By Mike Blakeney
Well it’s the issue that seems to have set the blogosphere alight – the ideologically conspicuous pairing of Jon Cruddas and James Purnell. Why would such a pairing possibly occur? It’s important to note that there is little to no evidence of anything happening here, but it’s interesting enough to warrant a discussion.
Two issues arise immediately:
Cruddas was always a Brownite, a protégé of his if you will.
However it’s also oft said that whoever wields the knife, never wears the crown.
Both of these points conflict here. Why would Cruddas knowingly wield the knife against a key ally? He has drifted somewhat (ok a lot) to the left of Brown since becoming an MP, and has vocally disapproved of many of Labour’s policies, becoming a key spokesman for the “Compass Left” of the party in doing so. Purnell has done nothing of the sort, and is the quintessential New Labour, cosmopolitan, less ideological, high-flying minister with his fellow Primrose Hill Gang accomplices David Miliband, Andy Burnham and so forth.
This has led to widespread derision of the theory. However it’s not as outlandish as it may seem. Let us theorise…
If Brown stands down, Cruddas and Purnell could stand in to unite the party. But why would Purnell do that, and backstab Miliband et. al.? Why would Cruddas backstab his old friend Gordon Brown? Wouldn’t this amount to a coup, dividing the party immeasurably at the worst possible time?
I’m fairly sure this scenario is unlikely. Perhaps, however, their goal isn’t the crown, but simply to knock the crown off a certain other minister’s head, and allow others to take Gordon’s place.
Again though, this seems odd. As surely the obvious successor would be Miliband, who’s hardly a “compass lefty”. Perhaps Cruddas thinks someone on the left of the party could win. I fail, though, to think who could be a possible contender of the Left other than Cruddas himself.
I can only therefore conclude the aim would be to simply oust Gordon Brown before a General Election, and have someone form the younger generation succeed him. This still seems a bit farfetched – I don’t see the logic of Cruddas throwing himself on his own grenade to spite an old friend in favour of his “enemy”.
I can’t see how this could work. Not because I think the Cruddas/Purnell partnership is unworkable. Quite the opposite – it could be genius. But Cruddas wouldn’t stand to gain anything, and instead would lose the respect of his base, and Purnell equally would likely put his ministerial career on the line.
All in all? I think the rumours are rubbish. Most likely a challenge would come from John McDonnell or Michael Meacher, and Cruddas would run for leader against Miliband. This would in itself be disastrous. To portray the party as divided that close to an election would be unlikely to improve our fortunes.
Let’s stick together. Let’s follow Gordon into the next election. And let’s stop this speculation on who may be running for what. Gordon Brown is our leader and he will be come the election. Let’s stop this positioning and manoeuvring and do what Labour do best. Unity.
I was proud when I sat inside Labour’s Spring Conference just one year ago, and the media waited for the opportunity to spot disunity and make that the story. It never came. Time after time they interviewed supporters, waiting for those words that never came. The media never got their story, and our reward was a large boost in the polls.
We’re stronger together.
Mike Blakeney also blogs at mikeblakeney.co.uk/blog.