Labour split over plan for English wing of party

Ice Crack Split

A split has emerged within Labour after its former policy chief Jon Cruddas announced he was setting up an English wing of the party.

Cruddas told an audience at a thinktank that he was in the process of “imminently” setting up an English wing, like the Scottish and Welsh parties, as part of the response to the challenge of how Labour can win again in 2020.

But within the hour a Labour spokeswoman had slapped down the idea of an official or unofficial English Labour party. “There are no plans to create an English party,” she said.

If he gets enough support from English MPs, Cruddas, the MP for Dagenham and Rainham, could press ahead with the group without official approval.

In a discussion session at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) about what went wrong with Labour’s campaign, Cruddas expanded on some of his previous assertions that the party needs radical change in order to be electable again.

He said a senior party figure had told him “we’ve got two years to save Labour”, before adding: “That sounds melodramatic but I don’t think it is.” Cruddas said things could get much worse for the party, saying: “We seem to have lost everywhere to everyone.”

The party looked like it had “remote, soulless politics” during the election and needed to remember Tony Blair’s talent for using the language of national renewal, shared sacrifice and contribution, he said. “The scale of the challenge for Labour is absolutely massive,” Cruddas said.

He said the English Labour party plan was in the planning stages and would be formally announced next month. He added that this was perhaps something he should not have said.

If it goes ahead, the structure is likely to be controversial as many unionists in the party are opposed to the idea of federalising, especially as Labour tries to win back lost support in Scotland.

However, there is clear support among some English Labour MPs, including Graham Allen, who said he “fully supports Jon Cruddas’s call for distinct English, Scottish and Welsh Labour parties as part of a federal Labour party”.

He added: “This would allow greater expression through Labour of the views of the peoples of those nations while remaining part of the overall UK federal Labour party.

“It would also facilitate Labour leading the growing aspiration for the UK itself to be four nations freely working together rather than just one gripped by outdated centralisation.

“It will also be the beginning of the end for separatism as all devolved nations would have the freedoms they crave from Whitehall yet have the security we get by choosing to be together.”

The progress of the idea could depend on who is elected as party leader in September, as the four candidates – Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn – are likely to have very different views about the merits of the proposal.

Speaking later on Wednesday, Cruddas said it was technically correct that the party is not planning to change its constitution. But he added: “However since the EVEL [English votes for English laws proposals] last year this is a growing debate across the party. There was a meeting at the party conference last year and, since the election, it has been building. A meeting is being scheduled for next month to discuss the issue and how to campaign for this.”

Powered by article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for The Guardian on Wednesday 24th June 2015 16.59 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010