Venue: Arts Two Lecture theatre, Mile End Campus, Queen Mary University of London
In a wide-ranging speech on the Labour Party’s plight in England, Cruddas said: “In May we lost everywhere to everybody…In 2015 we all need to know the worst; to own the defeat.”
He said: “It was pragmatic-minded voters who dealt Labour its devastating electoral defeat. We lacked economic credibility. They didn’t trust us with their taxes…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,” said Cruddas.
He added that Labour is losing its working class support in England to Ukip.
“Voters who are socially conservative are the most likely to have deserted Labour. They value home, family, and their country. They feel their cultural identity is under threat. Tradition, rules and social order are important to them. Labour no longer represents their lives,” said Cruddas.
Cruddas also criticised the “decisive march” away from the views of voters on key electoral issues: immigration, personal financial interest, welfare, public services, and business.
“The Labour Party is out of step with the wider electorate and the divide is growing…We can seek to change the minds of the public but we should not ignore them,” added Cruddas.
On the economy Cruddas said: “The English electorate holds radical opinions on the economy; 43 per cent agree with wealth distribution from rich to poor and 60 per cent agree that the economic system unfairly favours powerful interests.”
Despite this radicalism, Cruddas cautioned that “fiscal responsibility trumps economic reform” in the minds of voters.
Read the full text of the speech.
He added: “Voters understand the Tories are unfair on the economy…but they do not trust Labour with their taxes and the country’s finances. Until that trust is restored they will never support Labour’s radical economic policies.”
Cruddas concluded with a series of challenges that Labour must confront if it is to avoid “becoming irrelevant to the majority of working people in the country”.
He argued Labour must be pro-business; embrace a federal UK and an English Labour party; reconnect with the politics of shared responsibility, obligation and national renewal; lead on the potential of technology and innovation to improve society; and reclaim a sense of direction on Europe and foreign policy.
The speech was followed by a panel debate (video below) and questions from the audience. The panel included Professor Jane Wills, Queen Mary University of London; Madeleine Bunting, writer and broadcaster; and David Skelton, Director of Renewal (a campaign group to broaden the appeal of the Conservative party to working-class and ethnic minority voters). The event was chaired by BBC broadcaster and journalist Ritula Shah.
This event was organised with the support of the Political Studies Association.