Thoughts on Hartlepool and the point of worrying about politics…

DON’T go boring on about politics again, you know it’s not good for you. Sours your mood and puts you in the pickle jar, and nothing changes anyway.

So don’t go talking…

…but what do we learn from the Conservative victory in Hartlepool?

Sighing… well we learn that some people don’t know when to shut up about politics. And as with Brexit and Donald Trump, we also learn that what you don’t want to happen goes and happens anyway, so why pickle yourself.

But you see, Hartlepool was a result both surprising and unsurprising, and…

Sighing, go on then…

Surprising because this is a poor town in the north east that has always been Labour.

Surprising because the Tories cashed in so bountifully on a desire for change when they’ve been in charge for 11 long years; surprising because north-easterners whose lives have been made worse by Tory austerity happily embraced the party of Boris Johnson, voting for a man who’s as far removed from their lives as it is possible to be, yet they seem to like him.

Unsurprising because Hartlepool was Brexit central and Boris Johnson is Mr Brexit. Unsurprising because the government has been paying many people’s wages for a year; unsurprising because the pandemic has over-shadowed everything else, including the rapidly disintegrating world-beating benefits of Brexit (wait ten years and we might have an answer about that).

Johnson is an entertainer politician, a genius at campaigning and fooling everyone with his bumbling cheeriness – and a useless prime minister, because the job is boring and requires concentration when he prefers the fireworks of distraction.

What do we learn about whose fault this all was from scrolling through Twitter? Everything and nothing, but mostly nothing.

Some Labour supporters said it was all Jeremy Corbyn’s fault; others said if only Corbyn was still been in charge, this wouldn’t have happened.

Some said Sir Keir Starmer needed to put more distance between himself and Corbyn; others insisted he needed to be more Jeremy.

Please, no – but it’s all academic anyway. There’s no point fighting yesterday’s wars on tomorrow’s battlefield. And there doesn’t seem to be much mileage left in Starmer’s mea culpa act, insisting Labour needs to listen more.

No harm in listening but Starmer needs to define who he is, what his party believes in – and put the fight to Boris Johnson, laying out how Labour can connect with people and talk about what matters to them. No point earnestly muttering in the corner like a spurned boyfriend wondering where his sparkle has gone. Get out there and conjure some political magic.

The game has gone Johnson’s way for now and we’re stuck with him, perhaps until he falls into a scandal pit of his own making, toppled in there by his own bad behaviour.

And then…

You’re still talking about politics. Haven’t you got anything better to do, a book to read or something?

Yes, as it happens – and it’s not about politics at all.

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