UK Politics

Labour's general election defeat verdict revealed

Ed Miliband Image copyright PA
Image caption Ed Miliband was seen as a weaker leader than David Cameron, an internal report says

Labour's general election policies were not too left wing, an internal report into why the party lost says.

There are claims the report, which was completed in November, has been suppressed by the party because it would undermine Jeremy Corbyn.

But the BBC's Iain Watson, who was leaked some of the key details, says it does not blame "left wing" policies.

He said the party was likely to publish the report, which was written by Margaret Beckett, on Tuesday.

More than 500 people have signed a petition calling for it to be released, which has been backed by senior Labour figures including Chuka Umunna and former party officials.

BBC Political Correspondent Iain Watson on the key findings

Commissioning the report last May, interim Labour leader Harriet Harman said the party needed a "forensic, honest examination of where it went wrong" in order to regain the trust of the British public.

It will be discussed by a sub committee of Labour's National Executive next week.

In the meantime, I have spoken to a senior Labour source who has seen the report and I have - verbatim - its key findings.

The report sets out four reasons why the party lost the election, gleaned from polling and doorstep conversations:

  • Failure to shake off the myth that we (ie Labour) were responsible for the financial crash and failure to build trust on the economy
  • Inability to deal with issues of "connection" in particular failure to communicate on benefits and immigration
  • Ed Miliband was judged not be as strong a leader as David Cameron
  • Fear of the SNP propping up a minority Labour government

Something for everyone

The report reads like it is written by committee - the left are likely to point to some of its finding a as a kind of endorsement, mainstream MPs will highlight others

Was Labour too left wing?

The report provides some solace for Corbynistas.

It says: "Some of the 'left-wing policies' were the most popular" (eg mansions tax) and "individual policies polled well - the issue was the lack of a consistent, cohesive narrative".

It also says some voters on the left wouldn't have voted for Labour if it had been any more right wing.

But - on the other hand - it says the party failed to win sufficient votes from the Lib Dems in the right parts of the country, and did better in seats which Labour already held, and "we failed to connect with demographic groups who are seen as in the centre" of British politics.

Was Labour badly organised?

Beckett's report more or less absolves the party officials who undertook the "ground war" in the run up to May's general election but suggests the party targeted too many seats - 106. The Conservatives attacked in only 50 and defended a further 50. Labour devoted few resources to seats where it was vulnerable.

Advice for the future

Less spin, and getting the shadow cabinet to hold meetings outside London are among the recommendations, as well as identifying the need to have a "simple seamless narrative".

But Jeremy Corbyn might find some of the report harder to swallow - it calls for a stronger defence of Labour's record in government - ie New Labour's record ("we should be proud of our record of major social change") and that the party should point out how "it paid down debt" before the financial crash.

And it says "we must take the global crash myth head on which dogged us through the last Parliament".

The report also suggests working more closely with business and gives some credence to the criticism that the party wasn't seen as being sufficiently in favour of individual aspiration.

Labour's reaction to the leak

A Labour spokesman said: "The formal process of considering the Learning the Lessons report is in its final stages and will conclude next week when it is presented to the relevant committee of the NEC. The Labour Party will then make the report public."