Hartlepool result: Conservative victory confirmed in by-election boost for Boris Johnson

Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer has been declared the victor of the Hartlepool by-election, the first time this key constituency has gone to a party other than Labour since its creation in 1974.

The Tory candidate won 51 per cent of the vote, up by 23 per cent on their 2019 result, while Labour fell back 9 per cent on the vote share won under Jeremy Corbyn in 2019.

With a majority of around 7,000 the Conservatives won almost twice as many votes as Labour in the seat.

The result is a major political turnaround for the town, where Labour increased its majority as recently as 2017, then moving from 35 per cent of the vote to 52.5 per cent.

Outside the town’s Mill House Leisure Centre where the count was taking place, a local group calling themselves the Hartlepool Wombles installed a massive inflatable of Boris Johnson. It stood there, taller than the pub it was anchored to, its thumbs up. “If he can get this town moving again, he’ll do me,” said landlord Taffy Turner.

Conservative campaigners say the result of the vote was apparent some hours before the final declaration was made – and that activists for Keir Starmer’s party had disappeared as a result.

“The Labour campaigners have all shot off to Sunderland,” one told The Independent. “But we’re coming for them there next.”

A Labour source close to Keir Starmer appeared to blame the previous leadership for the result, telling reporters: “The message from voters is clear and we have heard it. Labour has not yet changed nearly enough for voters to place their trust in us.

 “We understand that. We are listening. And we will now redouble our efforts. Labour must now accelerate the programme of change in our party, to win back the trust and faith of working people across Britain.”

But the analysis was met with a barrage of criticism from the left of the party. Andrew Scattergood, co-chair of left-wing group Momentum, described the result as a “disaster”.

Pointing out that the seat had been held twice by Labour, with over 50 per cent in 2017, he said: “A transformative socialist message has won in Hartlepool before, and it would have won again.

“Starmer’s strategy of isolating the left and replacing meaningful policy with empty buzzwords has comprehensively failed. If he doesn’t change direction, not only will he be out of a job – but the Labour Party may be out of Government forever.”

Labour MP Richard Burgeon said the defeat was “incredibly disappointing”, stating: “We are going backwards in areas we need to be winning.

“Labour’s leadership needs to urgently change direction. It should start by championing the popular policies in our recent manifestos – backed by a large majority of voters.”

Meanwhile, a celebratory Conservative party co-chair Amanda Milling described the result as “historic”.

“We’re delighted that the people of Hartlepool have put their faith in Jill and the Conservatives to deliver on their priorities: to bring the change, investment and jobs Hartlepool deserves,” she said after the result.

“The work to repay that faith starts right now, as we continue with our agenda to level up and build back better from the pandemic.”

Boris Johnson made repeated visits to the consituency in the final stages of the campaign, an apparent sign the Tories expected to win the seat. Questions hung over Labour’s candidate Paul Williams during the campaign: a strict remainer picked for a strongly Leave seat, Dr Williams had been rejected by voters in another consituency down the road in 2019, but apparently given the nod for the candidacy from the leader’s office.

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