First of all, happy birthday to the old man, 202 today and still going strong 💪🏼.
Possible reasons for Labour losing Hartlepool tomorrow:
- Brexit voting Britain is behind Boris Johnson as a kind of agent of change. Arguments about corruption etc. are redundant – Labour still represents remain, Johnson the guy who will get things done.
- I have a personal theory that Labour is weirdly held to blame for austerity, which the Tory government has divested itself from through the “levelling up” agenda. Although Cameron and Osborne (and Johnson) were responsible for austerity at a national level, it was in local government where it was actually played out. And most local government management – which will have implemented austerity – is seen as part of the traditional, post-1997 Labour establishment, which currently runs the Labour party.
- Demographic changes. Places like Hartlepool and Bishop Auckland have been changing for decades. For example, 58.9% of the Hartlepool electorate owns a home, and home owners generally vote Tory. The red wall has been crumbling since 1997, regardless of the Labour Party’s direction.
- This is connected to a Southern view of “the North” as a monolithic whole; deindustrialised, poor and Labour voting. However, the converse is also true. “The south” has changed as jobs become more precarious and home ownership less attainable. London is eye-wateringly red, and towns and cities with younger, more liberal populations have also swung to Labour. The divide is different – poorer people still vote for Labour, as do younger, more liberal voters – but there’s also a split between the countryside and towns and cities and conurbations with concentrations of younger voters.
- COVID has not played out. At the moment the government is popular because the UK vaccination programme has been successful, and restrictions are being lifted. There will be a reckoning over the handling of the pandemic at some point, though, especially the early reopening in 2020.
- This is not to exonerate Keir Starmer. The party’s approach seems to be to stamp out “the left” while wrapping itself in the union jack. I assume this is meant to appeal to (possibly mythical) socially conservative Labour voters and “sensible” managerialists, while appearing fiscally “responsible”. This fails miserably for three reasons: i) The Tories have socially conservative but financially “leftwing” voters covered through “levelling up” ii) This is not 1997 or 2010 – fiscal conservatism is no longer the only game in town iii) its new found southern votes are economically and socially leftwing. They liked what Corbyn offered, but they have no historical loyalty to the Labour Party – ignore them at your peril.
We’ll see, but I expect bad news tomorrow. Here in Ipswich the borough council will move from Labour to no overall control. Labour needs to rethink, fast.