Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Don't Panic!

At the risk of inducing fresh apoplexy amongst Jon Cruddas groupies, there was an important nugget in an article by John Rentoul in today's Independent regarding the Labour membership issue.

Cruddas recently tried to whip up panic over Labour's membership figures, which currently stand just below 200,000 to boost his Deputy Leadership chances, and had to be slapped down by Hazel Blears. Rentoul points out however that at the end of John Smith's well-regarded leadership, membership stood at 254,000. For sure membership soared in the late 1990's as a result of Labour's popularity in opposition and the Tories' disastrous record, but once the change in government had been achieved, many of these newly-recruited members drifted away, job done.

That doesn't mean that I'm relaxed about the current state of Party finances, or the pressing need to recruit more members. It is important to retain a sense of perspective, however, when candidates for office make self-serving statements which cast the Party in a poor light.


JM said...

I am a Cruddas supporter and I do think your statement is unfair. There is nothing "self serving" about wanting to discuss what needs to be discussed. Our party cannot kept on burying its head in the sand.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. I'm fed up with the Cruddas boosterism. Why him and not one of the other 200 odd backbench MPs? What has he ever done?

Anonymous said...

Erm, that seems to be an argument against letting anyone new do anything. You vote for people because of what they're going to do, not what they have done...

nick said...

I hardly think Blears slapped him down, she instead came up with a fairly hilarious explanation that Labour Party membership figures are related to "a global increase in apathy".

Then again, the claim that party members have all left because they'd done their job in '97 is also a fairly ridiculous one.

It is fair enough to say that there were a number who may have left for that reason, and a number who simply weren't up for the kind of compromises that being in government entails. I can live without most of those people.

But the decline then was not actually particularly sharp. A far steeper fall started following the stitch ups in Wales and London in 2000 and continued as the second term govt seemed to take a sharp rightward turn.

The Party maintained a membership of about 250-300,000 throughout the 1980s and 1990s, so the '97 level was probably a blip, but we should be seriously worried that we are now down to under 180,000 (NEC ballots this year) and even more worried at the loss of so many active members.

Now is the time that we can turn that around and it would be an extroadinarily short sighted attitude to say we shouldn't talk about any of our problems - and their solutions - in the forthcoming debates.

Anonymous said...

Given what has happened this year and the behaviour we have witnessed from people at the very top of our party, I think that accusing Jon Cruddas of all people of dragging the party down with his actions is pretty unbelievable stuff.

Plenty of the other deputy leadership candidates have been happy to grab themselves publicity as well. Nothing wrong with that, but you seem to have a bit of a double standards thing going on!

JM said...

Hear Hear anonymous!

james said...

Do you actually have anything positive to say about whoever you are supporting rather than slagging off other candidates, Cllr Wallis?

It seems a bit ironic that you are attacking Cruddas for being critical by posting up entirely negative and critical snide remarks about him all the time!

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks James.

At the moment, I'm not backing anyone - we're still at the very early stages of the contest. As the various candidates and their manifestos emerge, I'll make my choice then.

At the moment, I'm only being negative about Jon Cruddas because some of his positions are the antithesis of what the Party needs to be doing over the next few years. As soon as he speaks some sense, I'll be happy to be nice to him!