Starmer asked if Labour has ‘lost touch’ after Hartlepool loss
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The loss is humiliating for Sir Keir Starmer, who pledged to overturn the party’s years of electoral defeat when he took over as leader last April. It has been 16 years since Labour last won a general election.
In a damning stat that proves just how far the party has fallen in recent years, almost half of seats held by members of Tony Blair’s first Cabinet in 1997 are now held by other parties.
Eleven of the 23 seats – once deemed to be Labour heartlands – have now been split between the Conservatives and SNP.
Hartlepool was held by Peter Mandelson with a majority of over 17,000 in 1997.
Yesterday the seat was won by the Conservatives’ Jill Mortimer with a majority of almost 7,000.
Tony Blair’s former seat of Sedgefield, which he represented from 1983 to 2007, fell to the hands of the Conservatives last time round at the 2019 election.
Boris Johnson’s pledge to “get Brexit done” sparked a huge swing in voters towards the Tories.
Ex-Chancellor and Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also seen his seat change hands.
Mr Brown represented the constituency of Dunfermline East, which was replaced with Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath in 2005.
At the 2015 election, the SNP won Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, losing it to Labour again in 2017 before winning it back in 2019.
Prime Ministers and cabinet members are usually placed in seats deemed “safe”, where they are unlikely not to be elected.
Labour’s loss of 11 former cabinet seats highlights the drastic drop in constituencies Labour can rely on for support, making it harder to win an election.
The full list of former cabinet seats Labour has lost is:
- Sedgefield (Tony Blair) – Won by the Conservatives
- Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Gordon Brown) – Won by the SNP
- Edinburgh South West (Alistair Darling) – Won by the SNP
- Copeland (Jack Cunningham) – Won by the Conservatives
- Ashfield (Geoff Hoon) – Won by the Conservatives
- Darlington (Alan Milburn) – Won by the Conservatives
- Redcar (Mo Mowlam) – Won by the Conservatives
- Hartlepool (Peter Mandelson) – Won by the Conservatives
- Airdrie and Shotts (Helen Liddell) – Won by the SNP
- Edinburgh East (Gavin Strang) – Won by the SNP
Speaking this morning following the loss of his former seat, Lord Mandelson said Labour needed to learn the lessons of the past.
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“I feel, I have to say, a mild fury, that the last 10 years of what we have been doing in the Labour Party nationally and locally has brought us to this result, because that is above all fundamentally an explanation of what’s happened today,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“What I would say is this, and remind the party we have not won a general election in 16 years.
“We have lost the last four, with 2019 a catastrophe – the last 11 general elections read: lose, lose, lose, lose, Blair, Blair, Blair, lose, lose, lose, lose.
“We need for once in this party to learn the lessons of those victories as well as those defeats, and I hope very much that when Keir and his colleagues in the shadow cabinet say this means that we have got to change direction that they actually mean it.”
However, MPs of the Left of the party have demanded Labour return to the policies advocated by Jeremy Corbyn.
They claim the fact Labour won Hartlepool twice under Mr Corbyn’s leadership is proof the party must stick with a radical agenda he proposed.
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, a close ally of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, said on social media: “Crushing defeat for Labour in Hartlepool. Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result.
“Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy.”
Former shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “We are going backwards in areas we need to be winning.”
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