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Verdict comes in on ‘new leadership’ No-hope Starmer’s Labour rout

Left calls for rethink after Hartlepool disaster

THE Labour leadership must offer a more progressive and bold policy platform if it is to recover after a dire night for the party across England, senior party figures warned today.

Sir Keir Starmer has come under fire from the left after Labour suffered a crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, with a number of key council seats being lost to the Tories as well.  

Results from key mayoral contests and final tallies from the Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections are not expected until tomorrow.

The party, which held Hartlepool twice under Jeremy Corbyn including with a massive rise in its vote in 2017, was pushed out as the Conservatives won with a majority of 6,940. 

Allies of the Labour leader acknowledged it was an “absolutely shattering” blow as another pillar in the party’s once impregnable “red wall” crumbled. But pundits on the right of the party claimed one of the reasons for the loss was the legacy of Mr Corbyn’s leadership. 

The left hit back at this, with former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott claiming it was not possible to blame Mr Corbyn for the setback and said Sir Keir needed to “think again” about his strategy.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the party had gone into the by-election “almost policy-less” and called for a return to a “real grassroots campaign,” while Mr Corbyn himself said the results showed a loss of hope. 

The failure came after a poll commissioned by the CWU in Hartlepool showed overwhelming backing for policies such as a proper pay rise for NHS workers, free broadband and a renationalised Royal Mail. 

Unions say Labour was warned about a lack of vision for the campaign, which has also seen a number of key gains for the Tories at council level. 

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “Instead of embracing the findings and offering a positive vision for the future of the country, the right wing of the Labour Party went into denial mode and decided to attack our union rather than the government.

“This approach leaves Labour on the brink of irrelevance.

“With every passing day, the Tories are strengthening their support in previous Labour heartlands. Despite their misgivings, voters are staying with the Tories because they don’t know what Labour stands for.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the loss was “staggering and worrying” and clear evidence that the strategy of the last year had not worked.

“Disconnection from our heartland communities will only deepen unless they can look at Labour and see a party with clear, bold policies that understands and speaks for them,” he said.

Momentum co-chairman Andrew Scattergood said the result was a “disaster,” calling for a left-wing vision for the party. 

He said: “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.”

Yet shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said the Hartlepool result was “absolutely shattering” but insisted there is no going back on the strategy set out by Sir Keir.

“I’m very comfortable that we now have a leader that the country could see as an alternative prime minister — the problem is the Labour Party itself,” he told the BBC, seeking to blame ordinary members.

“What this shows is that, although we have started to change since the cataclysm of the last general election, that change has clearly not gone far enough in order to win back the trust of the voters.”

Lord Peter Mandelson went further, blaming Labour’s shift left beginning with Ed Miliband since 2010 and claiming to have been told on the doorstep that it had then picked “the wrong brother” 11 years ago.

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