Keir Starmer has no excuses for the scale of the defeat in Hartlepool

The Labour Party’s first reaction has been to resume its civil war – but neither side has the answers, writes John Rentoul

Friday 07 May 2021 14:16
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<p>Boris Johnson may be full of hot air, but he’s popular in Hartlepool</p>

Boris Johnson may be full of hot air, but he’s popular in Hartlepool

When Keir Starmer said that Labour had a mountain to climb, we didn’t think he would start by heading off downhill. If he had chosen a better candidate in Hartlepool, he could possibly have made the case that the by-election there was always going to be a tough fight because the Brexit Party had split the vote at the general election.

But the result in Hartlepool was far worse than that. Paul Williams, Labour’s strong Remainer candidate, lost vote share, and the results from the rest of the country also suggest the party is going backwards.

It may be that later results from London and the south of England will be better for Labour, but the early indications are that it won’t be anything like enough to compensate for the losses in working-class areas that voted to leave the EU in the referendum.

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