UK Politics

Jon Cruddas backs Labour version of Big Society

Jon Cruddas and James Purnell
Image caption Jon Cruddas was speaking with former Labour cabinet minister James Purnell

The coordinator of Labour's policy review has backed the party creating its own version of the Big Society.

Jon Cruddas, who was given the role by Ed Miliband earlier this year, said Labour had "missed a trick" and a Labour Big Society would be a "major plank" of the policy review.

Mr Miliband originally launched the party's two-year review after his election as leader in 2010.

But Mr Cruddas confirmed the review was to be extended for another year.

Speaking at a Labour Party conference fringe event for think tank IPPR, the Dagenham MP said the review would work under the broad title of "rebuilding Britain" - the same as the Manchester conference's slogan.

This was in contrast to the "managed decline" of the Conservatives, he said.

Within the review there will be three themes: rebuilding the economy, rebuilding society and rebuilding politics.

'Compassionate conservatism'

He said: "In a couple of weeks time the shadow cabinet will be going away for an awayday and will agree the programme of work for the policy review around those three workstreams for the next 12 months under this basic frame of 'rebuilding Britain'."

The workstream on rebuilding society would involve Labour acknowledging that it "missed a trick" when it failed to respond to David Cameron's Big Society.

"There was a compelling story there by David Cameron and it was a way of rebuilding the language around compassionate conservatism and civic duty," he said.

"We criticised that and we had a cold language. We didn't inhabit those spaces. So we're setting up some work programmes to do precisely that and rebuild our own version of the Big Society."

He declined give detail on what a Labour Big Society might look like, saying he was waiting for shadow cabinet agreement on the new structure of the policy review.

"But it is a major plank," he said. "It also shines a light on some of the things we got wrong... Cameron arguably made a very successful land grab.

"Obviously it has collapsed, partly because it was a growth-based agenda. So when the music stopped they were unable to carry it on in practice."

'All hands to the pump'

Despite seeming to direct the work of one "pillar" of the policy review, Mr Cruddas, who used to work in Downing Street under Tony Blair, said he saw his job as a "secretary" trying to facilitate the work of the policy review.

"What we're trying to do is set up a process and allow a bit of energy and oxygen into it.

"Reconnect with different intellectual and academic communities, think tanks, local government activity - just to try and get something cooking.

"I've never wanted my own personal views to be the flagship views of the Labour Party.

"My job is to try and create some kind of process to allow a serious policy framework to widen and deepen and out of that come a pretty good manifesto that goes with the grain of people in this country that will hopefully be validated at the election."

Asked about whether he was ambitious for a cabinet role in a future Labour government, Mr Cruddas said he was not.

"If we get in, then I'm off. My personal view is I don't want anything out of it. The Labour Party has given me masses and I just think its all hands to the pump," he said.

"It's not about trading up and trying to get a job in government."