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DAN HODGES: Labour cares more about Palestinians than Red Wall voters

Last week I was talking to a Shadow Minister about his party's problems which he summed up with a colourful – and shrewd – analogy.

'A guy's car won't start,' he told me, 'so he calls a mechanic. The mechanic arrives and says, 'Ah, I see the problem. You're out of petrol.' The guy says, 'Oh, I thought it was the starter motor.' The mechanic says, 'No, you just need some petrol.' The guy says, 'OK. But could you still check the starter motor.' So the mechanic checks. 'Starter motor's fine. Shall I put the petrol in?' The guy says, 'No, I think I'll change the starter motor first, and see how I get on.' That guy is the Labour Party.'

In the wake of Labour's disastrous defeat in Hartlepool and at the local elections, Keir Starmer has announced a national policy review. He's also going to embark on a national tour to listen to and learn from the British people.

Why? What's the point?

There's no great mystery about why Labour has just received yet another drubbing at the hands of the voters. 

The majority of people in Hartlepool want strong action to control illegal immigration. The Labour Party doesn't. 

Concerns of the working men and women of Redcar and Cleveland come second to the concerns of the terrorists of the Gaza Strip. And reaching out to Britain's working-class communities is less of a political imperative than being seen to take a knee

In the wake of Labour's disastrous defeat in Hartlepool and at the local elections, Keir Starmer has announced a national policy review. He's also going to embark on a national tour to listen to and learn from the British people. Why? What's the point?

The majority of people in Hartlepool want to see a strong stance on law and order. The Labour Party doesn't. 

The majority of people in Hartlepool want to see strong positions adopted on welfare, defence and patriotism. The Labour Party doesn't.

Keir Starmer knows this. So do all of his MPs and activists. The issue isn't – as some people claim – that Labour doesn't understand the voters of their former heartlands. They understand them perfectly well. They just don't like what they think.

On Wednesday, Labour's Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was touring the broadcast studios, basking in the glow of her successful briefing war against her leader over his botched reshuffle. Her party had to answer questions from 'the doorstep' about 'what Labour stands for', she said.

Twenty-four hours later, police turned up in a Glasgow street to help the UK Border Agency deport two men it had determined were illegal migrants. A crowd formed. After several hours, the men were released. Angela Rayner tweeted: 'Solidarity with the people of Glasgow today.'

Why did Keir Starmer take a hammering at the polls? Because Red Wall voters think his party cares more about the Palestinians than it does about them. (Above, a pro-Palestine protest in central London on Saturday)

The idea that a Labour MP would see solving the problems of Palestinians as their priority will not surprise a single Red Wall voter. (Above, pro-Palestine demonstrators march to the Israeli Embassy in London on Saturday)

The eyes of the world have been trained on the appalling scenes in Israel. The international community was united in calling for restraint from both sides, though leaders such as Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron made it clear that Israel had a right to defend herself

Labour's leader took a different tack. 'The violence against worshippers during Ramadan at the al-Aqsa mosque was shocking,' Keir Starmer said. 'Israel must respect international law, and must take steps, immediately, to work with Palestinian leaders to de-escalate tensions.' Again, everyone knows where Labour stands on this. On the side of the Palestinians, and against Israel. (Above, rockets fired from Gaza targeting Israeli cities)

People know perfectly well what Labour stands for. In a confrontation between the police and those judged to be illegal migrants, Labour stands with the illegal migrants.

While all of this was going on, the eyes of the world were trained on the appalling scenes in Israel. The international community was united in calling for restraint from both sides, though leaders such as Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron made it clear that Israel had a right to defend herself.

Labour's leader took a different tack. 'The violence against worshippers during Ramadan at the al-Aqsa mosque was shocking,' Keir Starmer said. 'Israel must respect international law, and must take steps, immediately, to work with Palestinian leaders to de-escalate tensions.'

Again, everyone knows where Labour stands on this. On the side of the Palestinians, and against Israel. What's more, it's not just another international issue for Labour, so much as a political obsession.

Coventry MP Zarah Sultana – currently being promoted by the Left as a future leader – tweeted: 'When I speak about Palestine, I get hostile replies from people outside Coventry, questioning if my constituents care. For their information: Since getting elected, the thing I've been emailed about most by my constituents: Palestine.'

Sultana seems to think this statement will come as some sort of revelation to people. Quite the opposite. The idea that a Labour MP would see solving the problems of Palestinians as their priority will not surprise a single Red Wall voter.

Yes, in some sort of abstract way, Starmer and his MPs want to 'reconnect' with voters in seats like Hartlepool. In the same way I once wanted to open the batting for England at Lord's. It was a dream. But I was never prepared to actually do what it takes to have any chance of making it a reality.

   

More from Dan Hodges For The Mail On Sunday...

It's the same with Labour's leader. In the wake of his humiliation at the polls, Starmer announced that he would put 'jobs' at the heart of his new political strategy.

He won't. Yes, he'll visit some factories, wear an ill-fitting helmet, and trot out some stuff about the challenges and opportunities of new technologies.

But you won't see him turn up as part of his 'listening' tour in Folkestone, for example. He won't tell the voters there that he's going to make sure people can't use the asylum system as a fast-track to jobs and benefits.

The next time environmental protesters bring London's buses and Tubes to a halt, Keir Starmer and his party won't be on TV telling them to get out of the way of people off to work. Instead they'll pop up to tell us how we all need to listen to Greta Thunberg.

And the voters of Hartlepool – and Labour's other lost heartlands – are well aware of this. They know the drill. Starmer and his Shadow Ministers will arrive to have a 'conversation'. They will be told 'we want you to do something about the illegal migrants'. And they will receive the response: 'Er… yes. Not sure we can do that. How about a sustain- able investment board instead?'

Labour doesn't really try to reach out to the voters. It attempts to choreograph them. So Keir Starmer will indeed go – missionary-like – into Labour's former heartlands. And, magically, when he returns he will have heard only what he and his party want to hear.

Concerns about immigration and welfare and crime will be wrapped up together as 'culture war' issues, and dispensed with. Those suggesting that Labour needs to place those concerns at the heart of their political offer will be dismissed as 'patronising' or peddling 'working-class stereotypes'.

At which point Labour will again retreat to the safety of its middle-class comfort zone. Where demands for safe streets are drowned out by cries of 'Kill the Bill!' 

Concerns of the working men and women of Redcar and Cleveland come second to the concerns of the terrorists of the Gaza Strip. And reaching out to Britain's working-class communities is less of a political imperative than being seen to take a knee.

On Wednesday, Labour's Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was touring the broadcast studios, basking in the glow of her successful briefing war against her leader over his botched reshuffle. Her party had to answer questions from 'the doorstep' about 'what Labour stands for', she said

Starmer knows what he needs to do. His party knows what they need to do. They're just not prepared to do it. Actually engaging with the British working class is simply too distasteful to them.

So instead of trying to win back seats like Bolsover or Stockton South, they will construct a strategy for winning the seat of Bristolpool Hamlets. 

An entirely mythical constituency, where Britain's ethnic minorities and middle classes and workers unquestioningly embrace Labour's unique brand of critical-race-theory-inspired eco-internationalism. 

Starmer can hold as many policy reviews as he likes. He can conduct Shadow Cabinet reshuffles, big and small.

He can make Angela Rayner First Secretary of State, Second Secretary of State, or anoint her Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt and the Breaker of Chains.

None of it will matter. If he is not prepared to show his party is going to be strong on immigration, crime, welfare, defence, patriotism or any of those other issues they have ceded without so much as a whimper to Boris and the Conservative Party, they needn't even bother standing a candidate in Hartlepool at the next Election.

Why did Keir Starmer take a hammering at the polls? Because Red Wall voters think his party cares more about the Palestinians than it does about them.

And why do they think that? Because it does.

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