Personality over policy will help Labour win elections

A 30ft inflatable Boris Johnson at Jacksons Wharf in Hartlepool following the Conservative's victory in Hartlepool

A 30ft inflatable Boris Johnson at Jacksons Wharf in Hartlepool following Conservative's Jill Mortimer victory in the Hartlepool parliamentary by-election - Credit: PA

Labour needs to learn from Boris Johnson that it's personality, not policy, which is currently winning elections 

With each election that sees Johnson’s party rise in the polls, win seats and be applauded by the mainstream media, my heart sinks a little deeper. I’m now convinced that policies don’t cut it - all you need is a jolly joker with a cornucopia of lies and empty promises and the electorate will fall for it, time after time.

Hartlepool was lost to Labour long before Starmer. The Brexit Party vote passed, not to Labour, but straight to the Tories who have made all manner of promises. Their lies on Brexit are numerous - including the one about ‘Freeports’ (Hartlepool will be included in the new Teeside Freeport) being a Brexit bonus; a basic fact-check shows there are more than 80 such zones across the EU. Basically, the party voted for Johnson, the jolly joker, rather than Mortimer who actually won the seat.

It’s Johnson’s persona that gets the votes. People don’t care he lies on an industrial scale because somehow, despite his Etonian pedigree, he comes across as the bloke you could have a drink with (even though he won’t be buying), the geezer you could strike a deal with - even though you’re guaranteed to to get scammed; the dodgy uncle each family jokes about. And the reason the public buys into this is that the media fails to hold him to account. Whether Johnson is making false claims about forty hospitals, police numbers or any other lie, he is rarely challenged - either in print or in an interview (where he’ll ‘wiffle waffle’ his way through till time's up).

Parliament has also not held him to account,  as is evidenced by his breaking of the Ministerial Code without penalty. Perhaps the various bodies investigating him will now manage to do so with or without help from Cummings? I doubt it.

It’s certainly clear that Johnson is the Tory party’s strongest asset as well as its greatest liability. His populist approach works as well with northern working-class voters as with southern Tories - something Corbyn (also charismatic in his own way) never achieved. Starmer doesn’t have charisma and, sadly, integrity and basic decency won’t swing the vote. Blair’s charisma achieved a landslide victory and like Johnson, managed to connect with voters across the political divide.

I say this with the heaviest of hearts: ‘policy’ has lost the popularity contest and, unless Labour magics up a charismatic leader (or Johnson is removed from Number 10), their hopes of government remain slim. Of course,  PR might do the trick - but that’s another letter.

Jane Riekemann

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