” Keir Starmer needs to fulfill the promises they made when they won the leadership on a left-wing platform last year. This means bold policies, unity in the party &—above all—standing up for working-class people in the daily struggles they’re facing.”Dave Ward, CWU General Secretary
A Labour Assembly Against Austerity volunteer writes:
Labour has lost the Hartlepool parliamentary seat, and early results show losses in English local authorities. Keir Starmer has evidently failed to motivate Labour voters after a year in office.
Beyond a slogan of, ‘Secure our economy, defend our NHS and rebuild our country’, Labour lacked any clear national message to frame the English local elections, and offered no practical policy pledges to back it up and appeal to voters.
That is despite a wealth of evidence that existing Labour policy developed under Jeremy Corbyn is popular with voters – and in fact more popular than the party itself. In advancing his ‘under new management’ agenda, Starmer has effectively junked those policies and also failed to test any alternative.
Consequentially, without advancing those popular policies, potential Labour voters in England stayed away from the polls while parties to the left and right motivated increased vote shares.
By contrast to the party’s early vote declarations in England, Welsh Labour successfully defended its seats in the Senedd, with First Minister Mark Drakeford securing an additional 10,000 votes in his seat, after a strong record overseeing the pandemic response, but also offering a future of transformative policies in government.
On Friday night a survey of voters for Channel 4 found lack of policies a key reason given for not voting Labour. Highlighted quotes included, ‘no or poor policies’, ‘Poor policies and a soft leader’, ‘will not commit to giving his own ideas’ and ‘They don’t fight for the normal people’.
Responding to Hartlepool and early election results, left MP and Socialist Campaign Group chair Richard Burgon wrote, “The starting point for any Labour revival must be to rebuild the kind of broad voter coalition that denied the Tories their majority in 2017. Then Labour won 40 per cent of the vote nationally.”
In the Independent, Burgon was clear this would be a staging post to victory, and continued, “Policies from our recent manifestos continue to be much more popular than the party itself. They are backed by a large majority of voters. The pandemic has made many more relevant than ever: from free school meals for all primary school children, to an end to zero hours contracts, big investment in rebuilding public services and free social care.”
Labour Left group Momentum said, “This result is a disaster. In 2017, we won over 50% of the vote in Hartlepool. Now it looks like we’ve lost it to the Tories. A transformative socialist message has won in Hartlepool before, and it would have won again.”
Momentum also pointed to a a Communication Workers Union-sponsored poll of Hartlepool voters which found key policies of Corbyn’s Labour remained popular – 69% support universal free broadband, 67% want to increase investment in public services and 57% agree with taking Royal Mail into public ownership.
The same poll found almost 50% of voters backed a pay rise as high as 10% for NHS staff.
This particular issue is a case in point, Labour have so far only demanded for NHS staff ‘what they were guaranteed’, an early Tory pay offer which fails to deal with falling real pay over a decade. And an example of why there is evidence NHS staff may also be turning away from Labour.
Reflecting on the Hartlepool poll he commissioned, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward, wrote yesterday, “Keir Starmer and his team need to fulfil the promises they made when they won the leadership on a left-wing platform last year. This means bold policies, unity in the party, and—above all—standing up for working-class people in the daily struggles they’re facing.”
On the differing fortunes for Welsh Labour, Steve Howell, the Cardiff-based former election advisor to Jeremy Corbyn, pointed out that Welsh Labour had made advances in its post industrial heartlands with clear transformative policy offers such as a young persons’ guarantee, jobs building thousands of new low-carbon homes for rent and a Real Living Wage in care.
Howell also reminded social media users of the words of Mark Drakeford on Keir Starmer’s election as leader a year ago, that, “The incoming Labour leader must retain our best ideas from the last two manifestos to form the basis of the party’s new policy agenda.”
What is clear is that Labour’s policies under Corbyn appealed to members and voters alike. Starmer was elected leader by the members on a similar agenda, and has lost public support as he has dropped it. The conclusions are clear.