"The most fundamental error of the Labour Party is never mentioned—it ran in the wrong country"by John McTernan / January 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
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The Beckett Report— “Learning the Lessons from Defeat”—has finally been published nearly nine months after what Jon Cruddas has termed the worst defeat in Labour history. It is obviously far too late. A rapid inquest would have had a chance of shaping the terms of the leadership debate and, indeed, the future direction of the Labour Party. And it could have easily been rapid because there has never been a mystery as to why Labour lost in May 2015. It was because Labour weren’t trusted on economic management, welfare or immigration. Any one of those is a threshold issue for voters—if you don’t meet the standards they demand then you aren’t even in contention for their vote. Labour managed a hat-trick—falling short on all three issues. And as a bonus added a leader who was seen to be weak.
As a consequence the late and heavy onslaught by the Tories that Labour would be in the pockets of a high-spending, left-wing SNP was immensely effective in persuading swing voters to give Cameron the first Tory majority in nearly 20 years. But let’s be clear, it was neither an unfair nor misleading attack—Mark Textor, one of the best pollsters in the world, heard it come from voters in focus groups and Lynton Crosby amplified it and played it back to them. Tough? Yes. But politics is a contact sport.
There is a sense in which the major flaw of the Beckett Report is not that it is too late but that it is too polite—it pulls its punches. The most fundamental error of the Labour Party is never mentioned—that fact that it ran in the wrong country. An imaginary one in which, after the Great Recession, the voters had moved substantially to the left. One in which their anger at the banks had led to not merely a generalised disillusionment with capitalism but to an appetite for a more interventionist left-wing policies. One which didn’t have a good word to say…