Thursday 14 January 2016

Previewing the Beckett Report

It's unusual for a dull, internal party report to become a cause celebre, but these are unusual times. For the last week comrades who follow Progress and Labour First folk may have found them talking an awful lot about the Beckett Report. There's even a petition about it. Commissioned to find out to explain why Labour lost the general election, it's become something of a totem because, against the spirit of "straight talking, honest politics", there is the suggestion Jeremy's office has sat on it since November. The supposition is it will confirm the view that elections are won from the centre, not the left.

Anyway, save it being leaked to me, it's all set to be published next Tuesday and the BBC have had a preview. There are no rabbits out of the hat. Margaret has concluded that the party didn't defend its record in government, and gave the Tories a free pass to pin the global economic crash on us. We didn't connect on what the electorate - rightly or wrongly - regard as hot button issues, particularly immigration and social security. Nor, quelle surprise, was the Milibae viewed as up to the job. And to top it off the Tory scaremongering around a Labour/SNP coalition proper buggered us up. This is the thanks Labour got for saving the union.

This we all know. Even if your sole news source was this blog, you might have caught my moans about fear and lack of policy coherence. And as sure as night follows day, the Beckett Report will be used to browbeat the left about the sort of political approach our party needs if it is to win in 2020.

The problem is not that Jeremy's supporters aren't interested in forming a government. Positioning for narcissistic reasons is, thankfully, a niche pursuit. Rather, they want a government based on "proper" Labour values. Defenders of Labour's record in government can make a case that this is exactly what we got during our 13 years in office, but others might point out the record of privatisation, the benefit-bashing, the pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment, the blind-eye to the consequences of globalisation, and so on. If that wasn't enough, from this point of view you can conclude that whatever one thought of Ed Miliband's approach, on these issues the established line was barely deviated from, if at all. As far as Jeremy supporters go, two elections have been fought and lost on the tried-and-trusted, and been found wanting. Time to give something new a go.

If the centre and the right want its hegemony back, they have to think a bit more creatively about its response and use of Margaret's conclusions, but I'm not holding my breath. For one, going by the mountain of comment, it hasn't even yet faced up to why the "sensible" leadership candidates were crushed by the Jeremy juggernaut, nor even asked why many Labour Party members find Labour's record in government less-than-inspiring. Until they can arrive at answers and employ them to inform their internal strategy for re-winning the party, signs of their coming back are set to be few and far between.

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