Super Thursday Elections 2021

Garrett Byrne

Conservatives make national gains, in England’s May elections, as blue-collar voters once again consign the opposition to another comprehensive defeat.

Winners and Losers of Britain’s May 2021 local and regional elections. The Times

Incumbency in Government during Covid-19 appears to be this year’s electoral blessing.

The Conservative Government’s response to the crisis, despite being stridently questioned by many, failed to prevent an atypical ‘Hat-Trick’ of victories in Hartlepool, the West Midlands and Teesside.

The SNP reasserted their strong polling North of the border, in Scotland, mirroring the trends of the last 14 years notwithstanding the unedifying ‘SALMOND’ affair. 

Welsh Labour under an outwardly subdued and cautious Mark Drakeford enjoyed a one seat gain in the Welsh Sened contrary to popular expectation.

Conversely, PLP leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, presided over a cataclysmic string of losses permeating nearly all regions North of the M25. 

Notable exceptions included Andy Burnham’s emphatic victory in Manchester. The scale of which has been attributed to his perceived authenticity and leadership capacity to inspire a cohesive support base. Arguably traits bereft of his most senior colleague.

Indubitably, the ‘mid-term’ results vindicate earlier punditry hypotheses that sought to dispel notions of optimism amongst Labour quarters that the Christmas election of 2019 was an anomalous outcome from which Brexit backing Tory’s disproportionately profiteered from. 

Now a crystal-clear portrait has surfaced, illustrating a more structural basis upon which votes have fallen into Johnson’s newly honed electoral portfolio in Britain’s provincial heartlands.

As Labour hedged their bets on allegations of Tory corruption in the absence of any substantive policy vision to reverse 2019’s dismal showing, disaster soon materialised.  The choral refrain of ‘one rule for us… one rule for them’ and a heavy emphasis on Boris’ ‘Toff’ persona has categorically proven to be of no palpable aversion nor concern to Britain’s working demographic. 

Why would it be an effective campaigning tool regardless?

Has Labour suffered collective amnesia from its embroilment in the 2009/10 expenses scandal, ‘Tony’s cronies’ in the House of Lords? Needless to mention the risible sanctimony of playing class politics when the Party’s Top Brass and backbenchers overwhelmingly boast Oxbridge Alumnus and speak with cut-glass Southern brogues.

Inevitably symptomatic of election defeats are the bitter acrominies which follow. In a purge of perceived ‘dead wood’ Sir Keir Starmer commenced his purging early, dismissing Angela Rayner, Labour Deputy leader, Party chair and campaign coordinator, in the weekend following the dismal defeats of Labour candidates across England. The Hartlepool election win for the Conservatives demonstrated how far Labour have drifted from their traditional support bases. PA Media

Of particular note is the party’s perennial misapprehension regarding the extent of British support for Euroscepticism outside of London. This clearly remains unaddressed. 

Ultimately corroborated by the simple fact that Labour fielded ardent Remainer Paul Williams in what was one of the UK’s staunchest leave areas 

Further, evidence continually shows that the decisions made at the ballot box by the labouring classes of British society aren’t informed by vacuous Westminster bubble briefing wars concerning Johnson’s integrity or his Wallpaper invoices. Hunger, public services and local employment opportunities are the real issues resonating on the ground of Britain’s austerity stricken postindustrial regions.

In contrast, Labour have focused in on the abstract albeit paramount racial and cultural conversations that dominate political discourse in the affluent south. This is something Johnson’s widely detested ex-Svengali Dominic Cumming’s understood astutely unlike Starmer. The erstwhile Whitehall matrix took to Twitter to reflect on Starmer’s lamentable performance premising 

“Keir Starmer is a beta-lawyer-gamma-politician, like ~all in SW1 he obsesses on Media Reality not Actual Reality, he’s played the lobby game (badly) for a year WITHOUT A MESSAGE TO THE COUNTRY”

Cummings twice exploited this knowledge of non-commentariat indifference to Whitehall to decisively attain the greatest Tory parliamentary majority since Thatcherism and win the Leave vote in 2016  

Leadership messaging has also been integral to the recent realignment of UK politics whereby poorer sections of society have abandoned Labour to embrace the political class historically responsible for the near wholesale dissolution of industries that previously employed them. 

Johnson’s messaging concerning infrastructure and the“levelling up” agenda often amounts to pure mendacity, as documented in Writer and Broadcaster Peter Oborne’s new publication ‘The Assault on Truth’. However, at least he proves to be incessantly articulating an economic vision connecting with the non-metropolitan UK electorate irrespective of its often-false substance. Dangerous, but no doubt defective

Starmer alternatively has broadly been mute on this front instead prioritizing absurd media optics. The most laughable include faux attempts to rebrand Labour as patriots overnight, through drinking IPA behind St George’s cross flags whilst on the Hartlepool campaign trail. Various residents afterwards took to the press to highlight how such behavior was contrived, condescending and patently out of touch with the essence of Northern identity.

Another crucial ingredient key to Johnson’s besieging of flagship Labour territory is his incomparable charisma to that of Keir Starmer. The TV caricature synonymous with Johnson has no doubt been a vote winner outside of the London boroughs in regions like Hartlepool where he is endlessly heckled for selfies. Starmer on the other hand hasn’t struck a chord with any distinct group following. His professional Holby City consultant exterior juxtaposed with Boris’s disheveled outward appearance hasn’t influenced perceptions of Starmer being a plausible professional alternative to the incumbent PM as the party had initially hoped 

Jeremy Corbyn’s four year tenure of the Labour Party continues to cast a long shadow over the Labour Party, arguably still stymieing Labour’s electoral fortunes. Jeremy Corbyn presided over Labour’s most disastorous electoral performances in over 70 years, during the December 2019 ‘Brexit’ General Election. ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/REX

The nature and circumstances of Starmer’s ascension to leader of the Labour Party is part and parcel of the story of Labour’s deepening deterioration at the Ballot Box.

The internal Labour party HQ psychodramas preceding and succeeding Jeremy Corbyn’s crushing defeat in December 2019 (as revealed in a leaked report known as “Labour Leaks”) exposed a poisonous culture operating within senior echelons of the party plotting against its leader.

Blairite ranks working within the Party HQ were able to coral Jeremy Corbyn into supporting the fatal de facto ‘peoples vote’ policy (masterminded by Starmer) and concocted a malign narrative that Corbyn was the root of the party’s anti-Semitism problem which was later discredited by the EHRC report. 

When the press belatedly began to report on the acts of internal connivance against Corbyn, the Corbynite Twittersphere erupted, and the historically high party membership generated by Corbyn’s leadership plummeted exponentially. 

Keir Starmer embodies a tried and tested brand of Blairite politics that Britons are no longer enamored with. This brand of violent policy triangulation known as ‘centrism’ no longer chimes with a nation-state where politics has become a helpless binary between the left –right axis of opinion consequent of the 2016 Brexit vote.

Starmer like Blair attempts but often fails to navigate decisions on the pendulum of contemporary public opinion which is a futile strategy given its proneness to change.

 People often forget that beyond the continued electoral successes of Tony Blair, the abiding legacy was a bloodbath in the Arabsphere and sustained private provision into National Health Service facilities. The effects of the latter felt more today than ever before.

Social distancing measures compelled some Coronavirus bereaved families to pay for privately outsourced hospital payphones to offer their last utterances to loved ones. No wonder Tony Blair remains such a morally ambiguous and quasi-reviled figure in modern Britain. What is more alarming was Starmer’s appetite to re-embrace the strategies of those distant years. His own prospects of leading a Labour-led Government in 2024 now, after recent events, appear ever more distant.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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