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To Win Hartlepool Labour Must Focus On The Future, Not The Past

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A year since Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader, the party is preparing to face its first test at the ballot box.

The contours of May’s local contests reflect the fallout of a miserable decade for the party. Labour’s position in many former industrial strongholds is uncertain, and the Hartlepool by-election is being held up as a litmus test for whether there has been sufficient progress.

Hartlepool is one of the most working class constituencies in England and Wales. It overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU in 2016, with 70% of its voters wanting out. But the seat has been drifting away from Labour for a long time – in 2005 Labour outperformed its national vote share in Hartlepool by 16 percentage points, by 2019 that figure was just three.

The point here is that, in a period of long-term Labour weakness, the party’s been doing worse relative to its national performance in places like Hartlepool, while there are corresponding seats where it has been getting stronger. A Labour victory in Hartlepool will therefore be a better result than would be suggested by simply retaining a long-held seat; it will bode well for countless other places where the party needs to reverse long-term drift and reclaim ground.

The party’s problem is not that it has lost touch with ‘left behind’ voters in places with........

© HuffPost

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