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Round-up: Labour’s Hartlepool defeat – reactions from across the left

THE full picture on Labour’s performance across Britain, including the overall results of the Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections and key mayoralties like those in London and Manchester, won’t be known till later in the weekend. But even if Labour does well in these contests they will not be seen as victories for the Westminster party led by Keir Starmer.

The crushing defeat in Hartlepool is a verdict on Labour’s current leadership — and one that leaves the party on “the brink of irrelevance,” according to one major affiliated union which was demonised by the Labour right for publishing a survey predicting this scenario.

Socialist Campaign Group secretary Richard Burgon says Labour is paying the price for having “treated the government with kid gloves” throughout the pandemic, while former Crewe and Nantwich MP Laura Smith savages the refusal of “those who specifically organised to overturn Brexit” to “take any responsibility” for the party’s collapse in northern England. The Morning Star selects some takes from across the left.

DAVE WARD, CWU GENERAL SECRETARY

One month ago, the CWU commissioned a poll in Hartlepool. The result showed overwhelming backing for policies such a proper pay rise for NHS workers, free broadband and a renationalised Royal Mail. It also showed a big lead for the Tory Party.

Instead of embracing the findings and offering a positive vision for the future of the country, the right 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.

The Labour leadership team committed to the Labour Party being a broad church and must reject calls for a further move to the right.

At a time when there is huge public support for investment and levelling up this would be an absolute disaster for working people.

It’s also time for the trade union movement to step up and play a greater role in shaping the post pandemic world with its own distinct agenda.

We cannot wait for a Labour government. That is why I call on all unions to come together and campaign to deliver a new deal for workers in the UK.

RICHARD BURGON, MP for Leeds East and Socialist Campaign Group secretary

Over the past year Labour’s leadership has treated the government with kid gloves. The Tories have been let off the hook for their disastrous Covid-19 response.

And in this election campaign, it simply wasn’t clear what the party stood for…

Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have waged war on the left to show Labour was “under new management.” That approach has failed.

LEN McCLUSKEY, Unite general secretary

Staggering and worrying loss in Hartlepool. The strategy of the last year has 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.

LINDSEY GERMAN, Stop the War convener

It’s clear Labour has lost support to the left and the right. Starmer’s strategy has totally failed and will continue to do so.

Left in Labour shouldn’t rejoice — this is blow for the left and strengthens Tories.

Labour leadership will push further to the right. Key struggles for change will be outside parliament and outside Labour and we need to organise.

KEVIN OVENDEN, author and journalist

I am not for claiming that all would be different under Corbyn, and I’m not uncritical of the compromises made when the left had the leadership of the Labour Party. 

But what is clear is that 2017 marked the partial arresting and reversal of decades of hollowing out of Labour support in many areas. 

It is not at all surprising that if your strategy as leader of the Labour Party (and as the apparatus, most MPs and a lot of members) is to be the anti-2017, anti-Corbyn party you end up reinforcing, indeed speeding up, the decline that was arrested from 2015 to 2018.

It’s like blowing up a dam and flooding your own town.

LAURA SMITH, former MP for Crewe and Nantwich and member of No Holding Back

The same drivel about 2019 result from those who specifically organised to overturn Brexit and sabotage from within, and still refuse to take any responsibility.

Rewriting history won’t help and certainly won’t get rid of this government. The selfishness is frankly sickening.

DIANE ABBOTT, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

“If you’re in a hole, stop digging,” is generally sensible advice. The idea that Labour should carry on the same path, just pick up speed is just nonsense. We need a change of strategy.

JON TRICKETT, MP for Hemsworth

The public have put the Labour leadership on notice. Without an immediate and radical change of direction, we cannot win the next general election.

It won’t do for the leader to pronounce about Brexit that the “debate is over.” Just because you wish for something doesn’t mean it has happened.

How else can you explain the result in a historic Labour seat where a Remain candidate was effectively imposed on a Leave seat?

The sense that we breached the trust of voters over Brexit is as powerful as the impact of the infamous decision to go to war in Iraq.

The party should apologise both to Brexit voters that we failed to understand their point of view but also to Remainers that we could offer them a route back into EU membership.

DEBORAH HERMANNS, Momentum National Co-ordinating Group

The only way to own this defeat is to acknowledge that we need to change direction, not double down on a strategy that has taken us backwards.

Momentum believes that this change must include a firm commitment to transformational socialist policies, such as a higher minimum wage and a Green Jobs Revolution, and an embrace of community organising and the latest campaigning techniques.

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