by Jonathan Todd
Do we really need the commission that Margaret Beckett is to lead to look “in a forensic way” at the reasons for Labour’s electoral defeat?
Harriet Harman seems to think that a “truth and reconciliation” commission is needed. She used that phrase in her quote in the Observer story and in her media appearances yesterday.
But what don’t we know already?
For years, polling told us that our leader, Ed Miliband, was behind on best prime minister and our party on economics. No party has ever formed a government behind on both these indicators. We were miles behind.
The leadership contenders are not waiting for Beckett’s findings to distance themselves from Miliband. The haste with which they retreat from positions that they recently defended risks inelegance. But it is required and encouraging.
To get out of a hole, you have to stop digging. And the Miliband years dug some massive holes. The collapse of Scottish Labour, the alienation from Labour in the north, and Labour’s failure to win over the south. We are, as Tristram Hunt put it in his lucid Demos speech, “fighting on three fronts. But micro-targeting policy solutions for each will not work”.
1945, 1964, 1997. Labour owned futures that all parts of the UK bought into. At times prior to each of these victories, it seemed Labour would never win again. But we did. And we can again. By re-crafting for our times, the elements that have always characterised Labour victory: unity and optimism grounded on credible economics.
Miliband might have thought that he was deploying these elements. But his spring rally, for example, was a curious cocktail of divisive pessimism and hubristic piety. It was divisive in identifying parts of Britain that deserved cheers and condemned others to boos. Not even those cheered, however, were thought capable of achieving anything under the Tory yoke, which made it bleakly and surreally pessimistic. All would be mended, though, if we only voted Labour. This coated complex problems with hubristic simplicity, taking the electorate for fools, while feigning high principle.