The Tories have taken a seat that has been Labour since its creation in 1974 .
With the Conservative Party winning the Hartlepool by-election in what has been an incredibly difficult night for the Labour party, different parts of the left are putting forward their own reasons for why the Tories have been able to take a seat that has been Labour since its creation in 1974 and what needs to happen next.
While those on the left of the Labour party like Diane Abbott have been careful not to call for Starmer’s removal, they are calling for him to have a major rethink and change direction. Abbot described the night as a ‘crushing defeat for Labour’, tweeting: “Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result. Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy.”
Others were more damning. Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP tweeted: “Good to see valueless flag waving and suit wearing working so well… or not?”. He later urged Starmer to
learn from the Democrats in the U.S., where ‘policies united the party, the left was brought into top table not pilloried, reforming polices are presented as common sense and Uncle Joe speaks for woke liberals and blue collar left at same time.’
The co-chairman of Momentum, Andrew Scattergood condemned Starmer’s strategy as being full of ‘empty buzzwords.’
“A transformative socialist message has won in Hartlepool before, and it would have won again.
“Starmer’s strategy of isolating the left and replacing meaningful policy with empty buzzwords has comprehensively failed.
“If he doesn’t change direction, not only will he be out of a job – but the Labour Party may be out of government forever.”
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell went onto BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to call for Starmer to articulate a vision and set out a proper argument for why voters should back him.
He said: “Part of the problem in this election campaign was it was almost – well, in any election you need to have an argument, you have to put up an argument and I think the Labour Party went into this election campaign almost policy-less.”
Yet Starmer is now under growing pressure to change his strategy not only from the left of the party but also the centre and right.
Shadow communities secretary, Steve Reed, has said that the party is ‘not yet changing fast enough’.
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain he said: “It tells us something we need to know. Although the Labour party is changing, we’re clearly not yet changing fast enough to win back the trust that has been lost over recent years.”
Wes Streeting, Shadow minister for schools, said that voters were yet to be convinced that the party had changed even if the leadership had ‘changed for the better.’
Others took aim at the selection process for Labour’s candidate Dr Paul Williams. Jessica Elgot, deputy political editor at the Guardian, criticized the ‘stitching up selection for a major player in the People’s Vote campaign who already lost one seat’. Williams had previously backed a second referendum in a seat where the Brexit party scooped its second-best result.
Meanwhile Ash Sarkar, contributing editor at Novara Media, highlighted how the Labour vote had declined in Hartlepool in every election bar 2017 since 1997.
“It’s a microcosm of the crisis facing the party in England more broadly, and can’t simply be put down to Brexit, Corbyn or Starmer,” she said.
Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.
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