Many of the most popular explanations for why Labour lost the 2015 general election should be treated with caution and probably do not explain why the party lost, a major review has found.
The Beckett Report, commissioned by the party in the wake of its defeat, warned that explanations including Labour being “too left wing”, “anti-business”, or “anti-aspiration” were not “significant” factors.
“In general, we believe that these commonly held reasons for defeat should be treated with caution and require deeper analysis,” the review said.
“Often they were contributory factors to the broader narrative rather than necessarily significant reasons in their own right.”
The inquiry, whose final report was released on Tuesday afternoon, says that the weight of research evidence since the election pointed to a number of other reasons being more significant.
The most important factors were suggested to be the perceived weakness of Ed Miliband, fear amongst English voters that Labour would work with the SNP, and an association with the economic crisis under the last Labour government.
Labour was also said to have failed to convince voters of its welfare and immigration policies.
Other factors beyond the party’s control in the general electoral landscape were also said to have contributed to Labour falling short of expectations.
“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,” the report reads.
General election 2015: Polling day
General election 2015: Polling day
1/16 General election 2015
Nuns arrive to vote at a polling station at St John's Church in Paddington, London
2/16 General election 2015
A voter leaves the White Horse Inn in Priors Dean, also known as the 'Pub with no name', which is part of the East Hampshire constituency and acts as a local polling station on the day of the election
3/16 General election 2015
General view of inside the White Horse Inn in Priors Dean
4/16 General election 2015
People cast their votes as a man uses a punch bag in the East Hull Boxing Academy, which is being used as a polling station in Hull
5/16 General election 2015
Penny Higbee waits to greet voters at her home in Routh, East Yorkshire, which is being used as a rural polling station
6/16 General election 2015
Voters in Ironbridge, Shropshire, arrive to cast their vote at The Iron Bridge Tollhouse
7/16 General election 2015
A voter arrives at the North West Ambulance Service Station at Milton Green, Cheshire, which is being used as a polling station as Britain goes to the ballot box
8/16 General election 2015
A polling station has been installed in a launderette in Oxford
9/16 General election 2015
SNP candidate for the Gordon constituency and Former First Minister Alex Salmond with first time voter Nicki Falconer, and her family, (L-R) Mackenzie, Nicki, Skye, Alex Salmond and Keiran at their local polling station in the Gordon constituency in Ellon, Scotland
10/16 General election 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha after casting their votes at Spelsbury Memorial Hall, Witney
11/16 General election 2015
Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez arrive at Hall Park Hill Community Centre to cast their votes, in Sheffield
12/16 General election 2015
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and his wife Justine Thornton leave the polling station at Sutton Village Hall in Sutton after casting their votes in the 2015 general election in Doncaster
13/16 General election 2015
First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon, votes with her husband Peter Murrell in Glasgow, Scotland
14/16 General election 2015
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives to cast his vote for the South Thanet constituency in Ramsgate
15/16 General election 2015
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood arrives at a polling station in Penygraig, Rhondda, Wales
16/16 General election 2015
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett after casting her vote at Ossulston Tenants' Hall, London
“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.”
Crucially, the inquiry said it would be difficult for Labour to win next time because of changes to constituency boundaries, voter registration changes, and restrictions on trade union funding of parties.
She said the party leadership had already learned some lessons of the defeat by focusing on trust in politics. The party should also campaign in ordinary language, focus its policy on the condition of Britain in 2020, unite for the EU referendum campaign, and draw up a proper five-year media strategy.
The internal inquiry, set up by former interim leader Harriet Harman, was chaired by Margaret Beckett, who described the reaction to Labour’s defeat as “emotional”. She and her team produced a 35-page document.
Labour’s defeat came as a shock to pollsters, whose polls had suggested that the result would be much closer than it eventually was. Ultimately the Conservatives won a narrow majority.
A separate inquiry commissioned by the British Polling Council and the Market Research Society today released its interim report into why the polls were inaccurate.
That commission found that Labour voters were habitually over-represented in samples collected by pollsters and that this overstated the number of Labour voters in poll results.