FOR a century, the constituency of Don Valley in South Yorkshire was one of the most secure bricks in the red wall which last week collapsed. Buried beneath the rubble was Caroline Flint, who now has the unwanted distinction of being the first Labour MP not to retain the seat.
In fact, with her share of the vote plummeting from 53 to only 35 per cent, Flint was not even close to holding on: Conservative Nick Fletcher beat her by a comfortable 3,630. The psephologists can determine whether the Tory triumph was because of or despite more than 6,000 Leavers supporting the Brexit Party (13.7 per cent).
That rocket of a result, from a constituency which was 68 per cent Leave and fired by electors who clearly loathed Labour’s leadership, left ill-fated Flint as collateral damage. At her count, Caroline was in no doubt who and what was to blame for her defeat, asking of Corbyn and his cohorts the rhetorical question: ‘What is the point of the Labour Party if we don’t respect and represent those [working class] voices?’
Many other Labour MPs from the north of England also came a cropper; however, despite having campaigned for Remain, Caroline Flint was one of the few entitled to feel aggrieved. As I wrote in October: ‘Flint is due credit for publicly opposing the contortions performed by the Labour leadership . . . [she] should be congratulated for consistently arguing that the UK must leave the EU.’
For that reason, some of the most prominent Brexiteers sympathised with Caroline Flint: see here,
Certainly, it is an injustice that Flint was ousted while Brexit betrayer Yvette Cooper held on in West Yorkshire by just 1,276 votes (and in spite of the Conservatives and BXP garnering 52 per cent).
However, before anyone from the Right starts composing songs in her honour, it is worth noting that during the election campaign Caroline Flint was guilty of parroting the most outlandish of all Labour lies. Not only did Flint enthusiastically partake in her party’s alarmism regarding the NHS, she egregiously editorialised that the Tories intend to ‘sell off our greatest institution’ – a contention which she cannot seriously believe.
A Labour MP having a rose-tinted view of our nationalised medical monolith is understandable, and Caroline could have been forgiven had she confined herself to criticising Conservative health spending (even although funding the NHS is pouring water on sand). Interestingly, the respondents to Flint’s fear-mongering generally were sorrowful that someone whom they had come to regard as a principled politician had succumbed to peddling partisan poppycock.
Caroline Flint lost respect because of that cynical scaremongering. However, since the election she has done the country a favour by divulging on TV the haughtiness of Emily Thornberry, Labour’s answer to Hyacinth Bucket, who Flint alleges told a colleague: ‘I’m glad my constituents aren’t as stupid as yours.’
Condescending Emily does of course have form: in 2014, her sneering snap of a white van outside a house festooned with the flag of St George forced Lady Nugee’s resignation from the shadow cabinet.
The (for now) shadow foreign secretary insists she ‘would never even think that, let alone say it’ about northern voters. At the time of writing, Thornberry has threatened to sue Flint for ‘making up s**t’.
Interviewed on Monday, Caroline Flint told Good Morning Britain: ‘I stand by my comments’, and she again asserted: ‘I don’t think any of the architects of our strategy on Brexit, whether it’s Emily Thornberry, Keir Starmer or others, are really the best candidates to be leader of the Labour Party.’
Whatever the outcome of this spat amongst the socialist sisterhood, the nation should be grateful that any political ambitions still harboured by Emily Thornberry surely have been scuppered by the revelatory Ms Flint.