STARMER’S LABOUR Party has been hit for six in the Hartlepool by-election, with a Tory MP elected for the first time in the current constituency’s history.
Tory candidate Jill Mortimer – who defeated Labour rival Paul Williams by nearly 7,000 votes – hailed the result as a ‘truly historic’ moment.
It comes as a blow to Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to win back support in traditional Labour heartlands.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there had been a ‘very encouraging set of results so far’ from Thursday’s elections but added that it was ‘early days’.
The Hartlepool constituency was formed in 1974 and had returned a Labour MP in every vote since – until Thursday’s poll.
Mortimer added to her remark about her ‘historic victory’: ‘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.’
Diane Abbott, an ally of Sir Keir Starmer’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
Another Corbyn ally, union boss Len McCluskey, warned Labour faced a ‘continuous downward decline’ unless Sir Keir started ‘talking about the radical alternative for ordinary working people. People don’t know what his vision is. People don’t know what Labour stand for anymore,’ said the Unite general secretary.
He told Nick Robinson’s Political Thinking podcast he did not trust Sir Keir and had not spoken to him since Corbyn’s expulsion from the Parliamentary party last year.
Key figures from the right wing of the party say the Hartlepool defeat, which saw a 16% swing from Labour to the Conservatives, showed Labour had not changed enough.
Lord Adonis, who served under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said the party was in ‘no man’s land’ under Sir Keir, who he described as a ‘transitional leader’.
He warned ‘it could be curtains for Labour’ unless it became a ‘modernising, centrist, dynamic’ party.
And former Hartlepool MP Lord Mandelson said it was clear from his conversations with voters in the town that Jeremy Corbyn was ‘still casting a very dark cloud over Labour’ and that the party had more work to do put that era behind it.
Commenting after yesterday’s disastrous local election results for Labour, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said: ‘It is time for the trade union movement to step up and play a greater role in shaping the post-pandemic world with its own distinct agenda.
‘We cannot wait for a Labour government. That is why I call on all unions to come together and campaign to deliver a new deal for workers in the UK.’