How can Labour review its election failure properly?

Labour
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Today, we awoke to reports that Ed Miliband will sit alongside Jeremy Corbyn and others including Lucy Powell (who ran Miliband’s 2015 campaign) on the Labour Together panel.

While the overall idea behind Labour Together is sensible – looking at all of the data, running focus groups and interviewing candidates about what went wrong – the image this evokes is painstaking and rife with division.

It demonstrates the abdication of responsibility by Jeremy Corbyn to accept that he was a major factor in Labour’s defeat on the 12th December. Many Labour supporters I have had conversations with are quite rightly angry and frustrated with the approach to leadership and the people around Corbyn.

To add to this, the responses to the defeat from these circles have appeared self-righteous and ignorant to the truth. It is not possible to say you have “won the argument”, when your party’s election result is the lowest in almost 90 years. An important step is for the people in charge of the party to admit they got it wrong, which is not incompatible with reviewing other things to change. Lessons can be learned from the resignations of those like Gordon Brown, after the 2010 defeat.

A second point is about the members on the panel. This panel does not contain any party leader who has actually won an election or led a Labour Government. It is understandable that Tony Blair has a lot of baggage associated with him (namely Iraq), but one thing that cannot be doubted is he knew how to win elections and get people on side. Admitting him to this forum would provide invaluable insight about what needs to be in place to make the party electable.

There is benefit to Miliband and Corbyn being involved as they are arguably more in tune with the views of many Labour members; and the policy positions have shifted to some extent since the last Labour victory in 2005. Labour as a party is viewed as a broad church, so getting all these views in one place in a constructive manner would help to bring these different elements together.

Furthermore, the image this panel evokes is a divided, indecisive party which is struggling to find itself. It is possible that the process could become drawn out, and factional. This appears to already come across in a tweet from Labour Together this morning using the word “faction”. 

Just this single use of language has far-reaching implications, and only provides the Conservatives with an open goal. Appearance is as important as the substance; the panel needs to be effective and conciliatory, but also needs to be seen as decisive. Otherwise, there is a risk of similar policies to the Brexit ‘final say’ referendum coming through and suggesting a sense of inertia.

While the idea of the panel is not a terrible idea, it needs to be executed in a way that listens, engages and effects change in a decisive, constructive way – conscious of the scrutiny it will receive. It also needs to ensure Labour starts to not only be seen as a protest movement, but also as a viable party of Government. Only then can Labour start to rebuild.

Read more here 👉 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-50888060