Times are lousy for Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer. After the disastrous loss of the 2019 parliamentary election – the worst result for Labor since 1935 – he resigned in April of last year to turn the tide. The first elections under his leadership show that Labor’s problems in England are far from over.
The Labor Party lost the seat of the House of Commons in the parliamentary midterm elections to Hartlepool, a town in northeast England and a Labor stronghold since 1974. It has nothing to do with balance powers in Westminster is just a seat in a 650 parliament. But the loss shows Labor still has no response to the Conservative march.
In England, Scotland and Wales, regional and local elections were held on Thursday for various governing bodies, ranging from regional parliaments to mayors and town councils. The first results of the regional elections, which only come on Friday and Saturday, were not encouraging for Labor either.
Also read: I don’t like England and Boris Johnson pushes Scottish nationalists
In the Scottish parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP did well based on the early results. She herself said she was confident of winning the election again. It is even possible that it will obtain an absolute majority.
Referendum on independence
Sturgeon promised the voter a second independence referendum. The better his result, the stronger his argument in favor of a referendum. The results are not expected until this Saturday.
A visibly frustrated Starmer took responsibility for Friday afternoon’s “bitter disappointment”. He acknowledged that his party had lost the voter’s confidence and promised to do everything he could to regain that confidence. How he’s going to do that, he’s gone in the middle. He did, however, promise “a mighty vision.”
The left wing quickly called for a return to Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist agenda
It was not, Starmer said, the time for internal party battles, but they broke out nonetheless. Under Starmer, the Labor Party moved to the middle. The left wing quickly called for a return to the socialist agenda of Starmer’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn. Supporters of a moderate course advised Starmer not to worry about party unity but to put his energy into speaking to voters.
Exceptional gain in land
It is exceptional for a party in power to gain ground in the midterm elections. The change of power at Hartlepool was only the third time in fifty years that an incumbent government had succeeded in winning a seat in the meantime.
The Conservatives have undoubtedly benefited from the government’s success in the successful vaccination campaign. But that’s not all, analysts say. Much of the Tories’ profits at Hartlepool were owed to voters who had previously voted for the Brexit Party. Labor sent a candidate into the race against Brexit, while 70% of the city voted to leave the EU.
Recent scandals surrounding Johnson, who reportedly paid for the renovation of his Downing Street apartment with money from party donors, did not appear to hurt the Tories. Johnson is popular in central and northern England for rebelling against London and for promising to strengthen the ‘forgotten’ regions outside the capital.
In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan is hoping for a second term. In the polls, he was ahead of Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey. In Wales, which has been in Labor hands for decades, initial results point to a Labor victory.
A version of this article was also published in NRC Handelsblad on May 8, 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of May 8, 2021.