A new report on why Labour supposedly lost the election, authored by Margaret Beckett, has two main claims. One, that it’s thorough. Two, that Ed Miliband being leader had nothing to do with it. I think these two assertions are mutually exclusive.
Even more exciting (for someone like me who gets excited by such things), another report on why Labour lost the election has been written, attempted to be buried and then – I love this bit – leaked to the press. And not the Guardian or even the Indy but the bleeding Daily Mail. Someone who was less than satisfied with the Beckett report’s conclusions was clearly was looking to make a statement.
The idea that you can even try and absolve Miliband of blame for the loss is startling. The guy was way behind Cameron in every pollable category (those were the polls we should have all been paying closer attention to). He seemed weak and weird, never a good combination in a political leader. I was completely convinced Labour had no chance of winning or even being the largest party in the Commons post-May 7th, at least until the pollsters (wrongly) made me feel think otherwise for a few bizarre weeks.
What’s so strange about the Beckett report and its Miliband denial is that it should still cling to such a retro line even after everything that’s happened with Corbyn over the past four months. The Labour Party is in meltdown, Momentum on the march against all PLP members right of Trotsky, and meanwhile what a significant part of the old guard is spending time and political capital doing is trying to absolve the bloke who is responsible in no small party for landing them in the soup they currently all inhabit.
Particularly given the Beckett report was immediately denounced by the Corbynistas as a piece of Blaitite propaganda that dared to assert that just possibly the country didn’t have much of an appetite for certain left leaning things on the Labour agenda. The report even bends over backwards to be as leftie friendly as possible too, telling us that most of the policies that the public liked from the Miliband buffet happened to be the most left wing ones. But to no avail.
This is one of the problems politics always has: political leaders are either blamed for everything until everyone realises they weren’t so bad after all and all’s forgiven (mostly anyhow), or they are shielded from blame as much as possible for as long as possible until one day the shark is jumped and they are deemed sub-Iain Duncan Smith; to be blamed for every bad subsequent thing that has happened to the party since they stepped down.
Miliband appears to be headed for the latter narrative. It’s a shame that Margaret Beckett and her cohorts were behind the curve on this one.