'Lose, lose, lose, lose, Blair, Blair, Blair, lose, lose, lose, lose’. 11 words that sum up Labour's problem

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·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read
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Britain's Labour Party leader Keir Starmer leaves his home in London on May 7, 2021. - Early results from nationwide local elections on May 7 showed that the ruling Conservative Party had won a landslide in the opposition stronghold of Hartlepool in northeast England, a bitter blow to the Labour Party and its leader Keir Starmer. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer leaves his home in north London on Friday morning following the party's dire by-election defeat in Hartlepool. (Getty Images)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has been told to urgently change the party’s direction after its by-election disaster in Hartlepool.

Peter Mandelson, a former Hartlepool MP himself who is said to have been advising Starmer’s team, suggested a return to the “New Labour” approach which saw Tony Blair win three general elections between 1997 and 2005.

Lord Mandelson, who was a cabinet minister under Blair, pointed out he is the only Labour leader to have won an election in the past 47 years.

And listing Labour’s performances in the past 11 general elections, he emphasised the point by saying: “Lose, lose, lose, lose, Blair, Blair, Blair, lose, lose, lose, lose.”

Starmer took over the leadership from Jeremy Corbyn 13 months ago, with Corbyn having overseen Labour’s worst election defeat since 1935.

In Starmer’s first electoral test on Thursday, he saw Labour lose its seat to the Conservatives in Hartlepool for the first time ever.

The result is made even more calamitous by the fact sitting governments – particularly ones that have been in power for 11 years – rarely gain seats in by-elections.

Lord Mandelson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was feeling “mild fury” at the result, which saw Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer win a 6,940 majority.

He suggested 10 years of mismanagement of the party, national and locally, is “fundamentally an explanation of what’s happened today”.

Lord Mandelson went on: “What I would say is this, and remind the party we have not won a general election in 16 years.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) with Hartlepool MP and former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson meeting pupils at the   1.2 million City Learning at Dyke House School in Hartlepool.   (Photo by Owen Humphreys - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson. (PA)

“We have lost the last four, with 2019 a catastrophe. The last 11 general elections read: lose, lose, lose, lose, Blair, Blair, Blair, lose, lose, lose, lose.

“We need for once in this party to learn the lessons of those victories as well as those defeats, and I hope very much that when Keir and his colleagues in the shadow cabinet say this means that we have got to change direction that they actually mean it.”

Appearing on the same programme, John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under Corbyn accused Starmer of sending candidates into Thursday’s elections “almost naked” in reference to the party being “almost policy-less” under Starmer.

McDonnell, who said Starmer should be “given his chance” to turn the party round, said he needs to “demonstrate to people the sort of society you want to create”.

Watch: Keir Starmer's promise to take responsibility for election results (from Wednesday)