The Beckett report reminds us of the utter uselessness of Labour’s establishment

by Atul Hatwal

The Beckett report is a woeful reminder of the paucity of insight that characterised Labour’s pre-Corbyn establishment.

Commissioned by Harriet Harman in her second stint as acting leader, with Margaret Beckett -the only MP to have served in every Labour government since Wilson’s in the 1970s – leading the drafting team, this report is steeped in the mores and perspectives of Labour’s old guard.

The resulting analysis manages to be both asinine and anodyne in equal measure

Meaningless blandishments that would be laughed at if written in a GCSE essay are proffered as pearls of wisdom. For example, on communications, this is Beckett’s recommendation,

“We need a comprehensive media strategy, which includes local, regional and national media, print, broadcasting and social media. “

Yes, really.

On Labour’s vision for the country, the report says,

“We must set out a vision for the country’s future, which shows both what we believe the country needs and what we will contribute to its achievement.”

Who would set out a vision based on what the country didn’t need and how Labour wouldn’t contribute to things getting better? Was the team writing this report ill?

Simultaneously, fundamental reasons for defeat such as Ed Miliband’s leadership are glossed over.

“Over the period 2010 – 15, what the polls did consistently show was that, when asked if ‘this man could be Prime Minister’, David Cameron was rated above Ed Miliband. Since he actually was Prime Minister, this response was perhaps less than surprising.

It is the fate of every Labour Leader of the Opposition to be the target of ferocious attack from partisan sections of our media. Tony Blair was called ‘Bambi’, and described as too young and inexperienced to be up to doing the job.”

This glib statement is tossed in without the salient qualification that Ed Miliband trailed David Cameron on preference for Prime Minister by double digits while Tony Blair led John Major by a similar margin.

Not only is Ed Miliband excused his obvious role in the disaster of 2015 but the report is actively misleading on one of the prime reasons that Labour was victorious in 1997!

Beckett is a product of the same mode of lazy, smug, wrong-headed politics which has gripped Labour’s upper echelons for most of the last decade.

It’s tone is reminiscent of the response of organisations such as FIFA, the IAAF and UCI when first confronted with evidence of their failings.

As with these bodies, Beckett tells a tale of an organisation that has fundamentally failed to grasp the magnitude of the problems that face it.

Jeremy Corbyn is patently a disaster. But anyone interested in the notion of another Labour government should be thankful for one casualty of the Corbynite deluge: Labour’s old ruling class.

No moderate should mourn the passing of these cossetted time-servers.  While the hard left must be defeated, there’s little point to rebuilding the rotten edifice that gave us the 2010 and 2015 campaigns, which indulged Gordon Brown’s manias, that enabled Ed Miliband’s junior common room posturing and where something like Beckett would have passed muster as strategy.

No. No. No.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

Tags: , , , ,

13 Responses to “The Beckett report reminds us of the utter uselessness of Labour’s establishment”

  1. Disenfranchised says:

    I wish somebody would humanely end this.

    Watching a recent report from Cologne, the observation that I had made in the UK was quite evident in Germany; that there were now not only the historical divisions of colour and class, but there is also now one of ‘educated Left/Liberal’ vs ordinary blue collar workers.

    Whilst ‘ordinary’ outraged German citizens protested against the rapes and sexual molestation of young women on New Years Eve, they were met by a self-proclaimed, would-be superior liberal elite chanting “Get an education”.

    Of course, this idea will be met with the patronising “left behind” meme, but it won’t wash.

    The Labour party is now pro-EU and pro-mass immigration – two things that have trodden the security and identity of its traditional voter base into the dirt, if Beckett and co believe that this piece of childish drivel is going to have the sheep returning to the fold she is extremely delusional.

    In any marriage, once a party is betrayed trust is never regained.

  2. swatantra says:

    Waiting for this flipping Report was like waiting for Godot. Eventually it did turn up, but realy wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
    The 3 main reason #s for failure were Ed, Ed and Ed, and Len.
    I’m just worried that 2016 is going to be a pretty miserable year for Labour, with a Leader that doesn’t seem to be in touch wit the Country Govt isn’t just about Vision its about running the trains on time and giving people that deserve it a decent life.
    Too often Labour is concerned with the flotsam and jetsom that life throws up, ie the ‘weak and the vulnerable’, that it often takes its eye off the ball and neglects the 95% of decent law abiding citizens that want to live safely and not put up with nuisance neighbours jigadists and a plethora of people that haven’t quite bought into the British way of life. Which begs the question: what the bloody hell are they doing here then
    That is why Labour failed.
    Good stuff from Atul I was afraid that Uncut had gone off the boil.

  3. Delta says:

    The real tragedy Atul, is the way in which Labour has mutated from being a forwards thinking, proactive political force that can operate in the normal world in which the vast majority of us inhabit, to an utterly embarrassing anti-rich, anti-business, anti-privilege based group of rich, public and private sector rich, privileged hypocrites.
    On policy they are utterly bland believing in nothing but their precious “careers”, actual individuals who wish to lead our country by sticking to a fundamental political position are non-existent in the PLP and any senior position.
    Just an exclusive group of people who have no particular occupational skill or meaningful experience to offer clinging on whilst making sure the Labour Party machine and safe seats provides free money for them and their sires. The party is effectively dead and has been for sometime. The irony is even if one poor soul was to explain to these buffoons how they could truly win power and achieve something whilst taking the cream and publicity they desire so much, they would flatten them and reject it. They have retreated to place called conceit, fuelled by their own snobbery, selfishness and comfortable ignorance. Power is an inheritance to them and an entitlement and as long as they retain their safe seats they still get shadow cabinet jobs and dosh to do absolutely nothing other than wait for more morally driven activists to sell ideas that do not exist on doorsteps.

  4. Madasafish says:

    I read Ms Beckett’s “explanation” for the 2015 loss. It stands as a puerile example of political incompetence and cowardice.


    “The Tories outspent us by up to 3 times.”.. err nope.. actually 25% more.

    “Ed did a good job” .. Err no he was useless.. i was banned from LL because I said that in early 2011- it was hardly rocket science..

    Frankly if Ms Beckett were to write that as an essay in a logic class – she had obviously done little homework – she should have got E-.

    But all this pales into inconsequence.

    Labour have learned NOTHING from their defeat..

    I conclude with the New Statesman:
    ” Labour is weaker than under Ed Miliband. If nothing changes soon, and previous relationships hold, the Party is dicing with a double-digit defeat at the 2020 general election, at which it might attract a vote share some way down into the mid- to high-20s. Everything we know – every last scrap of data – says that the Labour Party as we have known it is in very profound trouble indeed.”

    I agree with Delta above.Labour needs a major bloodletting and infusion – not of new talent – but SOME talent. At present it would appear to have none..

    This country needs an effective Opposition. What we have is a shambles..

  5. Tafia says:

    Becketts report is mainly supposition.

    Take for instance the recent British Election Study which questioned 30,000 actual voters about the 2015 election.

    Their conclusion is clear. There was no shy Tory vote, no late swing votes and no anti-SNP vote. They found that if Labour went to the right they would LOSE votes and if they went to the Left they would gain votes. They cntradictorily they also found that going Left was not sufficient to get a victory (ie no matter which way Labour shift, they can no longer win). The biggest factor was Labour lost votes because they were in charge when the 2008 financial crash happened and it will take decades for Labour to recover from that unless something similar happens under the tories. They found that similalrly the ERM-sterling crisis kept the Tories out of power and was a major part of Blair’s 1997 victory. There is much truth to concerns about Ed Milliband.

    This is part of what the study found:

    “…The first is the ‘SNP threat’. As discussed above, we currently find little robust evidence that attitudes towards the SNP and expectations about a hung parliament resulted in gains for the Conservatives from Ukip or in vote losses for Labour from former Lib Dems.

    “The second red herring is Labour’s left-right position, that is, the question of whether Labour was either overly or insufficiently left-wing. Generally, our data shows that people were more likely to vote Labour in 2015 when they thought the party was more left-wing, and less likely to vote Labour when they thought it was centrist. (on an issue by issue basis)

    “This suggests there is very little to the argument that Labour was too left-wing to attract voters. At the same time there is not much to support the argument that Labour was not left-wing enough. There was very little difference in the likelihood of voting Labour between someone who thought Labour sat at the left-most end of the scale (0) and someone who saw it as just left of centre (4), it is only when people saw Labour as sitting to the right of this point that support really drops off…”

    Other major issues with voters were identified such as Labour being to pro-inmmigration, to pro-benefits, to pro big business and to pro-EU. On the flip side, rail nationalisation (and other utilities) was hugely popular along with other left wing policies such as university grants, large scale council house building etc etc.

  6. Well after Ken’s comments about the mental health of Kevan Jones I am very wary of following that particular line, but after Atul’s cry of help to the soft left in his previous post followed by such an attack on poor Margaret, surely over recent years the role model of all Labour ‘moderates’, I do begin to fear for him.

    Still the Beckett report following on the heels of the Cruddas report does seem to leave much unanswered, so maybe Atul’s nerves are right to be jangled. I first wonder why nobody wants to bring up the failure of Douglas Alexander’s 35% strategy, his minimum offer to the British electorate which itself followed his terrible tactical mistakes over Labour joining the ‘Better Together’ campaign during the Scottish referendum. Now ‘Wee Dougie’ has had his personal punishment for those mistakes, but shouldn’t some of the PLP and Progress be holding up their hands in a bit of mea culpa.

    The second point I would be looking at if I were on Atul’s side of the party would be an investigation to see if there was any correlation between the May result with general electorate and the September result with Labour’s own electorate. I would be wondering why the New Labour standard bearers of Cooper, Burnham and Kendall lost so badly to a left wing backbencher. Could it be that general public were also turning their backs on New Labour? Kendall has come the closest to admitting that the perception of the New Labour managerial style of politics is not something that inspires much support any more.

    David Owen and Shirley Williams are out and about recommending another split in the next couple of years, while Uncut’s resident Liberals will no doubt be saying why not come over directly to them this time and miss out the intermediate step. All I can offer the likes of Atul and Rob is the suggestion to be a little more introspective and think that what they want the Labour Party to be just might make it not only unelectable, but also kill it off as a major player on the British political scene.

  7. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Bambi’s sister in law is becoming quite sexist lately:

    Why shouldn’t devout men also be allowed to wear veils in Britain?

    Madasafish…the effective opposition may not be the Labour Party!

  8. historyintime says:

    I have never seen an official election loss post mortem that was frank and fearless. But Atul is dead right about the useless moderate leadership over the last few years. Exhibit a: losing the leadership to Jeremy Corbyn. Exhibit b: who would be an acceptable and winning moderate candidate to replace him???

    We really need someone who is going to take a bit of risk and be reasonably authentic – ie a leader. But most if not all of the current moderate leadership (I except stalwarts like John Spellar etc) are bureaucrats who have worked their way up a guaranteed career path: university, political or union adviser, MP etc. Of course, that isn’t wholly inconsistent with having a spine but it does tend to make one a ‘go along to get along’ type. Which is all well and fine for a ‘natural party of government’ but Labour is not this type of transactional party, its a party of principle.

    Liz got part of it right, the courage and risk but sadly was not broad based enough otherwise. Also her pro-austerity approach was unsound.

  9. Tafia says:

    Becketts report also fails to address the b,indingly obvios – that only two things win elections.

    Firstly, your leader must be perceived by the electorate to be more statesmanlike and possess more gravitas than the leader of your opponent and secondly economic competence at a direct and personal level, that they (the voter ) will be more likely to be financially and materially better off under your leader than your opponents.

    First point, Labour don’t actually piossess any high rankers that the public perceive has having the gravitas or statesmanship of Cameron. He looks, acts and speaks the part even if you despise him. It is a show after all.

    Second point is very very simple but politicians cloud it and confuse it (thus alienating voters). A voter needs to believe that even doing exactly the same job, they will be better off and more likely to aquire things such as a house. Ordinary working people do not class tax credits as a success – they would rather be paid a better wage than receive a state top-up and perceive state top-ups as state failure. They also regard competition for jobs etc by immigration and downward pressure on wages as state failure. Personal financial security is a big big thing and unless you guarentee it and they belive you, then they will just stick with what they’ve got. (and it’s personal financial security that is the big driver in the traditional Labour vote switching to UKIP etc) .

    British voters do not like ‘change’ and will not vote a government out unless it is an absolute shambles AND they perceive that they – on a personal level, will be better off (it’s also why it is very difficult to win a referendum if you are the side that wants change). As a mob they aren’t in the slightest interested in middle class bollocks, world affairs (unless it’s a debacle as per Iraq) or ephereal nonsense. They are insular, selfish and resentful of anything they perceive is a direct threat to their immediate world (such as mass immigration).

    So, Labour cannot win in 2020 no matter who is leading it – they do not possess anywhere in their senior level any politicians that have the gravitas that Osborne, May or Johnson have (one of those three will lead the tories for GE2020) and nor do they have a financial message (left or right) that the voters find superior to what the tories are offering. (you will have to outbid them on salary growth particularly at low skill/no skill level, house building, house affordability both purchase and rent, job creation and security AND you will have to be believable AND the tories will have had to fuck up the economy between now and then)

  10. Tafia says:

    Whether Labour like it or not, GE2020 and probably GE2025 were lost in the crash of 2007/2008 and not even the second coming of Christ is going to change that so you may as well just concentrate on being a forensic and surgical highly competent Opposition – you’ll do yourselves far more favours in the long run believe me.

  11. Fred says:


    Why do you persist with Labour? Most Hindhu’s and Sikhs started with Labour and now have moved to the Tories. The tories values are far more aligned with these groups.

    Labour has lost many working class votes, it now seems to represent a dwindling working class and muslim vote.

  12. Metatone says:

    Tafia’s tone may be too confrontational for some, but I think there’s a lot of truth there.

    Crucially and sadly, it needs to be admitted that being in charge at the time of the last crisis is deeply damaging and not easily fixed.

    Then you need an actual policy mix that can credibly promise a better future. Labour doesn’t have that. The “soft left” don’t have it because their policies are largely micro-management and think too small. There is no promise of a better life there for the average voter. The Tories don’t have much of a promise either, but since they weren’t in charge of the last crisis, they need less of a promise at this time. The “hard left” have an awful mix of some good ideas, some bad ideas and some terrible presentation and credibility.

    And then you need the right leader, and I think that person is yet to be found, if only because the people who present best in the media have largely not yet faced up to the policy requirements, which are outside the comfort zone of the Blair years.

    Of course, I’ve been banging this drum for a while, but the big failure of the party establishment and the current PLP is their devotion to old policies that have no particular attraction. Someone somewhere has to sketch out a positive future for this country. That’s the real route to power.

  13. Tafia says:

    Labour’s Beckett report on election loss a ‘whitewash’, says former party pollster

    “The study also found that leftwing policies – such as the energy price freeze, and greater potential to bring railways back into public ownership – were some of the most popular put forward by Miliband, but that there was a lack of a coherent overall narrative.”

Leave a Reply