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British Former MP Kate Hoey On Conservative Election Wins


We're going now to a lifelong member of the Labour Party who announced she was stepping down from Parliament last month. Kate Hoey is in favor of Brexit and was frustrated with her party's leadership for refusing to take a position either way on the biggest issue for British voters. Kate Hoey on the line now from London. Thanks for joining us.

KATE HOEY: Thank you.

KING: What do you think about the results of yesterday's election?

HOEY: Well, it's a devastating result for the Labour Party - much, much worse than any of us had thought. I knew that we were going to lose up in our heartlands. Labour seats that have never been Conservative before have fallen. And we're in a situation now where there's going to have to be a root-and-branch look at everything that's gone on, and particularly why we were so - had such a ridiculous policy on the referendum result which asked us to leave the European Union. And we ignored that.

KING: We heard earlier from our correspondent, Frank Langfitt, about voters, as you say, in the industrial north of the U.K. turning against the Labour Party. Traditionally, this party was their ally. Why did they lose these voters?

HOEY: Well, of course, this was an election about leaving the EU. And if they had - many of those seats had voted by big majorities to leave. And three years later, they had seen Labour MPs in Parliament doing everything they could to stop it, frustrating it, delaying it. They saw that. They didn't trust the party to get us out. Boris Johnson is a great campaigner. I worked with him when he was mayor of London, and he knew how to get through and talk to people in the north. He spent a lot of time, much more than any other Conservative leader, in those heartlands.

And people in the end, many of them will have just lent their vote to the Conservative Party in hope that eventually they'll get a Labour Party that they can vote for again. But it was enough to get that majority. And that's what we needed for stability because now the European Union knows that we're not going to revoke Article 50. We're not going to have a second referendum. We're going to get out, and they will have to change their attitude, too, to the negotiations. And we will get, I hope, within the next year a good free trade deal with the European Union. And of course, then we will be discussing with the United States to get an even closer relationship with you as well.

KING: This is a really interesting point you made about some people in areas that traditionally go for the Labour Party loaning their vote to the Conservative Party while Labour gets its act together. How does Labour go about winning those people back? What specifically as a strategy would you suggest?

HOEY: Well, first of all, we will get a new leader. Now, that leader is going to have to be radically different from the current leader...

KING: Jeremy Corbyn.

HOEY: ...And that may be difficult. Yeah, Jeremy Corbyn, because our membership is very much molded at the moment in Jeremy Corbyn's image but wouldn't have his history and the things that he was attacked for. So we will need to get a new leader, but then we're going to have to - you know, winning back trust is a slow, slow process. And of course, it will depend, too - these are Conservative MPs now representing seats that will have all the difficulties and problems in housing benefits and housing issues that they will be bringing back to Boris Johnson. And, you know, he then is going to have to look at Conservative policies.

So it is a radical shift and something that if the Conservatives play their card right and Labour doesn't get a real change, then it's not, you know, a fait accompli that Labour will automatically win these seats back. The Brexit Party, of course, did its good job of - what they did was make sure that Labour people who couldn't switch right to the Conservatives voted for the Brexit Party. And so the Brexit Party actually helped the Conservatives win this result as well.

KING: What do you say to people who sincerely want to remain in the European Union, who think this will be a disaster? Is it as simple as you guys lost?

HOEY: Well, you know, when we lost and when we had to join the common market, and we got a referendum two years later and lost, we had to wait over 40 years for another referendum. So I would tell them perhaps that they might have to wait now a very long time to have another referendum. We can make this work. We can be a successful independent country like the United States, working, cooperating with the rest of the world.

KING: Kate Hoey, thank you so much for your time.

HOEY: Thank you.

KING: Kate Hoey retired as a member of Parliament with the Labour Party last month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.