John Harris

Journalist & Author

Labour’s crisis comes from the huge gap between politics and people | John Harris

Out in the real world, grassroots work shows where the left’s renewal will have to start

In some parts of Birmingham, around one in seven people are currently out of work. There are areas of the city in which child poverty is about 50%. And like so much of this country, it is a place now full of empty spaces: pubs, shopping centres – and, atop the redeveloped New Street station, a vast and newly vacant branch of John Lewis.

When the store opened, John Lewis’s managing director was Andy Street. Two years later, against plenty of expectations, he became the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands region. On Saturday, it was confirmed that Street had beaten his Labour adversary, Liam Byrne, and been elected for the second time. Here was proof, as in Hartlepool, that hard times are no barrier to success for the Tories. But his success was also a symbol of something even more significant: a crisis for Labour and the left that goes far beyond the so-called red wall and deep into the past.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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