Jill Mortimer
Jill Mortimer

UK Conservative Party wins Hartlepool by-election and unseats Labour for first time in almost 50 years

The defeat will be a blow to Keir Starmer’s leadership of Labour.

THE UK LABOUR party has lost the Hartlepool by-election, a constituency it has held for almost 50 years.

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

The defeat will be a blow to Keir Starmer’s leadership of the party, after he stressed during the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn that he was the person to turn Labour back into a winning force again.

In a victory speech, Mortimer thanked police and council officers for ensuring the election and count went smoothly despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am incredibly proud of the campaign my team have run in Hartlepool, which was based on issues of real concern to the community here,” she said.

“I would like to thank all of the people of this great town who have responded so positively to it.

“I’m also immensely proud to be the first Conservative MP in Hartlepool for 57 years. Not only that, I am the first woman ever to be elected as MP for this town. It’s a truly historic result and a momentous day.”

She added that Labour had “taken the people of Hartlepool for granted for too long” and that her win showed that the town had voted for change.

Earlier, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister Thangam Debbonaire admitted the party’s message had not been cutting through in the town.

“We’ve got a great team who cannot wait to be able to cut through more and I hear what people are saying, it’s not cutting through, I get that,” she told BBC’s Question Time.

“I think that’s a lesson for the Labour Party that we’re going to have to take into account.”

Hartlepool was held by Labour with a majority of 3,595 in 2019, even as votes in other strongholds crumbled – in part due to the Brexit Party splitting the Tory vote.

Both Johnson and Starmer made three visits to the town in recent weeks in a sign of the importance the by-election represents to their parties.

Early results in council contests elsewhere also appeared to show voters deserting Labour, as ballots continue to be tallied up across England, Scotland and Wales following the yesterday’s polls – the largest test of political opinion outside a general election.

Over the coming days, results elsewhere could have an even more dramatic influence on the state of the nation’s politics.

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon’s push for a second independence referendum means the stakes are high in the the country’s parliamentary elections.

The SNP is expected to emerge again as the largest party in the Scottish parliament after the election, but it wants to win an overall majority of MSPs as it pushes for a second independence referendum – something polls suggest remains in the balance.

Johnson has refused to countenance another referendum, setting up the potential for constitutional fireworks over the coming years if Ms Sturgeon gains the outcome she desires.

Contains reporting by Stephen McDermott.

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