'It's A Complete Sh*tshow': Keir Starmer Accused Of ‘Rudderless’ Leadership After Bruising Election Results
A grim set of results for Labour has prompted calls for an “urgent” shake-up of the party’s strategy from MPs and activists.
The Labour leader is facing angry calls to overhaul the party machine amid a stream of election defeats across England.
The first major blow came early on Friday morning when it was announced the Conservatives had been victorious in the Hartlepool by-election, with Jill Mortimer becoming the first Tory MP for the seat since its creation almost 60 years ago.
Mortimer won a landslide victory, with an almost 7,000 vote majority over her Labour rival, Dr Paul Williams, whose selection by party bosses had been criticised due to his vocal pro-remain stance in the overwhelmingly pro-Brexit seat. Mortimer's majority is almost double that of Mike Hill, whose resignation triggered the by-election.
By lunchtime and with just over 10 per cent of English councils having declared the picture is growing increasingly grim for Starmer.
Labour have already lost control of one council entirely, while their net loss of council seats has reached nearly 60.
Speaking to PoliticsHome, one Labour MP said the results must force the party to “rapidly change” or risk losing support in their heartlands.
“There's no wrapping it up. It’s a complete shitshow and shows how massively disconnected Labour is to its core vote in significant parts of the country,” they said.
“Saying we are under new leadership and that we aren’t Corbyn’s party isn’t enough.
“We have to listen to what the country keeps telling us, understand what it’s telling us, and the act to fix it.”
They added: “We have two choices: rapidly change and get back in step with the mood of the nation, or wither away to become a party of the big city suburbs and an irrelevance in the rest of Britain".
Another Labour MP praised Starmer for “owning” the results, but added there had to be more energy spent on reconnecting with voters in so-called ‘red wall’ communities.
“I can’t paint it any other way, this is a bad set of results and it doesn’t appear like it is going to improve. But [Starmer] is owning it. He’s taking responsibility and that is really important,” they said.
“There is no question we need to do more to listen to voters and make sure we are focussing 100% on speaking about their issues. But [Starmer] has taken over our party at an extraordinarily tough time in our country’s history and that should be recognised.
“I think he’s done a decent job in pulling the party back together, and I hope people will continue working together to make sure we put pressure on the Tories."
They added: "We can’t afford to descend back into factionalism and in-fighting again when it’s clear all our energy should be on finding out why voters in traditional Labour seats have lost faith in us.”
But the poor results have already triggered internal spats, with figures on the left of the party calling for Starmer to “urgently change direction” but stopping short of calling for him to step down.
Meanwhile, one veteran campaigner in the north of England, where the party is facing further significant losses, said the results should prompt a “shake up” among the party’s management.
“Our voters didn’t turn out, frankly. Whatever we were selling, they weren’t buying,” they said.“It was a difficult environment to campaign in, and our activists are gutted at what we are seeing.
"This must be the wake up call for the leadership in Westminster to stop focusing on frivolous crap, frankly.
“The whole operation feels a bit rudderless. That’s partly because of the coronavirus dominating everything, but that core message about who and what Labour stands for, what we can achieve in local government, and the really obvious improvements we need for our local services wasn’t there, and that’s got to change fast.”
They added: “It’s not the time to be discussing leadership, that’s the last thing we need at the moment – more internal spats. But the people in charge of the day-to-day running of this campaign should be packing their desks up. That should already be happening. No question.”