful examination of the values modes approach. Instead Jon C take it on board wholesale.

    Capitalist society by its daily operations generates the ideas that sustain it which therefore tend to have the force of the blindingly obvious and also appear as eternal laws of nature. Within this ideology economic cycles and crises are seen either as natural events to which we must adapt ourselves or illusory solutions are offered in which it is imagined that the state (thought of as a neutral machine standing above social conflict) can regulate capitalism eliminating the worst effects of its cycles and ending its crises. Breaking out of the mental straightjacket of these approaches requires a critique of the production of knowledge in its current state. Look for any hint of that in the writing of Jon C and you will not find much. His report illustrates the problem clearly.

    The problem is that this anti-critical bias is not only a feature of right-wing Labourism but of its left variant as well. The natural hostility of the left to inequality generated by capitalism, and even to capitalism itself, is rarely accompanied by a critique of the concepts and categories generated by capitalist society and through its defenders see it. In other words the left tends to criticise capitalism from within capitalist ideology. Even the best efforts of the left tend to be marked by this. Thus the recent series of lectures organised by John McDonnell, excellent though it was as an effort to raise the level of discussion, did not (as far as I have been able ascertain) step outside of the framework of managed capitalism and some of its star contributors like Paul Krugman, argue that socialism is a dead duck and that capitalism is the only conceivable framework for modern society. That fact alone speaks volumes about the state ofvthe keft.

    The Labour left’s almost total disdain for theory therefore comes at a very high price. Mere moral rejection of capitalist greed does not come fully equipped with a critique of capitalist society. If that critique is not developed the moral revulsion collapses into mere moral posturing and even fashionable but ineffective stances as we see in people like Jon C and in most of the work of the ‘left’ think tank Compass (the work of which is noticeably almost never mentioned in these columns).

    We need to change this situation. We need a regular outlet for debate of these issues from a left Labour perspective. A website which makes this possible is probably the best way forward. Tim Wilkinson recently made suggestions along these lines in these columns. Others have said similar things. Tim invited people to contact him to discuss and I intend to do that.

    1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

      David without reservation I agree with what you say, although I admire John McDonnell and believe him to be sincere in his beliefs, and that he probably doesn’t hold with Paul Krugman’s capitalist view of that kind of society.

      Nevertheless, politician’s come under pressure to conform and that is where we need to grasp hold of the tiller and steer a course that fits with our ideology and not those like Paul Krugman.

      If capitalism worked it would have done so long ago, and the reason it doesn’t is because of conflict of interest, that will never change.

      Socialism works because it based on the needs of people, the Mondragon cooperative proved that with only 6 people in 1954, they built a corporation that now has over 70,000 members working for it, they own it, operate it and benefit from it; they have their own university, medical care education system which local people not members choose to send their children to it,.

      When I visited then a year or so ago they told me that the cooperative exists to create jobs, not profit, although it does both, earn profits and creates jobs.

      There are two companies in Britain that belong to it’s organisation.

    2. Tim Wilkinson says:

      I’ve set up a (very) basic blog at with a comment thread for people to make contact and offer any suggestions, ideas, opinions, whatever.

      Partly arising from any comments received there, and partly from my own elaboration of ideas already mentioned and discussed, I’ll be adding posts to introduce further topics for discussion (and of course reasonably expeditious action).

      As it happens, the first of these which I’m currently putting together is something on think tanks – both from the point of view of their use (currently the predominant use) as a propaganda tool and from the point of view of the more difficult business of doing actual research and policy development.

  15. Tim Wilkinson says:

    & FWIW, I too think David is right about neoliberal hegemony and the atrophy of left wing thought since at least 1989 when the US’s victory in the Cold War was trumpeted as ‘the end of history’ no less, and widely, if incongruously and sub-rationally, accepted in the West as the final moral and intellectual defeat of left-wing ideas.

    In fact in some respects we need to be picking up where Stafford Beer left off when he and Allende were so rudely – and pointedly – interrupted in 1973. (We do at least have vastly superior computing power now.)

    For an illustration of just how bad things have got since then, see this unanswered critique of a piece on the ‘left wing’ site Crooked Timber that purports to give a state-of-the-art assessment of the supposed ‘socialist optimisation problem’:

    There’s something to be said for the idea that we should be specifically seeking to enlist uncelebrated academics who have not been allowed to reach the top of the economics profession. The kind of people most likely to have really useful and radical ideas may well be the academic equivalents of Corbyn – sidelined for decades and all but written off as irrelevant.

    (It is somewhat – though for various reasons only somewhat – instructive to consider the odd assortment of people around Joseph, Thatcher & CPS in the mid-70s.)

    Of course the tricky bit is to identify which supposed ‘mavericks’ and ‘dinosaurs’ have the really great ideas. The upside is that such people are likely to jump at the chance of shaping policy for the next government!

    However, the economics profession has been corrupted at the highest levels (see, for just one obvious example highly relevant to the UK’s current situation, the non-scandal of Reinhart & Rogoff), and so thoroughly colonised by free-market hocus-pocus that it it may be a lost cause, a degenerating research project, at least for a generation or so.

    It may be necessary to look elsewhere – to draw on systems theory & engineering, computer science, empirical social psychology for example, to get an uncontaminated view of the way forward even in economic terms. If so, then it obviously needs to be done with considerable urgency.

    Incidentally, not that they fit the profile I’ve suggested here, Christopher Hood & Ruth Dixon’s recent criticism of so-called ‘New Public Management’ is one source that would be worth following up and possibly gaining input from.


    PS – don’t have contact info for John Walsh, so am relying on his seeing the blog address in the preceding comment. In fact here it is again, in (I hope) clickable form this time:

    1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

      The long and the short of it is, if capitalism worked it would have done long before now.

      Contemplating efficiency of any system depends on expected outcomes, the cost calculations depends again on given worth.

      Socialism grew organically out of the chaos of capitalism, people themselves deduced that they were not receiving the true benefit of their Labours. The struggle has not been about ideas it has been the conflict between the needs of capital and people. Those with capital have used it to grow even more wealth for themselves and manipulated people to subject them to their will.

      Today they are interfering with the democratic aspirations of people using all the technological advances created by the very people they subjugate.

      That is not new, but just as they use technology to their advantage, we can also build democratic institutions that can circumvent the need for capitalists.

      Capitalism feeds of the people it subjugates, we can reverse that by putting capitalism at the periphery where it belongs and plan from the centre to meet the needs of ordinary people using and developing technology further than even capitalists are capable of. An example of that is space technology, where at the end of Communism in Russia, an American discovered a warehouse full of rocket engines in Russia, only to find they were technically 25 years more advanced than the American counterpart, due to continuous development, as opposed to the ad-hoc development under capitalism, showing how capitalism is limited by it’s own greed. The more money it costs to develop the less profit.

      I believe these economists are worth looking at as some are avowed capitalists (why I don’t understand) but offer a window on the failure of capitalism.


      Mark Blyth Pro Capitalist
      Steve Keen ” ”
      Ha-Joon Chang ” ”

      Bill Mitchell (MMT) Left of Centre
      Michael Hudson ” ” ”
      Randal Wray ” ” ”
      Stephany Kelton ” ” ”

      Warren Mosler Ex Gov Advisor USA


      1. Tim Wilkinson says:

        Yes it’s true that the distinction between ideology as rhetoric and as technique is blurred and while work on both is needed, it may be that the former is more important – that has certainly been the key to neoliberalism’s political success.

        This is one of the higher-level issues engaged by the discussion of think tanks, forthcoming over the course of the weekend on the interim discussion forum at .

        When you have a moment, please do take a look at the initial discussion thread and leave any comments that occur to you (even if only negative ones).

        1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

          Please note, an important one I left off my list of economists and which should be added, Yanis Varoufakis.

  16. Andy Morton says:

    Peter Rowlands on Chartist website has said some interesting things on this.

    Some people have noted the ‘Blue Labourism’ that laces much of this, but let’s not dismiss Jon Cruddas points (do challenge however!). For a start, despite speaking to many of the same themes of Glasman etc for quite a while, he was a late convert to it. Some of these issues he raises on Englishness and the modern state of the ‘working people’ (that Labour need to appeal to) need addressing. Those of us who live in working class areas know there’s a problem here. Too many of ‘our people’ don’t relate to trade unions and class identity in the way Labour did 40 years ago. Whether this is the route or not is less the point – we need to better understand the condition of modern working class Britain, because it’s very different now.

    I would urge people to look at Cruddas’ talk at the Mile End Institute last year. Lots of questions unanswered by this (are we embrace or challenge austerity, Jon? are we to embrace the small state it implies?) but food for thought.

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