#AceNewsReport – May.07: Jill Mortimer secures Hartlepool seat for Conservative party: Ms Mortimer beat her closest rival, Labour’s Paul Williams by 6,940 votes: The result is a blow for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in his first election test since taking over the party:
Elections 2021: Conservatives take Hartlepool from Labour in by-election: But the Conservatives will see it is a sign they are building on their gains in traditional Labour heartlands at the 2019 general election.
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Sir Keir had been warning his party had a “mountain to climb” to hang on to Hartlepool, but allies of his predecessor as leader Jeremy Corbyn are calling on him to change direction.
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott tweeted: “Crushing defeat for Labour in Hartlepool. Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result. Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy.”
The left-wing Momentum group, which backed Mr Corbyn, said: “Starmer’s strategy of isolating the left and replacing meaningful policy with empty buzzwords has comprehensively failed.”
But Sir Keir’s allies say the defeat, which saw a 16% swing from Labour to the Conservatives, means the party has not changed enough under his leadership.
Former Hartlepool MP Lord Mandelson said it was clear from his conversations with voters in the town that Mr Corbyn was “still casting a very dark cloud over Labour” and that the party had more work to do put that era behind it.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the Hartlepool defeat was down to “two Cs: Covid and Corbyn”.
Labour’s loss of Hartlepool in a by-election is the most dramatic illustration yet that the party has so far failed to connect with the Leave-supporting, working class voters they lost heavily in 2017 and 2019.
Support for the Brexit Party, which registered 26% in Hartlepool in 2019, collapsed – the successor Reform party secured just 1% of the vote.
It looks as though the Conservatives picked up the Brexit Party’s former support, in line with the proportion of Leave voters preferring the Conservatives to Labour to the order of 3/4 to 1.
However, the swing to the Conservatives of 16% is more than can be accounted for by the collapse of the Brexit Party.
Labour’s vote fell 9 points to 29%, so the party clearly lost some of its 2019 support, as well as suffering from the movement of Brexit Party voters to the Conservatives.
Part of the explanation may lie in the success of independent candidate, Sam Lee, who won 10% of the vote.
Together with the pattern in key wards there is clearly a debate about whether Labour can win support from Leave voters by ignoring Brexit as it has in the past 12 months.
The Conservative gain of Northumberland council is a further illustration of the success of the Conservatives in Leave voting areas.
There were 16 candidates standing in the Hartlepool by-election, but Conservative Ms Mortimer won with 15,529 votes, while Labour’s Mr Williams received 8,589.
She hailed it as a “truly historic” result, adding: “Not only that, I am the first woman ever to be elected as MP for this town.Labour’s Steve Reed “shattered” by Hartlepool loss
“Labour have taken people in Hartlepool for granted for too long.
“I heard this time and time again on the doorstep and people have had enough and now, through this result, the people have spoken and have made it clear it is time for change.”
The result is more evidence of the long term shift in politics where areas that had chosen Labour for decades were less and less convinced.
That didn’t start with Boris Johnson and didn’t even start with Brexit.
The success of the vaccine programme has no doubt helped the Tories.
But Keir Starmer has questions to answer as well.
The Hartlepool constituency was formed in 1974 and had returned a Labour MP in every vote since – until Thursday’s poll.
The seat came back into contention after its former Labour MP, Mike Hill, resigned in March.
The by-election was one of a raft of elections taking place across Britain on Thursday, with voters picking representatives for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd, as well as mayors and local councils in England, and police and crime commissioners.
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#AceNewsDesk report ……Published: May.07: 2021:
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