The plan to replace Hartlepools sitting MP, Ian Wright with a favoued and ambishus london corbynite and how Prime Minister Theresa May runied it all.
Published May 2017
The election material made it clear enough, ‘Put Your Trust in a Real Doctor NOT a UKIP Spin Doctor - Vote for Local Resident Dr Mike McLaughlin Your local Labour Candidate for Headland & Harbour Ward.
Both ‘Trust’ and ‘Local’ would seem to be the salient words here. So how much of either should we place in the recently elected Headland & Harbour Councillor or, for that matter, the Labour Party that supported him?
Mike McLaughlin’s election campaign made much use of his A&E doctor credentials even featuring a picture of him in his doctor’s attire complete with stethoscope. There was also an implied linkage to the local North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Hospital Trust, since confirmed by way of his Register of Interests lodged after his election with HBC’s Chief Solicitor. Add to this an address at Navigation Point, within the Headland and Harbour ward boundary and all of the boxes would seem to have been ticked for a successful campaign
But there was something troubling about Mike McLaughlin.
When the Headland & Harbour by-election arose, the name McLaughlin was not one that we had previously come across and no one seemed able to tell us much about him. In addition, for all of his implied claims of a connection with the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Hospital Trust, we couldn’t find anyone at the Trust who had even heard of him.
His election pitch which appeared in the Hartlepool Mail emphasised his community commitment, “I’m standing to be the councillor for the ward because I believe our community deserves better. Living in the community I see UKIP’s neglect on the Headland, the Central estate and the Burbank daily."
In reality, McLaughlin’s own community was (and still is) in Tooting, Central London and his local knowledge of Hartlepool was still at the elementary stage.
His campaign was a cynical one based on subtle suggestion and slight of hand with the duplicitous goal of convincing Headland & Harbour voters that McLaughlin was a local lad working as an A&E Doctor at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Hospital Trust - and many of them fell for it.
We can at least confirm that Mike McLaughlin is the councillor’s real name and that he is an A&E doctor but unfortunately, that’s about as far as we can go.
The true story of Mike McLaughlin’s election as a Hartlepool councillor is one of manipulation by what is today, a very London-centric Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. A party that appears to have no problem using voters in its its traditional heartland in the north as mere cannon fodder to further the political career of one of their chosen people.
It’s also a story that involves some surprising characters from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and even to Prime Minister Theresa May and one that demonstrates just how little respect Labour now has for the electorate.
Dr Who and The Unexpected Journey
Mike McLaughlin lives, not at Navigation Point, but in the Borough of Tooting in London just as he did during his election campaign and for several years before that. He is a Junior doctor at St Thomas’ Hospital, on the other side of the river Thames to the Houses of Parliament, with aspirations to become a consultant. He has no connection to Hartlepool and, prior to May 2017, would probably have needed a map even to locate it.
He is a well-known activist within the London Labour set best known for his campaigning for junior doctor’s and the LGBT community. Originally from Northern Ireland, he has lived in Tooting for six years, where he has also been a ward organiser for Labour.
His London credentials were strong enough for him to be short-listed by Labour in the competition to become their candidate for the Tooting by-election which followed the election of Sadiq Khan as London Mayor in May 2016.
He was one of two doctors short-listed with the other being Rosena Allin-Khan who was born and raised in Tooting where she was also a councillor, once serving as deputy leader of the Labour group on Wandsworth Council. She also worked as an A&E specialist doctor in the local St. George’s Hospital.
The two doctors were the clear favourites for selection largely because Tooting had been experiencing an influx of professional, middle-class people. This ‘gentrification’, as Labour dubbed it, had led to an increasing Tory vote in the constituency at the expense of Labour. It was thought that having a doctor as their candidate would help stop the rot.
In the end, the local CLP opted for Rosena Allin-Khan over Mike McLaughlin with the runner-up told that he would be found a safe Labour seat ‘up north’ as a consolation prize.
Eventually it was decided that safe Labour seat would be Hartlepool, then occupied by Ian Wright
There had been rumours for sometime that Hartlepool’s sitting MP, Iain Wright, was facing de- selection.
After Labour’s 2015 defeat in the General Election and Ed Milliband’s subsequent resignation as Labour Leader, the party descended into almost two years of navel gazing and in-fighting. Wright, like many others, had initially dismissed any possibility that Jeremy Corbyn could become Leader of the Labour Party and when Corbyn was elected Wright became one of several prominent critics within the Westminster bubble - though typically of Wright, not publicly. Only after Corbyn won a second Leadership contest did Wright tone down his criticism calling instead for unity within the party.
At home, Wright’s relationship with the Hartlepool CLP had been slowly disintegrating for some time. There had been several reasons for this.
Wright had been facing a strong challenge from UKIP which had made Hartlepool one of UKIP’s top 10 target seats and the main target in North East England. In addition, the antics of members of the local Labour group under the leadership of Christopher Akers-Belcher had put further pressure on the Labour vote. Weeks before the 2015 election, Wright had been forced to call for an investigation into the behaviour of Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher after he had been caught propagating a serious of lies over the circumstances surrounding his sacking from Newcastle City Council.
Even so, Wright went on to see his majority in the 2015 General Election cut to just 3,024 turning Hartlepool into the 35th most vulnerable labour seat in the country.
The 69.5% ‘leave’ vote in the 2016 referendum only underlined the threat from UKIP that Wright faced and his relationship with the local CLP deteriorated further when then CLP refused to fund recommended security improvements to its South terrace HQ in the wake of the murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox in 2016. This refusal had forced Wright to relocate his own office into Hartlepool Civic Centre in order to guarantee the safety of his own staff.
There’s no way of knowing if Wright had already decided to call it a day but by the beginning of 2017 he found himself working under a leader in whom he had no faith and facing the real threat of losing his own seat. His relationship with the local CLP had broken down and at a time when all of the opinion polls suggested that he would be facing another 5 years in opposition even if he did manage to hang on to his seat.