eir Starmer should not be blamed for taking the Hartlepool by-election result seriously. The loss of the constituency, for the first time in decades, was hardly surprising, given the enormous showing in 2019 for the now essentially non-existent Brexit Party. But the scale of the loss was shocking.
More than 50 per cent of the voters voted Conservative, which means that those who wish to blame the appalling 2019 defeat on Jeremy Corbyn have to come up with answers for why, 18 months on, the party appears to have gone further backwards in a town it has precious little chance of governing without.
That a case can be made that Starmer has made no progress is naturally sufficient to reignite Labour’s forever war. The party’s Corbyn-venerating left wing feels vindicated. And as such, Starmer’s first response to the result was to sack his deputy Angela Rayner as Labour’s chair and campaigns coordinator.