How our readers reacted to Labour’s May 2021 election results

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In our daily emails around the May 6th elections, we invited readers to share their thoughts on the Hartlepool by-election and other results. Thank you to the more than 150 readers who replied. Here is a selection of the responses we received.

1) Utter arrogance to select a Remainer in a strongly Leave seat [Hartlepool]. Ignoring the electorate yet again.
2) Starmer is “London Elite” should’ve left the campaign to Rayner and Northern MPs
3) If we don’t go for an alliance of opposition, the Tories will be in power for ever.
M. Roberts

I have respected Keir Starmer ever since I heard him give a lecture when he was Director of Public Prosecutions. He has a fine brain and he is compassionate and focused but he lacks charisma. What Labour needs is someone at his side with fire in their belly. Labour have several MPs who could do it – Jess Phillips, Yvette Cooper, Angela Rayner – perhaps even some of the men!

I don’t think the Hartlepool result is a reflection of how voters feel about Keir Starmer. It’s more the case that (a) Labour has no clearly stated policies that are conveyed to the general public and (b) voting intentions are shifting radically because previously industrial heartlands which were the bedrock of the Labour vote no longer exist.

A different sort of person needs to be targeted for the Labour vote. Someone who cares about other people’s lives and the environment. We probably also need to ditch the current electoral system for a more equitable one such as proportional representation.

People are not voting for Labour because they don’t really see the difference between us and the Tories. No dynamic life changing policies that will help those who need it, just more of the same old same old. So disappointed with the Labour Party at the moment, it feels like it has forgotten its roots, what it was set up for.

Disappointing for Labour but not disastrous…

  • It will take time for voters to feel and believe that Labour has moved on from the Corbyn era and is once more back in the progressive political mainstream.
  • Since the Covid pandemic began it has been virtually impossible to set out a coherent policy programme on anything else, but this process now needs to begin in earnest.
  • The three national leaders in England, Wales and Scotland (Johnson, Drakeford and Sturgeon) have all received a “salience dividend” associated with their high personal profile during the pandemic.


The dominant party in each of the three nations has been most successful: surely this is evidence of the influence of Covid and the platform it has given to each of those parties?

But Labour does indeed need to “go further”, not in self analysis and self criticism: it needs to present what it stands for far more clearly at every given opportunity, and not be afraid to attack. It is a sorry state of affairs when it takes media and sports personalities to start to show the British public just how pernicious this government is.

Left-wing policies are popular, the problem in 2019 was Brexit, the perception of Corbyn and a lack of trust in the party. People are cynical about politics, which benefits the Tories. Labour needs to start engaging properly with communities. It needs to do real, meaningful work to show that Labour does care and will do the work required whether or not they get into power. Get volunteers back with left-wing policies and start improving people’s lives before asking for their vote. Most people don’t trust the media, it only has power because no-one is actually talking directly to people.

The Red Wall ‘Working Class’ aspires to have gold wallpaper too. Everyone wants a piece of the action. Labour is divided by the notion of the ‘Working Class’ and the better off, better education, ‘Prosecco Socialists’. Why was Tony Blair so successful (before Iraq)? He understood what levelling up really meant. Keir also needs to relax and tell his own story – from ‘Ordinary’ lad to ‘Knighted’ achiever. That’s what everyone wants – success, financial stability, a home, a job, and peace of mind that the country is held in good hands.

They say living by the sea is good for your health. Well in Worthing and Adur, it’s certainly been good for Labour’s political health. We have gone from 0 to 5 Labour councillors on West Sussex County Council from those seaside divisions, joining our four comrades in Crawley who also won seats. Members across the UK should celebrate our victories. Remember, if we can do it in Sussex by the sea, we can do it everywhere!

As a Labour Party member, I feel strongly that Keir Starmer can learn an enormous amount from Mark Drakeford’s example of leadership in Wales. Welsh Labour is not an easy leadership role but Drakeford’s painstaking collegiate approach, not only within his own party, but within the wider general and political life of Wales, has united North and South. His party joke of Welsh legislation that “his fingerprints are all over it” but that is a welcome tribute to his passion for wanting to examine the details of an issue’s pros and cons. You can never do too much research on both sides of difficult questions. He acted swiftly on lockdown and Wales has had the benefit. He is deeply respected.

I like Keir as leader, he’s clever, hard working, honest and conscientious, everything that Boris and the Tories aren’t. But he needs to have someone like a new Alastair Campbell who can showcase his qualities better to counteract the right wing media. Bold policies for future, equality, environmental. I remember the 1992 defeat, absolutely gutted at the time, but we came back from that. We are need to stick together as a party, you don’t see the Tories infighting.

I am sad that Starmer has not managed to connect with any segment of voters. It is painful and surreal to hear Hartlepool voters saying they think they have more in common with Johnson.

We must not have another bloodletting. This is what we must do:
1. Establish our core values clearly from branch level upwards giving members guidelines and parameters within which to work
2. Conduct a serious analysis of how our country has changed over 50 years
3. Hold a series of citizens’ assemblies to identify the issues the public prioritise and form a policy platform which combines all 3 strands

Here in the West Midlands conurbation Liam Byrne failed to take the metro mayoralty – but Labour’s Simon Foster took the police and crime post. These are exactly the same constituency, so just how solid is the Tory vote? Tory Andy Street distanced himself from the Government, playing the ‘business leader’. Incumbency also matters, but Simon Foster was a new candidate. Labour’s PPC win here deserves analysis.

Keir Starmer faced a tough gig. Hartlepool was always going to be unfinished Brexit business, which, given our Westminster-centric politics, was allowed to set the damaging tone. What now? In the immortal words of Harry Enfield: ‘calm down, calm down, calm down…’

The last two elections have been held in exceptional circumstances. Once Covid is under control and things return to normal the Tories will revert to their usual form and people will realise that we are being governed by a group of clowns.

It is fairly clear that Labour does not yet have an identifiable policy position, and that Keir Starmer is not yet an identifiable political figure. As probably the cleverest of all Labour leaders (or at least equal to the arch-strategist Harold Wilson) he should be able to articulate his views on social and climate justice in ways that no Tory could ever match. Now is the time to start doing so.

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