HAVE you heard that terrible noise around the country? It’s the gnashing of teeth by the Labour Party over its disastrous performance in the elections.

Hartlepool voted for its first Conservative MP in nearly 50 years, and Labour lost overall control of Durham County Council.

Well, you reap what you sow in politics, and the Labour Party has taken the North-East for granted for too long. The world’s moved on but Labour’s stuck in the past, peering through the rear-view mirror, still complaining about how many pits Margaret Thatcher closed. It’s time to break the mould.

In Hartlepool, Labour has done a particularly poor job – wasting money and scratching each other’s backs. It was all too cosy in Durham too, so people have had enough.

And yet it shouldn’t be difficult to beat Boris Johnson. OK, the Government deserves some credit for the vaccination programme, but it made a right mess of managing the pandemic up until then. Overall, Boris hasn’t done a particularly good job, or come up with anything different. His Government should be there for the taking but the opposition is weak and old hat.

I keep hearing that the election results were all down to Brexit but that’s been overstated. The real cause is that people are fundamentally dissatisfied with what the Labour Party stands for. Rather than who paid for the wallpaper in Boris’s flat, they need to look forward and concentrate on the important issues.

• Education: The system needs to be overhauled and focused on child development rather than blindly pursuing exam results and league tables. If kids aren’t academic, let them leave school at 15. They’ll learn more in work than at school – and they’ll be earning a living.

• The economy: Stop being obsessed by growth in GDP for the sake of cheap headlines and concentrate on jobs that deliver real value and balance the books, such as manufacturing more of the goods we currently import. Run the economy for the good of all the people rather than being obsessed by growth that’s achieved by persuading people to buy goods they don’t need and, in many cases, can’t afford.

• The legal system: It doesn’t deliver justice and, like so many other public sector institutions, is far too bureaucratic, expensive and self-serving.

• The benefits system: The elephant in the room, that no one dares even mention, is that the root cause of children going hungry, in many cases, is down to parents. Too many single mothers get pregnant to access benefits, and they assume it’s not their responsibility to feed their children. If children aren’t being fed, they must also be losing out on other basics, and the problem won’t be solved by free school meals or foodbanks. We need to face the reality and deal with the cause.

Do I think Sir Keir Starmer, or any of the party leaders, will grasp these nettles? Absolutely not, because the Westminster bubble is resistant to change.

What we really need is a radical review of the way we pick our leaders because the current parliamentary system clearly doesn’t work. In my world, we’d gather together people who are proposed from the community. They would set the strategic direction for the country and appoint people capable of delivering the plans.

It’s got to be better than the clapped-out status quo.

John Elliott is founder of dehumidifier and washing machine maker Ebac, of Newton Aycliffe