Hartlepool by-election defeat is Labour’s last wake-up call – The Yorkshire Post says

THE EXTENT to which Labour is turning on itself following a humiliating by-election loss in its now former stronghold of Hartlepool is indicative of size of the uphill electoral task facing Sir Keir Starmer.

Sir Keir Starmer as he comes to terms with his party's historic defeat in the Hartlepool by-election.

This saw Sir Keir and his acolytes attribute their defeat to Tory candidate Jill Mortimer, a North Yorkshire farmer, to the toxic legacy left behind by his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn while those loyal to the former leader claimed that Labour now is no longer radical enough.

Yet, at the same time, others within Labour’s ranks were questioning the validity of selecting Paul Williams, a former Remain-supporting MP, as its candidate in the most pro-Brexit seat in the country while EU proponents like Lord Mandelson, a notable former Hartlepool MP, said that this was not an issue on a single doorstep.

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Meanwhile the less partisan were unsure if the result, which saw Mrs Mortimer secure more than half of the vote in a seat which Labour has held for decades, was down to the Government’s vaccine rollout and denunciation of Tory austerity no longer resonating with voters.

What is the future for Labour under Sir Keir Starmer?

However this matters because such introspection, described as “whinging” by David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, ignores how Labour has lost touch with its Northern roots and does not have a positive agenda of aspiration to offer to voters of all backgrounds.

This is the key issue and explains, in part, why the Tories spent 13 years in the political wilderness from 1997 to 2010. Yet the fact that Labour has still to hit rock bottom after 11 years in opposition – and is still fighting the same internal struggles that contributed to its landslide defeat in the 2019 election – indicates a party in denial about its difficulties and a leader struggling to make a lasting policy mark.

And, if Labour does not heed this wake-up call, it won’t be campaigning to govern Britain at the next election. It will be fighting for its future.

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This was Boris Johnson campaigning with Jill Mortimer, the successful Tory candidate, in the Hartlepool by-election.