It is hard to know where to start as we take in the Hartlepool byelection defeat and council seat losses. One conclusion is that Labour’s historic electoral coalition of progressive and socially conservative voters, particularly the white working class in post-industrial towns, is all but broken. But trying to appeal to their cultural interests as the Tories have will only alienate progressive voters.
The answer is to be progressive, dynamic and radical, pitching to the multi-ethnic working class and the anti-Tory middle class in cities and university towns, while having bold economic policies that show we are on the side of workers. We need to mine the rich seam of young voters and increase turnout. We need to commit to electoral reform, but building an alliance with the pro-remain Liberal Democrats and Greens could be punished. Brexit still has electoral consequences, and Labour needs to show that it has moved beyond this.
• After another bad election night, there will doubtless be another few million words written about what Labour “must do”. The answer lies in its inability to articulate a comprehensible, let alone compelling, position on Brexit when it was the big issue. The Tories acted brutally in ridding themselves of more moderate element and embracing their nationalist instincts. Labour is paralysed, triangulating between the elements of its broad church. It can find neither the vision nor the ideas to meet the challenges of our times. Nor, crucially, does it have the language. Labour isn’t just out of touch, it is out of date. Voting Labour has become nothing more than a protest vote. Time to try to build something wholly new.
• I am struggling to make sense of the election results. Voters have punished a party that has not been in charge nationally (nor in many cases locally) for over a decade. The same voters reward a party that, through its harsh and ideology-driven austerity programme, is the author of their grievances. If, as we must assume in a democracy, voters are never wrong, what message are they trying to send?
Etchingham, East Sussex
• No doubt the Labour party will spend the next two years punishing itself over these election results while the reality is staring it in the face. Why does any party go into an election with no programme and expect people to vote for it? Why does a party that describes itself as a “movement” have to wait for the leader to tell it what it believes in? Why does a party not always have a programme based on its principles ready to be put forward? Remember the Miliband years? Eleven years of poor leadership, and counting.
• So voters don’t mind the greed or the lies. They don’t mind benefits and public services being cut or creeping NHS privatisation. They don’t mind taxpayers’ money being shovelled down the throats of ministers’ friends and families, or the highest Covid-related death toll in Europe. Serial incompetence, venality and a callous disregard of the mores of polite society do not matter, as long as it comes with a healthy dose of xenophobia. After half a century, I am finished with politics. It’s not so much the politicians that make me despair but the electorate.
• The Labour party is disintegrating, we are told, because it has lost the confidence of the “working classes”. This portrays the working classes as a mass of hapless individuals being tossed around in a sea of uncertainty. This is a misrepresentation. Those same individuals have, in fact, made a conscious choice to support an administration that epitomises self-interest. They have voted for a government deficient in ethical and moral constraints. Those so-called working classes have morphed into true-blue Tories.
• There is a simple explanation for Labour’s decline and increasing irrelevance. Time and again it has selected men with an overinflated sense of their capability and talent, and failed to persuade capable and inspiring women to go for the top job: Shirley Williams in the 1970s, Yvette Cooper in 2010 and Jess Phillips in 2020. If any of these gutsy, intelligent and charismatic people had been elected, this would be a happier, more equal country. From my experience as a Labour constituency treasurer in the 1980s and more recent engagement, the party still has a long way to go to really treat women as equals.
• For me, voting Labour in the Senedd elections had less to do with the indisputable competence of the Welsh government in handling Covid, and more to do with three policies that haven’t been given prominence in UK press coverage: that Wales should be a place of refuge for asylum seekers; that settled EU citizens should be helped to embrace Wales as their home; and that there would be a Welsh scheme to replace Erasmus better than the Turing scheme that has been announced by Westminster. These demonstrate a constructive and compassionate approach to real-world problems, and a way of dealing with the world far removed from the selfish rants that one hears from parties across the border. It’s an attitude that makes the notion of independence rather attractive.
Prof Chris Adams
• In their analysis of the Tory win in Hartlepool, Heather Stewart and Patrick Walker (Keir Starmer concedes Labour has lost the trust of working people, 7 May) quote a source claiming that part of Labour’s problem is that its “structure is much too London-focused”, and noting that both Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn represent London seats. But so does Boris Johnson.
• Like Ian Campbell and Jill Wallis (Letters, 6 and 7 May), we too have voted for 33 years in Huntingdon elections with no hope of having any effect. My husband’s comment: “It’s like peeing in a wetsuit. It gives you a lovely warm feeling but no one else notices.”
St Neots, Cambridgeshire
• Will Keir Starmer now defer to Mark Drakeford, head of a thriving Labour-led government in Wales?
Llanbedr Pont Steffan, Ceredigion
• What Labour needs, among other things, is a change of name. Would the electorate find something like “New Democrats” less scary? Surely Guardian readers can help with suggestions?
• Is it time for the charismatic Andy Burnham to return to frontline national politics?
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