Labour was too timid under Miliband, internal inquiry shows

Dame Margaret Beckett’s report has been leaked to the BBC [Image: Ben Cawthra/REX/Shutterstock].

The former Labour leadership is clearly to blame for the loss of the 2015 general election – mostly because frontbenchers were afraid to challenge the Tory narrative when it counted.

Let’s look at the reasons this report says Labour lost:

Failure to shake off the myth that Labour was responsible for crashing the economy – This is because it seemed nobody on Labour’s front bench was allowed to put forward any opposing view. Time and time again, This Blog raged against the fact that Labour quite deliberately let the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats spread a myth. The only frontbencher This Writer can recall coming out with the facts was Peter Hain, and he has now been sent to the Lords.

Inability to deal with issues of ‘connection’ like immigration and benefits – Again, This Blog spent years putting forward the facts but Labour seemed unwilling to engage with them. Why couldn’t Ed Miliband just face Cameron down and assert that immigrants aren’t benefit tourists, here to take our money (in fact, they contribute to the UK economy)? As for benefits, This Writer had a very nasty argument with current shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith because Labour would not publicly commit to scrapping the deadly work capability assessment for people claiming sickness benefits, apparently because it would provide ammunition for the right-wing press. You and I know that Labour lost millions of votes because of this, but the Labour front bench at the time wouldn’t have it.

Miliband was judged not to be as strong a leader as David Cameron – Looking at the two points we’ve already addressed, the truth of this statement seems clear. The Miliband leadership was unwilling to challenge the prevailing right-wing propaganda about these matters – afraid of what the papers might say. Of course, this doesn’t mean he would not have been a better leader than Cameron; indeed, it is almost certain that he would have been. Look at the list of scandalous policies the Tories are pushing through Parliament at the moment – none of them would have been Miliband policies. Alas, public perception of a leader’s strength doesn’t seem to extend as far as judging the quality of the leadership he’s likely to provide.

A fear among voters of the SNP propping up a minority Labour government – This was a myth created by the SNP and wholeheartedly seized by the Conservatives. Miliband denied it at every turn but nobody wanted to believe him. Of course, if he had shown a little more free will regarding some of the issues we’ve already discussed, he would have won a lot more support and the possibility of a minority Labour government needing anyone to prop it up would not have arisen.

The lack of a coherent narrative linking Labour’s popular left-wing policies – If there was such a narrative, we didn’t see it. It seemed more likely that Labour’s leaders had cobbled together a list of policies they thought would appeal to people’s selfishness, without disturbing the overall neoliberal direction of travel too much. Big mistake.

Now, we have a new leadership in charge of Labour. That myth about Labour crashing the economy has been well and truly trashed, although some might say it’s too late now. New thinking about those ‘connection’ issues is making itself felt. It’s still too early to make any firm claims about Jeremy Corbyn as a leader, but he has won several major battles within his own party and tackled the Tories on many more issues, so he’s definitely going in the right direction. And Labour is working hard to retake the banner of socialism from the SNP pretenders.

Corbyn hasn’t learned from the mistakes highlighted by the report, though – he always thought they were bad ideas.

Perhaps that’s why party membership and popularity has boomed since he took over.

Labour lost the 2015 general election because voters feared it would join forces with the SNP, did not see Ed Miliband as prime ministerial and were not supportive of the party’s policies on the economy, welfare and immigration, an internal report has found.

The official Labour inquiry, run by Dame Margaret Beckett, a former deputy leader, was commissioned by the party leadership last year but has not yet been made public.

It is due to be discussed by a subcommittee of Labour’s ruling body, the national executive committee, but its principal findings have been leaked to the BBC and confirmed by the Guardian.

Source: Beckett report: Labour lost election over economy, immigration and benefits | Politics | The Guardian

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14 thoughts on “Labour was too timid under Miliband, internal inquiry shows

  1. Terry Davies

    yes Becketts assessment of Milliband seems accurate. He was too nice for politics and couldnt deal with the cut and thrust of the right wing MPs in the Labour party. They wanted to offer the same as tories.
    The jury is still out on Corbyn though in fairness he seems more realistic, intellectual and more principled than any of the recent party leaders.
    This combined with public recognition that tories are untrustworthy may result in a further move to the left and towards democracy.

  2. Joan Edington

    I wholeheartedly agree with most of the points here, Mike, but I’m confused about the 4th point. What was the myth? Was it the fear or the actual possibility of the SNP supporting Labour

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The myth was that there could ever be a minority Labour government supported by the SNP. It was never going to happen. Miliband knew that the SNP would try to blackmail Labour, given the balance of power, and was never going to allow it. If Labour had gained more seats than the Tories – but not enough for a majority government, it would have formed a minority government, relying on the support of other parties on a vote-by-vote basis.

      1. Terry Davies

        now there is a need for all opposition to vote against each and every policy the tories come up with to force a vote of no confidence in the government.

      2. Joan Edington

        Mike, the SNP always said they would support Labour on a vot-for-vote basis if no formal co-operation was formed. Are you then saying that Milliband would not have allowed the SNP to back him in these cases, only the other parties? That wouldn’t have helped him much.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        No. No party can stop another from supporting it on any legislation, motion, amendment or whatever – but that is a very different arrangement from a formal coalition.

  3. mohandeer

    Corbyn hasn’t learned from the mistakes highlighted by the report, though – he always thought they were bad ideas.
    I was following this blog until the last statement. Which mistakes is Corbyn not learning?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The point I was making is that Corbyn always opposed the mistakes highlighted by the report. You can’t learn from a mistake if you always thought it was a bad idea – the findings of the report therefore only confirm what Corbyn was saying all along.

  4. NMac

    I agree wholeheartedly with most of the findings. In particular I could never ever for the life of me understand why the Labour hierarchy allowed the Tories to get away with the lie that it was Labour which was responsible for the economic crash. At the time it was so frustrating to see the Nasty Party really going to town on this one, when all the time it was their own capitalist chums who were the cause.

    1. AE

      Totally agree NMAC. The party went completely to ground after the 2010 election when the seeds of this lie were being embedded whilst Labour focused on the Milliband bros saga. They did not put forward a coherent response for five years, almost became economy apologists as the myth became further and further embedded. I am not sure I will ever forgive them for it.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        No, Labour did not go “to ground”. All you have to do to see the falsehood of this claim is read the last few years of my blog. The debates on sickness and disability benefits, and on bombing Syria (in 2013) are particularly illuminating.
        If you are saying Labour never overturned any Coalition policy, then you don’t understand how the UK Parliament works when one party, or a coalition of parties, has a majority.

  5. stevecheneysindieopinions4u

    I think unfortunately, Miliband will be the focus of the criticism from Progress types. They won’t want to admit that, actually, his front bench were just as much as fault if not more so. Ed Balls springs to mind – I’m sure he was the one who apologised for Labour’s record as presented by the tabloids.

    What’s definitely clear is that the tabloids can’t really hurt Labour if Labour don’t let them. Much like the Tories, people won’t generally trust or believe what they say until someone who seems more moral or trustworthy weighs in – even if it’s just to deny it. Corbyn has the right idea: ignore them until they say something coherent, and be honest when they do.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I think you’re mistaken here. Labour’s former leadership – not just Miliband – are blamed by the report.

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