Published On: Tue, May 11th, 2021

Hartlepool: UK Government’s too-tall-not-tall-enough Tory party problem which ex-Labour voters will not solve

There has been a set of council and other local elections, and so there must be a lesson to learn, as is the way things work in the UK. However, whatever is being proffered by corporate-media in these respects will not be based on a true interpretation of the results, because the results when honestly appraised indicate things that UK Government wouldn’t like to see.

For a start, the elections on Thursday did not signify approval of the Tories, nor of their economic blockade – but this wasn’t even the message that those behind producing it wanted to achieve. In fact, there was a major malfunction in engineering the desired message, and it was due to the backfiring of the decision to hold a by-election for a parliamentary constituency as a sounding board for political mood (which is what UK Government is wont to do): the shock Tory win spoiled the impression of Labour readying to be competitive at the next general election. Naturally, the situation had to be salvaged, so in the following days much air time and column inch was given over to the concept of an overhaul being done to the Labour party so that it, with Keir Starmer as leader, would be fit to vote for in the future.

Now, if this seems like an incorrect understanding of the situation – especially in the face of some boasting on behalf of the Tory party from certain quarters – then consider first that Labour did not do badly on a day of many elections termed “Super Thursday” (in a bid, no doubt, to encourage excitement and participation – which is where the crux of the issue lays). With whatever happened in Scotland being an irrelevance†, the Labour party won in the Welsh and London assembly elections, and only two “mayors” in 13 elections in this unnecessary strata of English politics were not the Labour candidates. The council elections, with 14 Tory councils gained and 7 lost for Labour, would have been overlooked if Labour had won the Hartlepool by-election, and regained a seat that had never been captured by the Tories. As it turned out, the shock by-election result, which saw Hartlepool turn blue, coloured Labour’s wider English situation more gloomy than it need be – and created a major setback for UK Government in its progress of making Keir Starmer look like the inevitable next prime minister.

Again, this might seem counterintuitive given that the corporate-media has been full of material about Labour having gone wrong – but what manner, in fact, has Keir Starmer been treated? It is certainly not the Kinnock-light bulb or Corbyn-candle treatment. With kid gloves, is the expression that springs to mind.

Still the reader might say, well, we’ve heard the theory regarding how an executive branch of UK Government cannot continue forever because it has an agenda that is harmful to the people it governs, and at some point it must become too unpopular to maintain a governable population, and so it must be switched out to dampen public ire and to maintain a continuity of agenda, but how does it apply in this case? We are told that the “Boris Bounce” continues, and the Tories appear to be doing well in places that they need to i.e. the so called “Red Wall” of Labour heartlands. Why would the UK Government be manoeuvring to install the Labour party in executive branch office?

The truth is, after Brexit, and now the repulsive attack on civil liberties called “lockdown”, the Tory party is as popular as it’s ever going to get – and it’s not enough. This is a big problem for UK Government. First of all, the Tory party, while it is in executive branch office, will not be able to create a sense of its own renewal by generating new energy by improving its level of support. On the contrary, it is only going to become less popular. Thus, an undiscovered territory is being approached in United Kingdom politics where an executive will be installed by a tiny minority, that increasingly can’t help but look corrupted – and Parliament will be exposed to accusation of illegitimacy, and will be illegitimate, and with the usual way of renewing such a thing by installing a replacement executive branch with the trick of democracy lost to it. It’s a big problem for UK Government.

To further appreciate that the case is, indeed, as stated, let us examine the Hartlepool result, and contrast it with previous elections in the constituency.

The first thing to notice about Hartlepool is the collapse in turnout from the 2019 election, from 57.9% to 42.7%  – down 15.2 points. This turnout is the lowest in the history of the seat – the lowest since 1974 when the seat was newly created – which means that it is lower than the turnout for the by-election in the constituency in 2004, which really does show how small it was because the two might be said to be more meaningful contrasts. Now, in the previous FBEL article, Day Of The Dumb II; Britain Votes For The Fake Brexit , which covered the 2019 general election, it was explained that the trend in general elections had been for the overall national turnout figure to grow from 2001 to 2017. Before this, turnouts were good – consistently above 70% – but there had been huge drop between 1997 and 2001.

Hartlepool generally conforms to the national pattern – although there are small variations, as might be expected. There was a turnout of 65.6% in 1997 (less than 70%), and there was a hiccup in 2005 when turnout decreased by four points on the previous election. At the same time, however, this low formed the baseline upon which came the same growth that was seen in the national pattern. Then in 2019, turnout fell from the 59.2% of the previous election. In Hartlepool, as there was in the rest of the country, the steady climb back to 70%, or thereabouts, participation in parliamentary elections was checked after 2017. This is the fundamental problem for UK Government, and not just in Hartlepool.

But in Hartlepool, in 2021, the Tory candidate, Jill Mortimer, won with 15,529 votes, and a share of the turnout at 51.9%. The Labour candidate scored 28.7 – so, of course it looks like an obvious catastrophe for Labour, and a triumph for the Tories.

However, it needs to be said that Labour have won the seat previously with a greater share of the vote than the Tories achieved – and there follows a few examples that are most useful in understanding the actual feebleness of Mortimer’s win. In 1992, Peter Mandelson’s own 51.9% share equated to 26,816 votes. In 2005, Iain Wright’s 51.5% equated to 18,251 votes. Of course, on display here is the difference either side of that sharp fall off in turnout that happened nationally in 2001, but to give us a handle on what has happened to Labour across that divide, let it be noted that before 2021, the party could always get elected on or above a threshold of 18% of the entire Hartlepool electorate (meaning all people eligible to vote, not just the turnout). This threshold was maintained when UKIP challenged closely in 2015, and then when the Brexit Party offered another option in 2019. In between, of course, there was what voters were made to understand should be a straight choice between Tory and Labour – and they duly fell for the manipulation. In Hartlepool, Labour saw the return of its old time dominance ahead of its closest rival (it won that election by over 7,000 votes). For perspective, the closest that Labour ever came to losing the seat was in that 2004 by-election when the Lib Dems closed the gap to approximately 2,000 votes. All this time, crucially, Labour did not fall under the 18% threshold.

In contrast, the Tories have only crossed that same threshold twice, and the only time they achieved it to win was at this latest by-election, with 22.2% of the entire electorate voting for them. Coupling this with the knowledge that the previous best performance was in 2017 with the support of 20.3% of the entire electorate, this indicates that the Tories have reached a limit of support. There is very little scope for the Tories in terms of garnering more support in Hartlepool – and the same can be assumed in any of the Labour heartlands. At the same time, Labour support absolutely collapsed in Hartlepool, with a mere 12.3% taking part to vote for the party this time around.

If the significance of the previous paragraphs doesn’t grab the reader straight away, let’s do a little summarising. It has been shown that Labour can maintain a threshold of winning in Hartlepool with at least 18% of the entire electorate even during times when different circumstances bring different kinds of rivals (so, this newest vote was not about Brexit, as some people will be saying, because a challenge in that light already didn’t break the 18% margin). However, in this 2021 election, which was another straight choice election which should by rights have seen Labour score much higher above the threshold, and most likely win the seat as a result, the Labour vote just didn’t bother – and at a hideous rate. Hartlepool as a portent suggests that the same applies in most if not all of that Labour heartland that the pundits might tell their TV audiences would be within the grasp of a Tory win.

This is in fact a big problem for UK Government, and to progress our appreciation some more in this regards, we need to  demolish the idea of a “Boris Bounce” (again).  This is from the aforementioned previous FBEL article regarding the 2019 general election (where the nonsense term originates):

Therefore, while the corporate-media will be telling the public that Labour’s worst performance in an election since 1935 is due to swings of this or that percentage to the Tories, this is not what happened in real terms. The Tory Party only saw a 1.2 percentage point increase on its 2017 performance, while the Labour share collapsed. The actual number of votes for the Tories increased from 12,379,200 in 2017, to 13,941,086 – but this is not Labour swinging to the Tories. This is the result of the returning to a status quo that the Government has been desirous of for a long time in wanting to be rid of UKIP…

That the Tories are essentially a tree looking taller after its neighbours have had a trim is perhaps best illustrated in some of the seats that were taken from Labour where the turnout was alarmingly (for the Government) low, indicating therefore that this change is not about a surge of engagement. We’ll pick four examples. At Blackpool South, turnout was 56.8%, down from 59.8%. The Tories gained 1189 votes from 2017. At Stoke on Trent Central, turnout was 57.9%, down from 58.3%. The Tories gained 1371 votes. At West Bromwich West, turnout was 53.4%, down from 54.7%. The Tories gained 3090 votes. At Great Grimsby, turnout was 53.9%, down from 58%. The Tories gained 3170 votes.

These particular results, and there must be many more like them there for the finding if the reader wants to look, are particularly pertinent, because they show that there are large swathes of England (at least) that are on the verge of returning a Member of Parliament in a general election with a minority of voters.

We can see from this extract that capacity in the country to support the Tories was being reached in the 2019 election. Now, the very poor growth in Hartlepool for the Tories from 2019 to 2021 shows more of the same, and the upshot is that in none of these elections has there been especial endorsement of Boris Johnson (and certainly, in Hartlepool, no endorsement of his economic blockade), because there has only been minimal, perhaps we could call it automatic, support. The Tory executive under Boris Johnson is a too-tall tree that yet cannot grow as tall as UK Government needs it to be.

So, what happens, dear reader, when the Tory executive has been in office for too long, but can’t generate its own renewal (because it cannot attract additional support), and in fact only attracts loathing, but it can’t be voted out because the people who would normally vote for Labour have seen through the system and have chosen not to participate? Remember we discussed the renewal of legitimacy of parliament by the election of fresh executive branches? Do you see why it is that Keir Starmer is being treated oh so tenderly at this time of a great, unprecedented rout for the Labour party?

And for those people who think that Hartlepool is only about rejection of Keir Starmer, and the refusal of a Blairite way with a preference for a Corbynite one, the decline was already there in 2019 under Corbyn, as has been shown. Indeed, at the time, yours truly wrote the following:

The only people coming out of this charade with credit are the Labour voters who couldn’t vote in the name and cause of Corbyn’s vision for Brexit – whatever that was. A lot of people, who fell for the idea in the previous election that Labour was interested in leaving the EU because of this or that politician’s reputation plus some smoke signals, didn’t fall for it this time. So, there was a disengagement by these people that somewhat facilitated the Tory win.

It was never planned that Corbyn would win a general election, but it is planned that Starmer should. But Hartlepool made him look like a loser. It’s a big problem for UK Government.



† Those of us in the rest of the union have to start thinking of Scotland this way. Increasingly, it appears that independence as a basket case, under a gang of proper national socialists (who even use a rune as a party symbol) who are too accustomed to being uninterruptedly in office, is not only inevitable, but also the hard lesson that Scots need and deserve. It’s only the use of the English bogeyman that has prevented the SNP becoming an unrenewable, corrupted executive branch discussed in the body of this article, but that will have to end after independence. The only relief for some Scots will be the resemblance to Ukraine, with England, like Russia, picking pieces off.

It's important to donate to FBEL - please see here to find out why
A PayPal account not required.
T-shirts to protest compulsory face coverings - click image