I wrote previously about how underwhelming the official Margaret Beckett review into Labour’s general election campaign was. By contrast, the piece penned by Labour peer Spencer Livermore (a former colleague of mine at Blue Rubicon with a fearsomely tidy desk) for the New Statesman is vastly better and franker.
Ironically, although as a senior figure in Labour’s 2015 general election campaign Spencer might be tempted to go for the positive whitewashing, it is his account which is franker and more useful than the official inquest. His lessons are also applicable more widely than just the Labour Party:
I have huge respect for Ed Miliband, both as a friend and as a politician who showed great courage in the last election. But his leadership was built on three assumptions which time and election defeat have shown to be flawed. Firstly, that the global financial crisis had created a leftwards shift in public opinion. Second, that a collapse in support for the Liberal Democrats would result in their voters “coming home” to Labour, reducing the need to attract former Conservative voters. And third, that the tarnishing of the new Labour brand created a necessity for the party to define itself as much against the last government as against the current one.
It might be claimed with hindsight that these assumptions were clearly always flawed. But they were views honestly held by some, who felt they had evidence to sustain them.
Spencer Livermore’s full piece is well worth a read (even/because I don’t agree with all of it), and goes on to scrutinise the assumptions on which Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to the next general election is being built.
For more on what went wrong for Labour, see Tim Bale’s excellent and prophetic Five Year Mission.