The cross border contrasts of the Labour Party
The dust is beginning to settle following the turbulent few days that made up an election like no other.
The grip of coronavirus restrictions made the elections, in England, Scotland and Wales, more challenging than ever. Having seen the results filter through on Friday, Saturday and into Sunday, the conclusions of which parties were quickly drawn up.
Perhaps the party with the biggest contrast in emotions was Labour. A heavy defeat in the Hartlepool byelection as well as seats lost at council’s such as Sunderland was bad, but to lose the majority in Durham County Council for the first time in over a century compounded a miserable week for the party and further reinforced the weaknesses of the Keir Starmer cartel.
The Hartlepool defeat in particular would, or should, be a bitter pill to swallow, yet casting your eye back to 2019 and it looks less surprising. The deciding factor between the two elections is the presence of the Brexit Party.
In 2019 Labour picked up over 15,000 votes and won a majority of over 3,000. Crucially, however, The Brexit Party received 10,000 votes. This ultimately split the Conservative vote and paved the way for a Labour victory.
The absence of the Brexit Party has provided a damning expose of how fragile Labour truly was in Hartlepool and now the Conservatives have a near 7,000 majority in a seat that Labour had held for over 60 years.
In County Durham, the situation unfolded on Saturday evening. Labour lost wards that have historically been strongholds of their movement, yet this was when people believed the party represented the working class. Not enough people in the north east believe that anymore and the evidence has come from last week’s election results.
The Conservative stranglehold on the north east continues to grow and tighten and, despite frustrations at the happenings in Westminster, Labour are repeatedly failing to capitalise and form genuine, constructive opposition.
Voting Labour in the north east of England was once seen as an obligation because of the role the party played in supporting heavy industry such as shipbuilding and coal mining. However, these industries are a thing of the past now and the Labour Party is threatening to move on without adapting to the changing needs of the area.
For inspiration and a rough guide on how to move forward, the Labour Party in England need look no further than west across the border.
Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labour fought off the threat of smaller parties taking votes and a rise in votes for Plaid Cymru to secure a majority in the Senedd and their joint highest number of seats.
Despite the Conservatives achieving their best ever return to the Senedd, Labour secured the majority and will now be able to form a government alone to take Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest victory for Drakeford would have been winning the Rhondda, a seat held in high regard by Plaid Cymru. This win made a statement, and helped to confirm that there would be no threat to a single Labour government in Cardiff.
Welsh Labour’s achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by the failings of the party in England. If the central party had anything about them, they would look upon Welsh Labour at how to move forward and rebuild.
The Conservatives have had ten years in power where little has changed for so many people, but the problem is that Labour have failed to be a convincing enough alternative to win back thousands of lost voters.
The infighting of the Labour Party is further chipping away at a party that is on the brink. An overhaul is necessary, but the damage that has been done means that a cleanse of the party could take years rather than months.