Labour report says left-wing policies did not lead to election defeat

Internal postmortem says loss due to lack of credibility on the economy, welfare benefits and migration and because Ed Miliband suffered in comparison with David Cameron

Britain's Labour Party lost last year's general election because it lacked credibility on the economy, welfare benefits and migration and because Ed Miliband suffered in comparison with David Cameron, according to an internal postmortem.

The 36-page report by former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett found that fears of a Labour government being propped up by Scottish National Party (SNP) votes also contributed to the defeat. But it dismissed as "myths" a number of common explanations, including that the party was perceived as too left-wing or anti-business and that it was out of touch with the public on deficit reduction.

“Many of our most ‘left-wing’ polices were the most popular. These were the kind of policies the public expected from Labour,” it says.

The report concludes that it was always unlikely that Labour would recover sufficiently from its 2010 defeat to regain power after a single term in opposition. Although last year’s election is often compared to that of 1983, which left Labour out of office for 14 years, the party’s performance last year was nowhere near as bad. In 1983, there was a 9.3 swing against Labour, whereas in 2015 there was a slight swing in the party’s favour. The party gained votes but in the wrong places, winning only 22 of the 106 marginal seats it was targeting.


“We were badly beaten. The collapse in Scotland made it impossible for us to be the biggest party and the Liberal Democrat collapse enabled the Tories to gain an overall majority and keep us out of power. We received far fewer votes than were foreseen. And where we did achieve swings against the Tories, these were in safe Labour seats, rather than in the target marginals, in which we worked so hard,” the report says.

Media attacks

Dame Margaret defends Mr Miliband’s performance as leader in the face of “an exceptionally vitriolic and personal attack” in the media, parts of which she says were out to “destroy him”, but she acknowledges that Labour failed to communicate an overarching vision during the campaign.

The report concludes that, contrary to widespread belief, Ukip’s increase in support affected the Conservatives more than Labour but fears of the SNP’s influence could have influenced voters in the days before they voted.

“Some analysis suggests there was no clear late switching. However, it was heard consistently on the doorstep that this scaremongering raised concerns. It may have reinforced the views of those who had already decided not to vote Labour, and, if so, may have had a decisive impact in a small number of constituencies,” it says.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times