UK's Conservative Party strikes early blow in elections

Marco Green
May 7, 2021

Hartlepool is a rust-belt constituency deep in Labour's northeastern heartland which has never voted Conservative since its creation in 1974.

The polls could be taken with a grain of salt, as they sampled only half of the typical number of people in a survey of this kind, however, the fact that Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared in Hartlepool for a campaign event on Monday, signals confidence within the Conservative party on their chances of picking up the seat.

Labour has controlled the seat for some 47 years, however, the seat has become increasingly contested since "Prince of Darkness" Peter Mandleson vacated the seat to become a European Commissioner in 2004.

The Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer was declared the victor moments ago with 15,529 votes, defeating Labour's Paul Williams, who received 8,589 votes.

In the 2015 election UKIP came second place to Labour, missing out by just 3,000 votes.

The heavy defeat was a serious setback for Sir Keir Starmer, the opposition party's centrist leader, whose attempt to revive the party following its 2019 general election defeat was in disarray.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives scored an upset victory in an opposition stronghold Friday, after Britain held its first major electoral test since Brexit and the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking moments after the polls closed, local government secretary Robert Jenrick played down suggestions the Conservatives could win in Hartlepool.

The Hartlepool result confirmed Johnson's bond with working class English voters after he swept up support from those who previously backed the Brexit party, which won 26 per cent of the vote in the coastal town in 2019.

Yet right wing Labour politicians reacted by blaming the result on the legacy of previous leader Jeremy Corbyn, more than a year after he stepped down. In 2019, the party suffered its worst election defeat since 1935. "It's a truly historic result and a momentous day". Labour has not yet changed almost enough for voters to place their trust in us.

Starmer has accepted personal responsibility for the debacle and is likely to reshuffle his low-profile shadow cabinet as he tries to move his party towards the centre and shake it out of its malaise.

The Hartlepool result continues a trend set by Johnson in the 2019 general election when he struck directly at Labour's heartlands, the so-called Red Wall areas of northern and central England, to win a commanding majority in parliament. Counting has been delayed by Covid-19 restrictions.

The result that could have the biggest U.K-wide implications is the Scotland election, where the governing Scottish National Party is looking for a renewed mandate that could speed up the prospect of a second independence referendum.

Whatever lay behind the result, the loss of Hartlepool represents a stunning defeat for the Labour Party and its leader, Keir Starmer.

Although Labour is expected to hold on to the mayoralties of London and Greater Manchester, the next 48 hours of election results are likely to confirm the daunting scale of that challenge.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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