The Spectator

Portrait of the week: Scotland votes, Queen speaks and Israel-Palestine crisis escalates


A new complexion of British politics was revealed by the capture of Hartlepool by Jill Mortimer for the Conservatives in a by-election, with 15,529 to the Labour candidate’s 8,589. Since its formation in 1974, the constituency had been Labour. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said his party had ‘lost the trust of working people, particularly in places like Hartlepool’. The Conservative Ben Houchen was re-elected as mayor of the Tees Valley with 72.8 per cent of the vote. Of 143 English council seats, the Conservatives now control 63, 13 more than before, with 2,345 councillors; Labour lost control of eight councils to end up with 44, and 1,345 councillors. Sir Keir then made a botch of a shadow cabinet shuffle. He sacked Angela Rayner as party chairman, but could not remove her as deputy leader, since she had been elected by the party. He asked her to shadow Michael Gove at the Cabinet Office in place of Rachel Reeves, who became shadow chancellor in place of Anneliese Dodds, who became party chairman in place of Angela Rayner.

The Scottish National party won 64 seats in the Scottish parliament, one more than before but one short of a majority; the Conservatives won 31, as before, and Labour 22, two fewer. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister and SNP leader, said that ‘it is the will of the country’ to hold a referendum on independence. Alex Salmond failed to win a seat and his new party Alba polled 1.7 per cent of the vote. In Wales, Labour increased its seats in the Senedd by one to 30 out of the total of 60. Ten people shot dead in west Belfast over three days in August 1971 were ‘entirely innocent’, a coroner ruled; the British Army was found responsible for nine of the deaths.

The Queen, not wearing a mask, opened parliament and read her speech to 34 people and the crown on a cushion in the Lords Chamber.

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