Sometimes everything has been said but not everyone has said it. That was the feeling about the Beckett Report, the Labour Party’s official review of why the Party lost the 2015 General Election authored by Labour grandee, former Foreign Secretary, former stand-in Leader and accidental Corbyn-nominater, Dame Margarett Beckett MP. The conclusions could have been written by any A-level politics student: Ed Miliband wasn’t seen as Prime Ministerial material, Labour failed to challenge the Tory line that they crashed the economy and the Party lacked an overarching narrative. No surprises there.
The fuss about the Beckett Report ahead of its publication would have suggested this was a forensic and devastating analysis of the Party’s failings. Not so. Reading more like a political broadcast it was couched in such language as to reassure the new party faithful (by which we mean the new members who have swollen Labour’s ranks since Jeremy took charge), not offend the Lefty leadership (don’t offend the Dear Leader) and not hang out to dry too many people (Ed Miliband and certainly not Ed Balls). Those in the know should not have been demanding just the publication of the Beckett Report but also the reports that fed into the final Beckett Report. The analysis report of key seat campaigns, for instance, seems to have been especially brutal and ruthless in its assessment of a catalogue of errors by the then Leadership and the Labour machine but remains locked away at Labour HQ. Sunlight may be the best disinfectant but Labour’s top brass doesn’t want any chemical treatment that may support the argument that Labour wasn’t trusted on the economy, had poor leadership and was seen as a bit Left when it is pursuing those same policies again but this time with added gusto.
Professional socialist, Owen Jones, said the Left has nothing to fear from the publication of the Beckett Report and he was right. A centre of the road, finely balanced political document poses no threat to either Corbyn’s arguments or those forwarded by Labour moderates. No sooner than it was published it has been forgotten. And that’s a shame for anyone who wants Labour to get back to winning ways. The party should be obsessive in consuming, understanding and translating its failings in May 2015 and over the entire 2010 Parliament into actionable insights for the new Leader. Instead, it seems content to wallow in its own echo chamber. If Labour can’t learn lessons from its defeat, it is doomed to repeat those mistakes again.
Read the Beckett Report for yourself here