The Conservatives have beaten Labour in the Hartlepool by-election, with a Tory MP elected for the first time in the current constituency’s history
Jill Mortimer, the Conservative candidate for Hartlepool has beaten Labour rival Paul Williams in a shocking historic victory, which saw Labour lost Hartlepool for the first time ever- spelling further trouble for the waning party.
Mortimer hailed the result as a “truly historic” moment.
This victory comes as a blow to the Labour Party and Sir Keir Starmer whom have been trying desperately to gain footing in their historic northern holds in the traditional Labour heartlands, after a devastating curtain of blue fell upon them in the 2019 General Election.
The Conservatives have seemingly gained support from the pro-Leave members of the constituency, picking up the Brexit Party’s former support in the area.
Labour’s vote fell 9 points to 29%, indicating that more is going on than the Tories only picking up Brexit Party overspill. Labour have lost supporters even since 2019.
However, an independent candidate, Sam Lee, won 10% of the vote, which ate into the vote share and is also factored into the explanation for how Labour lost.
Key figures on Labour’s left say the party must now change direction.
Diane Abbott, an ally of Sir Keir’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, 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.”
However, 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.
Labour have typically devolved into infighting between their hard left and centre left members, with blame falling on both Corbyn’s shadow, and Starmer’s current leadership. Both explanations are reductive and fail to address glaring factors contributing towards Labour’s downfall, but Labour leadership has been a contested issue for the voting public.
Labour cannot amicably agree on which face they should use to promote their policies and take leadership with due to this hard left/centre left split, and often post-election fighting comes down to attacking the poor choice of leader.
Corbyn, a hard left Labour leader was ousted for more centrist Starmer in April 2020, but did not bring the accompanied strong opposition many had hoped for.
Labour has difficulties with how to present itself to voters, cautious of being too left yet not wishing to isolate hard left members and supporters. Encompassing and managing these factions within the party has always been a difficulty for the Labour movement.
The Hartlepool constituency was formed in 1974 and had returned a Labour MP in every vote since – until Thursday’s poll.
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 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.”
Featured Image Credit: PA