4 key points from Labour’s Beckett Report into General Election defeat


Report lists Ed Miliband, the SNP and concerns over the economy and immigration as reasons for Labour’s defeat
THE LABOUR PARTY has released its report into why it lost the 2015 May General Election.
The report, produced by a taskforce headed by Labour grandee Margaret Beckett, has met with a mixed reaction from the Labour’s increasingly factionalised party machine and membership. It has, like everything else in the party, become an instrument in the dispute over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
But what are the major reasons for Labour’s defeat according to the document, sourced from the experiences of party activists, pollsters and academics?
CommonSpace takes a look at the key findings.
1.) Scotland and the SNP
The report lists the SNP’s domination of the election in Scotland as one of four key reasons why Labour lost in 2015.
Labour lost 40 seats to the insurgent SNP after the independence referendum, retaining only one, while the SNP became the third party in the UK with 56 seats.
Beckett wrote in the report: “The collapse in Scotland made it impossible for us to be the biggest party.”
It is worth remembering that in strict numerical terms the Conservatives would have won the election even if the Labour vote in Scotland had held up.
However, the report also claims that fears of SNP influence in a Labour government worked well for the Conservatives.
2.) Weak Ed Miliband?
Another of the four major factors outlined is former Labour leader Ed Miliband being seen by the electorate as a less strong leader than David Cameron.
The report also claims that Ed Miliband campaigned well but faced an “exceptionally vitriolic” campaign of opposition from the media, claims which figures on the right of the party say are excuses.
Ed Miliband is said to be unhappy with the report, and to have seen it before publication. The Telegraph has also claimed that the former leader made important amendments to the report before it was published.
3.) Too left or too right?
The report claims that Labour failed to “connect” with voters on the economy, immigration and welfare reform.
It does not come out strongly on whether policy was too left wing (as Corbyn’s detractors claim) or too right wing (as Corbyn’s supporters argue).
Noting that Labour felt pressure on its left flank from the Greens and the SNP, Beckett also ventures that the SNP’s policy prospectus included some measures that were more “conservative” than Labour.
This elides the fact that the SNP’s banner policy was opposition to austerity, unlike Labour.
4.) Mountain to climb in 2020
The report notes that Labour faces major demographic challenges to pull off a Labour victory in the next General Election in 2020.
It concludes that the UK’s rapidly ageing population could award more than half a million new votes to the Conservatives, who perform strongly among older voters.
The Conservatives are also undertaking a boundary review to reduce the number of constituencies and MPs from 650 to 600, a change which is expected to benefit the Tories.
The report also notes the small number of marginal seats in England and Wales, with Labour votes stacking up in traditional Labour areas but receding in key marginals in 2015.
There are no marginals in Scotland, and of prospects here the report only states: “Scotland is a huge challenge.”
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Picture courtesy of Walt Jabsco