There have been so many analyses of the Labour defeat* that I will not bore you with one myself here. Instead, this is about analysing what those analyses diagnoses say about the author.
*(though less of the Tory win, which is a significant difference because it too often excludes, for one, the Lib Dem collapse in the West Country that is also connected to the SNP)
There are two kinds of analysis: agenda-driven and evidence-driven. The two are not solely exclusive, Evidence can drive an agenda and an agenda can selectively pick evidence. But in simple terms, you can differentiate between a platitude and data. A platitude being, for instance, ‘Labour was Tory lite’ and data being Yougov polling showing public perception suggested quite the contrary.
There are people in and outside the Labour Party guilty of the former. Many on the Left talk of not ‘offering an alternative’. Jim Murphy blamed our defeat on a ‘lack of passion’. Liz Kendall on ‘the fantasy the centre had shifted left’ and her insistence every single policy in the manifesto right down to housing was the cause of defeat despite the blind surveys that say otherwise. Every Labour leadership candidate to varying degrees on not being for ‘aspiration’ or being ‘anti-business’. Chris Leslie now on the public apparently supporting ‘public service reform’ and a 45p top tax rate.
Here’s the thing; if it doesn’t come up on the doorstep or polling, you’re lying. You’re lying and you know it. You’re lying to push an agenda on the direction of the party. No-one ever said to me or anyone I know about ‘passion’, about being ‘anti-business’, about being too left, and certainly not about ‘public service reform’. And even if you argued these things were implicit though not expressed, that Middle England didn’t have to use the word ‘aspiration’ to feel negative about Labour, then the data also says you’re wrong.
Poll after poll after survey after survey primarily points to two things: the economy (the deficit myth) and the SNP scare. You can add in there, as connected to the ‘risk’ factor, Ed Miliband himself, welfare and immigration ( sosingle issues instead of positions on the spectrum). There are many other factors, but evidence is piling up that this is more than left or right, about ‘isms’; the worst part is, idealogues can see it’s piling up but choose to ignore it.
You can have your own narrative about what went wrong, but too often I am hearing things dismissed as ‘excuses’ if they don’t fit in that person or faction’s narrative. Too many times the SNP scare or the media (to a lesser extent) being shrugged off as ‘delusional’, contrary to evidence. Even when the person’s proposed narrative has no such evidence to back it up.
Too often a narrative is based on the ‘right’ demographic to win back, instead of all of them. An example being when multiple journos I saw chastised Tom Watson and/or Andy Burnham for launching inquiries into UKIP instead of Tory voters, as though you couldn’t do both.
Too often a narrative talks about the need to win, like Blairites hailing 3 election wins, yet people with such acclaim for winning seem to ignore evidence that isn’t useful to them. Evidence we need to consider. Evidence like, yes we need to win back Middle England, but how will we without neutralizing the SNP that scared the sh*t out of them? That involves pitching both left and right, which is exactly the indicator of how complex and multi-faceted this is, how many challengers we face on both sides (as Mandelson put it on election night, how we were ‘squeezed’ by nationalisms) when advocates of one POV choose to make it one-dimensional.
Construct your own narrative, but without evidence it is merely a fictitious story based on dogma instead of a productive analysis for how we can win back Tory switchers, but also SNP and UKIP switchers too.
For more reading, this evidence-driven piece by the excellent Ross McKibbin is well worth your consideration.