I have many theories about why we lost in Hartlepool. But they are just that - theories. Because quite simply - this time round - I wasn’t able to knock on any doors.
And I don’t know Hartlepool very well. My childhood boyfriend was from Hartlepool. We went out there occasionally. But that is the extent of my Hartlepool experience. And contrary to the popular rhetoric - the North is not a monolithic whole. Neither is the North East. Nor is Teesside.
If we want to know what really happened in Hartlepool - we shouldn’t ask the media - we shouldn’t ask the leadership - we should ask the activists. In Keir’s position - I would ask Paul Williams who his top ten doorknockers were. And I would talk to them. I would also get my team to interview every losing candidate in every key seat, whether parliamentary, council, mayoralty or PCC, and find out what the public were thinking across the country.
As many of will you know - if you are reading this blog - I was the parliamentary candidate for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland for nearly 2 years. I knocked on a LOT of doors. My team and I believed strongly in listening - in making that personal connection. But after I lost in December 2019, nobody from the Party asked me why the people in Brotton, Skelton and Carlin How had turned away from us. And nobody asked my fellow target seat candidates either. There were c.80 of us across the country - in position for 1-2 years - and nobody asked us what we learnt in our respective patches. Asked us why we thought we lost and what issues kept coming up on the doorstep.
The Labour Party cannot make policy in a closed room in London. It’s time to really listen. For our activists to listen to voters. And for our leadership to listen to our activists. The next election could be our last chance.