Khalid Mahmood has been Labour’s shadow defence minister since Sir Keir took over the party leadership last April. But following a dire set of election results for the party today, including Hartlepool returning a Conservative MP to Westminster in a historic by-election upset, he has quit the frontbench.
Announcing his decision on a blog post for the think tank Policy Exchange, he said: “We must recognise that is how we are seen by so many people in the places that were once unfailingly loyal to us – as a party that has lost its way.
“It is only by engagement on a local level, meeting eye to eye with voters and hearing their concerns, that we will fix that.
“I will be doing so not from the Labour front bench, but walking the streets of my constituency as a backbencher and talking face to face with the people I have the honour to serve.”
The Conservatives overturned a majority of 3,500 at the 2019 general election to win Hartlepool with a majority of 6,940.
The seat had been Labour-held since it was formed in 1974.
It was one of the few seats to survive the battering taken by the so-called ‘red wall’ of Labour strongholds in 2019, when many areas in the north of England elected a Tory MP for the first time.
Hartlepool voted to leave the EU in 2016 with a majority of around 70 percent, but the party selected a vocal pro-EU candidate who previously represented the seat of Stockton South between 2017 and 2019 for the by-election.
Criticising Sir Keir Starmer for failing to listen to voters, Mr Mahmood said: “A London-based bourgeoisie, with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors, has effectively captured the party.
“They mean well, of course, but their politics – obsessed with identity, division and even tech utopianism – have more in common with those of Californian high society than the kind of people who voted in Hartlepool yesterday.
“The loudest voices in the Labour movement over the past year, in particular, have focused more on pulling down Churchill’s statue than they have on helping people pull themselves up in the world.
“Their patriotism is about historic pride in their places, the heritage and stories of those places, and the Britishness and Englishness of the people and families that call them home.”
Responding to the Hartlepool loss this afternoon, Sir Keir Starmer said he took responsibility for the result and vowed to make the changes necessary to win over the support of former party loyalists.
The Labour leader promised to do “whatever it takes” to rebuild trust in the party.
“I’m bitterly disappointed in the result and I take full responsibility for the results – and I will take full responsibility for fixing this,” he said.
“We have changed as a party but we haven’t set out a strong enough case to the country.
“Very often we have been talking to ourselves instead of to the country and we have lost the trust of working people, particularly in places like Hartlepool.
“I intend to do whatever is necessary to fix that.”
Mr Mahmood’s resignation comes ahead of a widely expected reshuffle of the Labour frontbench as Sir Keir looks to mix up his top team to relaunch his leadership.
Published at Fri, 07 May 2021 23:00:00 +0000