Past and present Labour MPs square off in Hartlepool

It is the first big electoral test of Keir Starmer’s leadership, however in the upcoming Hartlepool byelection Labour will not simply be up against the Conservatives– freshly emboldened in the north-east after the party’s victory in 2019– but also former parliamentary party coworkers.

Thelma Walker, who was chosen to represent the Colne Valley in 2017, will be one of 3 ex-Labour MPs on the ballot and is running as a candidate for the Northern Independence celebration (NIP).

She will be up versus Labour’s prospect, Paul Williams, a GP who previously represented the neighboring Stockton South seat, and Hilton Dawson, who is standing for the North East celebration, and was previously Labour MP for Lancaster and Wyre from 1997-2005.

Standing for the anti-lockdown Reform UK (the rebranded Brexit celebration) is John Prescott, a service consultant raised in Stockton-on-Tees. The clothing was founded by Nigel Farage in 2018, who stepped down as its leader last month. The celebration chair, Richard Tice, stood in Hartlepool in 2019 under the Brexit party banner, seemingly splitting the leave vote in the town, which voted overwhelmingly to quit the EU.

Intending to win the seat for the Conservatives for the first time in its history is Jill Mortimer, a farmer and a district councillor in North Yorkshire. Boris Johnson joined Mortimer and Ben Houchen, the popular Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, for a see in Hartlepool on Thursday.

Walker, who still resides in West Yorkshire, says she was brought in to the NIP after discussions with its creator, Philip Proudfoot, about the north-south divide and utilizing the anger of northerners “tired of crumbs from the Westminster table”. Proudfoot, galvanised by Andy Burnham’s furious action to a lack of central federal government financing when Greater Manchester was put in a greater tier of coronavirus constraints last October, set up the NIP and says the party now has more than 1,400 members. He states the core arranging group is split in between previous Labour activists dissatisfied with the “absolutely no concessions made to democratic socialists” and those who have actually long promoted northern independence.

Designed as “socialism with a northern accent”, the party will campaign for a referendum on northern self-reliance and a “green commercial renewal”. Walker, a previous headteacher, states the celebration is anti-racist, and about localism, not nationalism, and hopes that in Hartlepool it can leader concepts around neighborhood wealth structure such as social cooperatives that have been trialled in the Colne valley.

Like Williams, Walker lost her seat in the 2019 election when swathes of former Labour strongholds was up to the Conservatives. A former parliamentary private secretary to John McDonnell, she stated her disillusionment with Labour started when it stayed away on expenses concerning human rights concerns, and eventually quit after Jeremy Corbyn was suspended for stating the party’s problem with antisemitism had been overstated.

Some northern Labour figures, such as the Liverpool Riverside MP, Kim Johnson, have actually dismissed the NIP’s motto– “It’s about bloody time”– and whippet logo design as “patronising in the severe”. Walker concedes that she believed it was “a bit stereotypical” initially, but states it is northern, self-deprecating humour. “A really revitalizing aspect of working with this group of people exists is that huge energy and fun,” she states, drawing a contrast between the social-media fuelled, younger project and the “miserable”, “febrile” politics of the last few years of the Brexit votes and the pandemic.

Rob Ford, a professor of government at the University of Manchester, said that while the NIP might hope to imitate the success of celebrations such as the SNP, the Scottish celebration had numerous years in the political wilderness prior to electoral success. “Mobilising voter interest in a brand-new political party, unless there’s some truly burning issue on the agenda where you’ve got like a national-level celebrity like Farage in 2019 to make your case is very hard,” he stated.

Nevertheless, given that the Brexit party got 25.8% of the vote in 2019 (compared with 28.9% for the Conservatives and 37.7% for Labour), there might be a big “identity-based anti-incumbent vote” in Hartlepool, which does not divide nicely into standard left and best categories, Ford added.

Citizens in seats such as Hartlepool are frequently considerably more drastically leftwing on economic concerns such as nationalisation, he said, although less keen on concerns from the “internationalist socially liberal cosmopolitan end of the spectrum”. Hartlepool district council, for example, has representatives from 10 parties, including four councillors from Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour celebration.

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