Dagenham MP Cruddas’ hopes for shaping Labour’s next manifesto

Hope, trust and reconnection with voters are to form the basis of Labour’s next election manifesto, according to the party’s new head of policy, Jon Cruddas.

The Dagenham and Rainham MP has spoken about his new appointment to the shadow cabinet, which will see him preside over the details of the party’s pledges to voters at the next general election.

Policy review

Mr Cruddas, who was appointed co-ordinator of the policy review by Labour leader Ed Miliband, has three years to help shape policies that could contribute to the party regaining power at Westminster.

The review, launched after Labour lost the 2010 election, will define the content of the party’s 2015 election manifesto.

Describing the role as “very difficult to turn down”, Mr Cruddas added: “I had a meeting with Ed Miliband and he invited me to join the shadow cabinet. It was an offer you could not say no to.

“I was against many Labour Party policies with both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in power and I refused to join their governments.

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“There was a culture of in-fighting and a gang mentality. We have got to try and turn a page on that. It seems to me that Ed Miliband is trying to do that.”

He added: “I will run the policy review with the view of shaping the manifesto and coming up with a new agenda which will allow us to reconnect with people on the ground.

“This way, you get the opportunity to try to shape some of the policies and speak up for the people you’re representing.”

The simple formula of “reconnecting with voters” is also the mantra of Barking MP Margaret Hodge, who saw off the British National Party leader Nick Griffin in the 2010 election.

Mr Cruddas said: “It will mean sitting down and talking to people and to try to break those views to my colleagues in the shadow cabinet in Westminster. I’m interested in the views of people from as wide a group as possible, to try and rebuild trust in the political process.”

The politician believes there is a wealth of issues he can draw on and filter into the review, based on his constituents’ concerns. He said these range from the “standards of care that older family members are experiencing”, to “good access for health and school places”.

Mr Cruddas also wants to address the issues of families being evicted by private landlords, transport links and finding “a new approach to being good neighbours”.

He said: “For example, on Friday I was talking to some people who run body shops for cars about how they’re really struggling.” He went on to explain that many of these mechanics complain about problems with insurance companies.

“Those sorts of things are local but they have national relevance,” Mr Cruddas said. “If we start linking our policies to day-to-day experiences of people – such as mothers in care homes – then we might reconnect.”

Making politics accessible to the average person is another of his main aims.

“By the next election we want to have a series of policies that cut through in a language that the people understand, that relates to their day-to-day experiences and gives us a definition of causes, as a source of hope,” said Mr Cruddas.

“That’s what people are in need of. There will be none of this highfalutin language. But that’s easier said than done.”

He welcomed the fact that, with Mrs Hodge chairing the powerful Public Accounts Committee, “both MPs will have quite a voice over public debate”.

On the broader issue of a referendum on Europe, which Mr Cruddas is likely to push for, he said: “It’s an issue of trust and it’s a question of democracy. People should be able to vote. All parties promised a referendum, all of which renegaded. That’s the sort of example that leads trust away from politics.”

When asked how he would vote, he said: “I would probably vote for a ‘Yes’ but only in a revised version of the membership agreements.”

He said working as an MP in Dagenham had only strengthened his former beliefs and added: “It’s mostly confirmed my general views about what people want in terms of decent housing, good education, police on their streets.

“They want to be valued and respected, and they want to be able to look after friends and neighbours. It has confirmed my belief in the decency of people.

“Labour should be on the side of that.”