Letters: By rejecting identity politics, Hartlepool exposes the cracks in Labour

·9-min read
Boris Johnson with an inflatable version of himself in Hartlepool, a constituency now held by the Conservatives for the first time since it was formed in 1974 - LEE SMITH /Reuters
Boris Johnson with an inflatable version of himself in Hartlepool, a constituency now held by the Conservatives for the first time since it was formed in 1974 - LEE SMITH /Reuters

SIR – The Hartlepool by-election result confirms that voters want a party that respects the Brexit vote. They also want a party they believe can level up the country, rejecting the “us and them” of the identity politics of the Labour Left. No amount of Boris Johnson’s furnishings can paper over the cracks of this present Labour Party.

Jeremy Thompson
Braintree, Essex

SIR – The result is a crushing defeat for the BBC news team, which had spent two weeks trying to make Wallpapergate the No 1 election issue.

Anthony Cutler
Malvern, Worcestershire

SIR – Hartlepool follows a trend that came to notice with the wipe-out of Labour’s Scottish heartlands in 2015, rolled through Derbyshire in 2017 and shattered the Red Wall in 2019.

The “Hartlepools” constituency dates from 1863, and had been Labour since 1945, with the exception of a Macmillan-era shock Tory majority of 182 votes in 1959. In such seats Labour was represented mostly by working-class MPs rooted in local communities. That came to an end when middle-class candidates from the metropolitan Labour bubble were foisted on the constituencies. Tony Blair, Ed Balls and his wife Yvette Cooper and, of course, Peter Mandelson were prime examples.

This time, Labour complacently selected for Hartlepool a defeated MP and avid Remainer.

Labour in Britain is following the path of devastated socialist parties on the Continent – a 20th-century phenomenon, destined for oblivion.

The question is what new party will replace them as a potential alternative government.

Jacques Arnold
West Malling, Kent

SIR – The by-election shows why Boris Johnson is a remarkable politician. He is considered gaffe-prone but can be photographed riding bicycles, eating ice cream or stuck on a zip wire without political harm. Bacon sandwiches and bananas hold little fear for him.

It is easy to be jealous of Boris, who did well in journalism before being the only truly successful Mayor of London. This may explain why many criticisms in politics and the media have come from his own side.

It’s time to let him get on leading us out of the pandemic and into financial recovery with less carping over younger partners and wallpaper.

Mark Robbins
Bruton, Somerset

SIR – Jill Mortimer polled more at Hartlepool than all the other candidates combined. This is rare.

Derek Wellman
Lincoln

SIR – Surely the function of a by-election is to let the electorate lodge a protest vote against the government of the day, not against the opposition.

Peter Yarnall
Milnrow, Lancashire

Trying to see a GP

SIR – Recent correspondence on access to GPs in person, rather than by telephone (May 7), highlights differences in the triage process being practised by surgeries.

Many “gatekeepers” have been adequately trained, but others less so, which results in unsatisfactory service. The scrum to phone at 8.30am, then wait to speak to a receptionist, is typical. No commercial business that valued its customers would do this, but patients have to put up with it.

There is an obvious disparity between good surgeries, where a patient who specifically requests a face-to-face appointment will probably receive one, and others where the receptionist is keeping in-person appointments to an absolute minimum. I am unfortunately registered at a surgery falling into the latter category, when only four miles away the opposite seems to be true.

GPs who challenge patients’ horror stories may just be speaking from their own experience and should not generalise.

Harry L Barker
North Berwick, East Lothian

SIR – My dentist has leaned in to treat my root canal for an hour, so why can’t I consult my GP in person, masked and distanced, for seven minutes?

Field McIntyre
London SW3

SIR – Access to doctors is essential, so why do care-home residents have to isolate for 14 days if they attend a GP or hospital appointment?

The guidance for unlocking care homes should be the same as it is nationally, with immediate effect.

Professor Martin Green

CEO, Care England
London E1

SIR – On Wednesday morning I rang my GP surgery and was asked to ring back at 1.30pm to arrange a triage consultation. Having done this, my doctor rang at 3.30pm and two hours later I saw him in person at his surgery.

I have just given blood samples and an MRI scan has been booked. I am greatly impressed by this service.

Michael Hendry
Market Drayton, Shropshire

Pointless restrictions

SIR – It is time some Covid restrictions were lifted. Our local library, for instance, shuts for an hour at lunch time for “deep cleaning”, which I bet we will later be told was pointless.

Meanwhile, we are still allowing foreign travel into the country, which is how the virus first got here.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – How wonderful to experience a pint of beer, served in a plastic glass at an inflated price, in freezing outdoor conditions. Never was so much anticipated by so many for such disappointment.

Lovat Timbrell
Brighton, East Sussex

Roar deal

SIR – I am outraged that the new England football logo has a male lion and a female lion, but no trans lion.

Nigel Cowan
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – The FA’s proposed three lions redesign sets an awkward precedent for Wales. Is there such thing as a dragoness and what is the correct term for a young dragon to parallel the cub for lions? Or are all dragons asexual and ageless, and thus perfect for modern sensibilities?

Christopher Glynn
Selsey, Gloucestershire

Jersey and the Navy

SIR – Given EU, particularly French, hostility over fishing rights, is it wise to send a carrier battle group – including a third of our naval escort capability – to the Far East, which seems designed only to antagonise the Chinese?

Equally, why are we becoming embroiled in Mali and possibly Chad? The purpose of these French-led military interventions is to halt the flow of migrants north towards the Mediterranean and hence southern Europe. Would we not be better to employ our forces to counter illegal immigration operations at home?

Colonel S C H Ashworth
Lichfield, Staffordshire

SIR – The threat to pull the plug on Jersey’s electricity shows how vindictive EU members can be when they do not get their way.

The resurrection of Irish trade issues, threats of a vaccine embargo and now this fishing row all reveal the bullying EU bloc to be the leading protectionist organisation in the world.

If Remainers still wonder why we voted to leave this jealous cabal, they now have their answer.

Jim Sokol
Woodcombe, Somerset

SIR – Do the French co-operate in any agreements that they sign? To threaten to cut off Jersey’s electricity is not the act of an ally or economic trading partner.

At what point will French ministers act within international law when protecting their own interests?

Gavin Howard
Warminster, Wiltshire

SIR – President Macron’s attendance at a ceremony marking the 200th anniversary of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death (report, May 6) gave credence to a monstrous dictator who was responsible for perhaps six million deaths, military and civilian.

He also installed his family members as dictatorial heads of state in several European countries and was intent on invading Britain, which was put to huge trouble and expense to assist in his defeat and capture.

Sam Bee
Lindfield, West Sussex

Silenced soapbox

SIR – The short answer to G W Doggrell (“Can one still speak freely at Speakers’ Corner? Letters, May 6) is “no” – and I spoke there more than 300 times between 1965 and 2010.

Christopher Horne
Former Chairman, Hyde Park Tories
Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

In defence of the brave and intelligent pigeon

Pigeon homing: the interior of the 16th-century dovecote at Naunton, Gloucestershire - Nick Turner / Alamy Stock Photo 
Pigeon homing: the interior of the 16th-century dovecote at Naunton, Gloucestershire - Nick Turner / Alamy Stock Photo

SIR – Clive Aslet (Comment, May 6) describes pigeons as “filthy pestilent birds” and wishes them to be culled.

In their defence, pigeons are among the most intelligent birds on the planet and one of the few species able to recognise themselves in a mirror test. They can also recognise all the letters in the alphabet and differentiate between photographs.

Pigeons have saved human lives in wartime and helped to find sailors lost at sea. Pigeons “serving” in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War received the Dickin Medal – the animal Victoria Cross – for delivering messages that led to the rescue of aviators.

Richard Barclay
Backwell, Somerset

SIR – Clive Aslet reminded me of the simple but effective culling method used in Aylesbury some 65 years ago.

Nets were placed on the county office’s roof overnight. The caretaker coped with the resulting piles of pigeons and the canteen offered cheap pigeon pie, pigeon stew, and roast pigeon – tasty variations on the usual fish or shepherd’s pies.

Jenny Shelby-Green
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

A search for the hiding place of missing deeds

SIR – When my father died, I remembered his instructions to look in the fireproof box under the stairs, where I believed I would find useful items (Letters, May 6).

Following his demise, I opened the box to find passports and traveller’s cheques, but no deeds for the house or share certificates. Without the deeds I could not prove the house belonged to Mum. Dad looked after all such matters, so Mum was unable to help.

I searched the house, looking in and under drawers, flicked through books for any papers with hints, and contacted all organisations (banks, solicitors, county archives, insurance companies) that might conceivably have what I sought. Nothing.

At one point I looked at the bath and noted that the side panel was secured by Pozidriv screws. I made a mental connection with the Pozidriv screwdriver I had seen in his bedside locker. Behind the panel I found another fireproof box with all the paperwork I sought.

You can imagine my thoughts. Before he retired my father was a solicitor dealing with conveyancing for the county council.

Ken Davies
Kettering, Northamptonshire

SIR – My mother adored her dogs. When she died we found wooden boxes of cremated remains of several.

I discovered two weeks ago that these have been in our own attic since she died 11 years ago. My husband is incapable of throwing anything away in case it might one day be useful.

Paddy Manning
Epping, Essex

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