A few weeks ago, Allegra Stratton put the cat among the Labour pigeons when she blogged that Jon Cruddas and James Purnell might team up to run for the leadership. At the time, some dismissed the idea out of hand. The nay-sayers argued that the ideological differences between Cruddas and Purnell are simply too large; Cruddas takes his inspiration from the first phase of Blairism and Purnell from its final period. But I’ve always thought an alliance was a distinct possibility. Both men know that their factions aren’t big enough to deliver the leadership on their own.
Another factor pushing Cruddas and Purnell together is that the other leadership options are so dire for Labour. Harriet Harman’s brand of cultural leftism is hardly what the country is crying out for. The only thing Ed Balls has ever had going for him as a politician is his (undeserved) reputation as an economic policy genius; that now lies in tatters. Ed Miliband is to a post-defeat Labour party, what William Hague was to the Tories in 1997: a young face who will not move the party out of its ideologically comfort zone.
So, it is fascinating to see Cruddas and Phil Collins, who writes Purnell’s most important speeches, trying to agree a common platform in Progress, the New Labour house journal. As Allegra Stratton notes, there’s still a long way to go. But the mere fact that they are having this discussion shows how seriously the two camps are taking the need to build an alliance that can square their ideological differences.