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Business & Economy

Politics: Victory in sight – but other goals still to conquer

With Boris Johnson having jumped before he was pushed by the Privileges Committee, the Conservative Party found itself embroiled in yet further controversy, its vision of mitigating significant General Election losses made all the more foggier. Which was good news for Labour – but only to an extent. Because despite its old foe’s extraordinary implosion, there remains great work for the red rose to do to convince good sections of the population it is a viable alternative to Tory rule beyond it not being the party of Sunak, Truss (and formerly Johnson) et al.


It was hardly tanks in Tiananmen Square. 

Nor was it New York steelworkers lunching in the heavens, Buzz Aldrin sullying his NASA-issued white boots with moon dust or John and Yoko pleading for peace from beneath their bed sheets.

But in its own little way, in its own little part of the world, it made for no less a salient moment in time.

Under harsh yellow leisure centre lights, Conservative Darlington MP Peter Gibson surveyed local election ballots on a white-clothed trestle table.

The news wasn’t good.

Caught mid-reaction by a member of the local press corps, Gibson was snapped as he instinctively raised his left hand to his head, palm pressed against forehead and fringe, as Tory blue evaporated from the voting colour wheel.

After wresting control of Darlington Borough Council for the first time in 2019 – albeit with independent propping – the shipwright’s son could see draining constituent sentiment had it listing hurriedly towards subsidence.

The image and its meaning, though, extended far beyond the railway town and its interlinking wards, instead feeding into a wider narrative at play across the rest of the North East.

Now, it should be said that forecasting any General Election result through the prism of grassroots political favour comes with no little risk of distortion.

But Darlington’s result, added to other geographies in the south of the region, nevertheless presented some interesting take aways.

As the town shunned Conservative rule, in the process gaining a Labour-dominated coalition with the Liberal Democrats, so too did Middlesbrough’s colours change, with its council walls and mayoral office switching from independent grey to red.

Over in Redcar and Cleveland, Labour again scooped seats as UKIP disappeared, but swayed not enough to secure a majority, while in Stockton, the Tories picked off independent and Liberal Democrat seats to marginally best its old foe. 

In snapshot form, they show the usual flux of local politics.

In wider view, though, they represent a country searching for new direction but lacking the necessary compass and co-ordinates to truly find it.

And don’t expect the pathway to suddenly clear as the months tick towards the next General Election.

Because Labour, despite its positive national polling forecasts, still remains a tough vote for many.

Although the party these days carries more meat on its bones from the carcass left behind by Jeremy Corbyn, it continues to lack sufficient muscle to dominate the fight.

And, as ever, much of its frailty comes from a battle with itself, the fall-out from its decision to omit North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll from a North East Mayor longlist a recent case in point.

But what of an alternative?

Well, with the roof of Boris Johnson’s circus having finally caved in following one too many trapeze walks and record-breakingly bad replacement ringmaster Liz Truss spending more time talking to echo chambers like GB News than MPs in the Commons, the Conservatives’ show is limping to a close.

Rishi Sunak might continue to look into the spotlights, encouraging punters beyond to roll up and be part of the latest incarnation of the Tories’ grand show, but nobody is really buying it any longer.

No party could survive and spin its way out of the litany of unmitigated disasters dished up over recent years, not even one where a loyal band of MPs and supporters continue to genuflect to their apparently wronged deity.

Yet it’s an unavoidable truth that while Labour will assume power whenever Sunak decides to rip the sticking plasters away and calls an election, you can’t escape the feeling it will do so because it isn’t the Conservative Party.

And for the country’s sake, that won’t be enough.

Succeeding is not Sir Kier being a different face to Boris Johnson, Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak.

Success will be using the platform it will inevitably inherit to demonstrably change the UK – where the cost of living crisis bites ever harder amid rising interest rates – for the better.

Because if it doesn’t, the country will once again find itself with compass in hand, and one fewer direction in which to take.