Tuesday 6 April 2021

Explaining the Hartlepool Poll

Ouch. Contrary to earlier predictions, the Tories are on course to win the Hartlepool by-election. In a Survation poll for th CWU, they reported the Conservatives on 49%, Labour on 42%, the new Northern Independence Party on 2%, and the rest scratting around for one per cent apiece. Accurate constituency polls are harder to pull off than national polls thanks to smaller sample sizes and the difficulties ensuring it is representative, but ultimately it's the headline that matters.

Unfortunately, things look worse as you peer into the details. Boris Johnson has a 49% favourability rating versus just 24% for Keir Starmer. And yet, policy wise, this by-election should be uncontested territory for Labour. 67% want more spending on public services versus 24% who want deficit reduction prioritised, 57% would like to see Royal Mail renationalised, and 69% would like to see free broadband rolled out to all homes and businesses. How can we begin to account for these mind-bending findings? Hartlepool appears to want what Labour offered in 2017 and 2019 and voted for it on those occasions, but are now beguiled by a party offering towns just like them nothing but piss and wind?

There are two factors in play. The first is Boris Johnson himself. Without getting into the full details of how he is escaping accountability for 127,000 dead people, he is rare among politicians, at least as far as many punters are concerned, because he has kept his word and done what he said he would do. He promised to deliver Brexit, and through a series of shenanigans in which he nearly blew up the Tory party and sailed close to the wind of flouting the law, he did just that. On Coronavirus, despite the many failings of his government the handling of the vaccine roll out has gone swimmingly. Nearly everyone over 50 in Hartlepool will now have had at least one jab and some, as I write this, are going to be waiting their turn in the local vaccine centre for the second injection. On the two key issues of the last two years, Johnson has come good and delivered. If you don't follow politics closely and have largely been shielded from the consequences of both, what is there to be angry about?

There are, however, reasons to be dissatisfied with Labour. And these aren't the same reasons why the left aren't happy. In many places that have customarily returned Labour MPs, that they're the opposition doesn't matter. They typify distant, unappealing, and entitled establishment politics among certain layers of voters. For many millions who went Tory, they felt the party's refusal to abide by the decision of the referendum was them rubbing their noses in it, telling them they were thick and wrong and the party wasn't interested in listening. And so, this lack of interest was returned in a lack of votes. And Keir Starmer, despite his very late necessary conversion to respecting Brexit initially epitomised this arrogance by leading the charge for ignoring their referendum decision. Compounding this perception of an arrogant and out-of-touch party were the efforts to which the leader's office went to impose Paul Williams as their choice. The fact he was chosen despite voting against the Brexit decision of his former Stockton South constituents on no less than six occasions. He was and is the worst possible candidate, and the message this sends to the good people of Hartlepool is a contemptuous expectation on Labour's part that the town will vote for any old donkey in a red rosette.

The dynamic of this by-election then is a protest vote, a vote aimed against Labour as opposed to the ruinous government of the day because the party is seen to be tone deaf. Until it starts listening instead of doling out fake platitudes it thinks the ignorant proles want to hear, this won't be the last near-death experience/unnecessary defeat Labour will suffer under Keir Starmer's auspices.

Image Credit


Shai Masot said...

I'm sure these arguments are right. But, put simply, the Hartlepool voters favour a politician they view as dishonest (Boris Johnson) over one who they view as just plain shifty (Keir Starmer).

Boffy said...

"For many millions who went Tory, they felt the party's refusal to abide by the decision of the referendum was them rubbing their noses in it, telling them they were thick and wrong and the party wasn't interested in listening. And so, this lack of interest was returned in a lack of votes. And Keir Starmer, despite his very late necessary conversion to respecting Brexit initially epitomised this arrogance by leading the charge for ignoring their referendum decision."

This is nonsense. The point at which Labour's standing in the polls collapsed was in early 2019, when Corbyn abandoned the position of Brexit scepticism, and support for a second referendum, and attempted again to impose his reactionary nationalist pro-Brexit position again. It was in fact, the role of Starmer and others, following that collapse that dragged labour back to its Brexit-sceptical position, and managed to at least some of the Remainer votes it had haemorrhaged.

And, Starmer is losing votes now because he has become a bigger Brexiter than Corbyn, whilst not even pushing the kind of progressive social-democratic agenda that Corbyn put forward. Expect to see lots of progressive Labour voters across the country, either move over to Liberals, Greens or else abstain, meaning Labour attempting to compete for the reactionary nationalist vote with the Tories will get absolutely mauled.

dermot said...

From the NIP FB group:

We were founded just under six months ago and now we're polling ahead of two established Westminster parties.
We've not even started our campaign yet and not one penny has been spent on ads or leaflets. This is all from word of mouth and you, our lovely followers, are part of that.
Keep sharing, keep liking, keep commenting and together we can #FreeTheNorth

David Lindsay said...

In 2017, the pro-Brexit and anti-austerity Labour Party increased its vote at Hartlepool by 16.9 per cent, taking its share to 52.5 per cent. Even in 2019, Labour held the seat. But the impending victory of the Conservative Party at the Hartlepool by-election will apparently be the fault of Jeremy Corbyn, as will the loss of hundreds of council seats that Labour had held or won while he was Leader. Corbyn is not even in receipt of the Labour whip.

Still, at least the Conservatives are going to win Hartlepool by more votes than are going to be cast for the Northern Independence Party, with its whippet, and with its spoof football shirts that pretend to be sponsored by Greggs. The Women's Equality Party exists to promote the media careers of its well-heeled and well-connected stalwarts. The Official Monster Raving Loony Party exists to promote its members on the pub entertainment circuit, especially in the South East. And the Northern Independence Party is in similar vein. Do not be diverted by this distraction. The whole country needs economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends.

Unknown said...

Boffy you appeared to live in an alternate reality, where seats in leave voting areas were lost by Labour because despite pitching itself as the "Party of Remain" , Labour wasn't remain enough.

I am 100% sure that you are wrong.

Blissex said...

«On Coronavirus, despite the many failings of his government the handling of the vaccine roll out has gone swimmingly. [...] Johnson has come good and delivered. If you don't follow politics closely and have largely been shielded from the consequences of both, what is there to be angry about?»

But that is only because New New Labour front bench has never challenged but wholly adopted the thatcherite framing of Conservatives that infection is purely a matter of taking individual responsibility (as clear from “Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”) and that only products from "saviours of humanity" big pharma can stop the epidemic (“The UK’s successful vaccine rollout was thanks to “greed” and “capitalism”, Boris Johnson has told”).

That is New New Labour front bench has been ideologically complicit with the government policy of avoiding test-trace-isolate because it is statist/collectivist, even if has resulted in negligible sickness and death rates and negligible GDP hits in the non-thatcherite countries that adopted it.

Even in a poor place like Kerala state in India, where so far with a population of a bit over half that of the UK there have been less than 5,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 (Note: part of that is because the Kerala population profile is younger than that of the UK).

Test-trace-isolate is so successful that in China-Taiwan where a particularly tight state funded and managed approach has resulted in less than 10 (ten) deaths per year there is no hurry to do mass vaccination, they are waiting for the UK to be mass guinea pigs ;-(.

Dipper said...

Politics in the middle of a pandemic is a strange beast and i think hard to take any soundings now abut how UK politics may appear in a few years time... but Labours problem is that in a Brexit world the Tories are the party of liberation and Labour are the party who could never make their minds up.

Labour can win from here as a low 40s percentage for the Tories is not necessarily a winning vote. But Labour show no sign of being able to unify amongst themselves let alone pull in voters from Green or Lib Dem. The division between the Woke/Academic/Corbynite groups and the centrist technocratic group is huge, and neither of these groups appeal to working class voters.

The main problem for Labour is that the pro BLM/Trans Lobby is very loud and powerful in Labour and at the same time is electorally toxic. If those two groups still hold influence at the next election then the Tories election strategy is just to repeat ad nauseam that a vote for Labour iso a vote to be ruled by woke activists who regard you, the voter, as a bad person to be punished, and that is the election done and dusted. I'm not sure you folks understand how much an electorally decisive group detest that kind of politics.

Boffy said...

@ David Lindsay,

But, in 2017, Labour was not a pro-Brexit Party. It had just fought the 2016 referendum as a Pro-EU, anti- Brexit Party, and was putting forward its Six Tests which everyone knew were designed to make any Brexit deal impossible to achieve. It was offering another referendum, and won over millions of votes from Liberals, Greens, even some Tories, as well as of millions of young voters, who saw their futures blighted by the Brexit decision.

Labour lost most of those votes when Corbyn tried to renege on that position in early 2019, and go back to a pro-Brexit stance.

As for "Unknown", if you want people to respond to you, I suggest at least being brave enough to use your real name. As for your claim, I am sure that it is you that is 100% wrong. The facts show that even in Leave voting constituencies the majority of Labour voters from 2015, voted Remain. Around 60% of those who voted Labour in 2017 (which included all those Liberal, Green, and younger voters that Labour attracted) even in Leave voting constituencies, themselves voted Remain.

Its a large chunk of those voters that Labour lost in 2019, and after as Corbyn swung back to his pro-Brexit stance, and its that which lost those seats for Labour, as well as losing them a large chunk of their vote in Remain voting seats, which they may find hard to get back. Meanwhile the turn to reactionary nationalism first by Corbyn, and now by Starmer simply legitimises those views of the Tories and those to their Right, whilst having failed completely to win over those reactionary voters, even if Labour should actually want to attract them.

Jim Denham said...

Interesting, Phil, that the only policy area where you agree with Starmer is his "necessary" conversion to accepting Brexit, whereas your opposition to Williamson, the Hartlepool candidate, is to a large extent that he opposed Brexit.

Elsewhere, you have accepted that Brexit was a fundamnetally reactionary cause that is anathema to the young and the new working class. Yet, still, you seem to support it.

Frankly, you seem to be all over the place on this particular issue. Labour needs to propound a principled, anti-racist position and commit to opposing Brexit and striving for re-entry to a reformed EU as soon as possible. Anything less is a sell-out to racists and nationalists.

ActonMan said...

Perhaps it would help if Sir K could bring himself to wear one of those big red rosette things that politicians usually wear when they go out canvassing so people can tell what they represent, but Sir K clearly finds that rather difficult.

Boffy said...

I agree with Jim Denham's comments in relation to Phil and to Brexit. However, his and the AWL's position would be stronger were it not undermined by its own collapse into Liberalism with its advocacy of self-determination and the splitting up of the class struggle in many other parts of the world, such as in China, the Middle East and so on, which in practice means giving succour to other reactionary forces from Political Islamists, to Clerical Landlordism. Indeed, to may reactionary forces that are far worse than those advocating Brexit, Scottish Nationalism or Northern Independence.

At the very least their advocacy of the bourgeois - at best petty-bourgeois - demands for self determination subordinate the class struggle to that bourgeois liberalism, and create conditions in which the danger of involvement by larger global powers are invited to line up on either side of contending forces, risking the future of the working-class globally.

"To stir up a general war for the sake of a few Herzegovinians, which would cost a thousand times more lives than there are inhabitants in Herzegovina, isn’t my idea of proletarian politics.”

(Engels To Bernstein)

"We must always and unreservedly work for the very closest unity of the proletariat of all nationalities, and it is only in isolated and exceptional cases that we can advance and actively support demands conducive to the establishment of a new class state or to the substitution of a looser federal unity, etc., for the complete political unity of a state.”

(Lenin – The National Question In Our Programme)

Anonymous said...

If Keir has a voice he needs to find it soon and use it otherwise Labour needs to find another leader early next year. Speak up Keir otherwise step down- they can't hear you. You have your chance (many capable never do) use it. To fail without a fight would be sad, but step down if you are going to fail Labour- as that's how you will be remembered.

Anonymous said...

What are Keir's politics? What were Keir's politics? He did not take any risks- he lost. So many hopes... gone without even a fight. No political nous- perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Just not very good alas.

Alan Stanton said...

Anyone from Hartlepool commenting? Or anyone who has lived there? Or been there? Or used to get Christmas cards from their late Auntie Edna so they can at least point to it on a map?

The Guardian refers to a "left/moderate" local Labour split. Is that an autocorrect app editing any on-the-spot (or on-Zoom) thoughtful journalism?

George Carty said...


Taiwan was so successful largely because they sealed their borders in January 2020: in part because for obvious reasons they are existentially paranoid about China, and also being an unrecognized country made that politically easier for them because they weren't so concerned about what other countries would think of them.

Would any UK politician (even Nigel Farage) have been brave enough to suggest sealing the UK's borders back then, even with regard to our own citizens? I doubt it.