Tuesday, November 30News That Matters

Starmer ‘bitterly disappointed’ by results as MP says ‘woke warriors’ have taken over party

Sir Keir Starmer has said he takes “full responsibility” for Labour’s defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, as an MP hit out at the “London-based bourgeoisie” he claims has captured the party with the “support of brigades of woke social media warriors”.

The Labour leader said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the result, adding: “I take full responsibility for the results. And I will take full responsibility for fixing things.”

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Hartlepool turns blue for first time

The Hartlepool vote – as well as Thursday’s local elections, for which the results are continuing to be counted – represent Sir Keir’s first major electoral test after just over a year as Labour leader.

In a bad night for the party, Labour lost out to the Conservatives in Hartlepool by 6,940 votes.

The seat has been held by Labour since its formation in 1974 – and the loss of the constituency has sparked recriminations about the direction of the party under Sir Keir’s leadership.

In one of the most strident critiques of Sir Keir’s stewardship of the party, Khalid Mahmood took aim at the “London-based bourgeoisie” who, “with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors”, had captured the party.

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The Birmingham Perry Barr MP said Labour had to recognise that it is viewed as “a party that has lost its way” in places that used to be “unfailingly loyal”.

Mr Mahmood, who quietly quit his frontbench role last month, added: “My view is simple: in the past decade, Labour has lost touch with ordinary British people.”

Sir Keir said the party had “lost the trust of working people” in places like Hartlepool and added that he intends to do “whatever is necessary to fix that”.

He insisted the party had “changed” since its 2019 defeat under Jeremy Corbyn, but added: “We have not made a strong enough case to the country.”

Sir Keir said he would be setting out a plan to “reconnect” Labour with voters in the days to come, with critics seizing on the result to call for a change in strategy.

Allies of Mr Corbyn were quick to point out Labour had twice won the seat under his leadership in the last two general elections.

“Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result,” Labour’s former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott posted on Twitter.

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Unite urges Starmer to share more policies

“Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy.”

Another of Mr Corbyn’s former shadow cabinet ministers, Richard Burgon, said Labour was “going backwards in areas we need to be winning”.

“Labour’s leadership needs to urgently change direction,” he added.

“It should start by championing the popular policies in our recent manifestos – backed by a large majority of voters.”

Left-wing campaign group Momentum also accused Sir Keir of having taken Labour “backwards”, while Len McCluskey – the general secretary of the Unite trade union – told Sky News the party leader needed to “press the reset button”.

Mr Corbyn’s longest political ally, Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, said Labour’s local election results so far had been “pretty grim” while the Hartlepool result was “pretty devastating”.

He told Sky News: “The problem that the Labour Party had was that although for the last year nearly now the slogan has been ‘under new leadership’, we went into this election with a complete lack of programme or vision of the society we want to create.

“Our candidates were virtually going naked into the campaign without that policy to advocate, so there was no motivation or incentive for people to vote for us.”

Mr McDonnell said Labour figures could not “keep on blaming” Mr Corbyn and claimed – since the former leader’s departure – there had been “a vacuum in terms of the development of ideas and visions and policies”.