Monday, 25 Oct 2021

Keir Starmer’s leadership at risk if he loses Hartlepool seat

Keir Starmer slammed for 'ludicrous stunt' by Iain Duncan Smith

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Hartlepool is the latest “red wall” seat that may see traditional Left-wing voters abandon the party at a by-election held in the town on Thursday. It has voted Labour since the constituency was created in 1974. But Tory candidate Jill Mortimer says voters can see the major investment the Government has pumped into the North-east and warned Sir Keir’s party has taken them for granted for too long.

Teesside is to become the home of the UK’s biggest free-port, thanks to lobbying by Conservative mayor of Tees Valley Ben Houchen. Nearby Darlington will also be home to hundreds of senior Treasury jobs in a move announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in March.

Ms Mortimer says people in Hartlepool want their town to share in the prosperity.

She said: “They want investment and jobs and regeneration. They just feel as if it has been taken for granted for years.

“They’ve seen the revolution [that] has taken place in the Tees Valley since 2017 when we got Ben Houchen. I think they want a piece of that.

“They want what they’ve seen the other towns getting, and the only way you’re going to get that is with a Conservative MP who’ll work with this government and work with Ben and bring that positive change in investment.”

The result of the Hartlepool by-election may well be determined by how former Labour supporters who last time backed the Brexit Party decide to vote. 

In 2019, Reform UK candidate Richard Tice won 10,603 votes. If the Conservatives can win the lion’s share of those, they would stand a strong chance of overturning Labour’s 3,595 majority.

Ms Mortimer, whose father was a builder and mother a greengrocer, argues that the Conservatives are now the true home for working people.

“I think people realise the Conservatives are the party for working people, the people who work hard and want to work hard and do well,” she said. “It’s what we’ve always been.

“This is why we’re the party that brings in investment, jobs and apprenticeships, and we regenerate towns and make people’s lives better.”

Sir Keir visited the constituency for a third time yesterday in a bid to shore up support for Labour candidate Paul Williams.

The Labour leader used an article in the Northern Echo newspaper to claim the “Conservative Party has become hopelessly distracted by sleaze and scandal”. Electoral analyst and Conservative peer Lord Hayward played down the chances of a Hartlepool win.

“My view is that no government, Labour or Conservative, gains a seat in a by-election,” he said.

Lord Hayward said it would be “just plain stunning” for the party to secure the re-election of Mr Houchen and West Midlands mayor Andy Street and take Hartlepool.

He also expects Labour to win in London. He said: “The next time a Tory is going to win is when Labour are in government and unpopular.”

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