An odd interview with the Labour leader on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning. Sir Keir Starmer sounded mournful. At one point, when pressed on the prospects, he talked about his leadership as though it is already over.
“My job as Labour leader was to rebuild the Labour party out of that devastating loss in 2019 and put us in a position to win the next general election,” he said.
A slip of the tongue perhaps – that use of was rather than is – but revealing none the less when he sounds as though he is preparing for defeat. Starmer went on to speak of his burning desire to build a better future for the country, but with little evidence of enthusiasm.
Instead, with the Tories on his tail and the Corbynite far left seeking revenge, Starmer’s message ahead of Thursday is all about expectation management. He’s only a year in. He couldn’t be expected to sort out Labour in a year, and so on.
No wonder Starmer sounds even gloomier than usual, though. A Survation poll in Hartlepool published on Tuesday morning shows the Tories miles in front and a punch drunk Labour sliding down the Red Wall. Here’s how it looks:
J Mortimer, Con 50% (+1) P Williams, Lab 33% (-9) T Walker, Ind 6% (+4) S Lee, Ind 6% (+6) R Featherstone, Grn 3% (+2) A Hagon, LD 1% (-) J Prescott, RFM 1% (-)
That poll does need a health warning. The sample size of 517 is low and much of the field work was conducted before Boris got himself properly embroiled in the wallpaper sleaze row. Still, it looks as though Hartlepool will be the latest chapter in the story of the realignment of post-Brexit English politics in favour of the Conservatives.
In the mayoral races in the West Midlands and Teesside the Tories also appear to be storming to victory. Tory Andy Street is 17 points ahead of Labour’s Liam Byrne on first preferences as revealed by the latest polling numbers from the West Midlands, according to Opinium. And in Teesside, Tory Ben Houchen is on 63%, ahead of Labour’s Jessie-Joe Jacobs on 37%.
Starmer’s week may yet get much worse.