Keir Starmer plans move out of London as Labour’s Khalid Mahmood quits shadow cabinet with attack on ‘London-based bourgeoisie’ and ‘woke social media warriors’ he says have taken over the party
- Tories have overturned 3,500 majority to win by a huge margin of 7,000 votes in the Hartlepool by-election
- Shadow minister Jim McMahon conceded hours before result admitting Labour was ‘not close to winning’
- Civil war in full swing in the part with Corbynites demanding Sir Keir Starmer change tack or step aside
- Counting is underway across England after all of the UK went to the polls for ‘Super Thursday’ elections
- Labour Party is bracing for ‘grim’ results in council elections while the Tories appear to be making gains
- Voters have cast ballots in council, mayor, Welsh and Scottish elections after 2020 polls were delayed
- Nicola Sturgeon faces long wait to see if SNP can win a Holyrood majority as she pushes for independence
The result in Hartlepool
Jill Mortimer, Conservative
15,529 (51.88 per cent of total vote, up 22.96 per cent on 2019)
Paul Williams, Labour
8,589 (28.69 per cent, down 8.99 per cent)
Sam Lee, Independent
2,904 (9.70 per cent)
Claire Martin, Heritage
468 (1.56 per cent)
John Prescott, Reform
368 (1.23 per cent)
Rachel Featherstone, Green
358 (1.20 per cent)
Andrew Hagon, Lib Dem
349 (1.17 per cent, down 2.97 per cent)
Keir Starmer is said to be planning a move out of London as a senior frontbencher quit with a withering attack on the ‘London-based bourgeoisie’ who have taken over the party ‘with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors’.
Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, quit as a shadow defence minister in the wake of Labour’s disastrous election meltdown that saw it surrender Hartlepool to the Conservatives.
Mr Starmer insisted he ‘takes responsibility’ and is ‘bitterly disappointed’, as sources told the Guardian he was planning to move the party from the capital.
A clearly rattled Labour leader said the party had been ‘talking to ourselves’ rather than voters – insisting he is ready to do ‘whatever it takes’ to ‘fix’ the problems.
The humble comments in a TV clip came as Sir Keir finally surfaced nine hours after the extraordinary by-election defeat in Hartlepool kicked off a disastrous day of results.
He is now facing a battle for the party’s soul as Corbynites demand a lurch to the Left – and centrists complain he has nothing to say to ordinary people.
Stepping down tonight, Mr Mahmood, 59, who has been a Labour MP for 20 years, said Labour must recognise it is seen as ‘a party that has lost its way’ in places that were once ‘unfailingly loyal’.
‘It is only by engagement on a local level, meeting eye to eye with voters and hearing their concerns, that we will fix that,’ he said,.
‘I will be doing so not from the Labour front bench, but walking the streets of my constituency as a backbencher and talking face to face with the people I have the honour to serve. ‘
He added: ‘The election of a Conservative MP in Hartlepool for the first time in the constituency’s modern history is yet another wake-up call for my party.
‘Peter Mandelson once enjoyed a 17,500 majority here. Now the Tories are deep into what was once safe Labour territory – the industrial heartlands of the North – with a 7,000 majority of their own.’
Mr Johnson hailed an extraordinary Tory surge as he visited Hartlepool after taking the rock-solid Labour seat for the first time in a by-election.
Flanked by his new MP Jill Mortimer, a jubilant PM said voters believe he can ‘deliver’ following the latest devastating hammer blow to the Red Wall.
Council results are also looking like a catastrophe for Labour, with a slew of losses and Conservatives taking control in former strongholds such as Northumberland, Nuneaton and Dudley.
As pressure mounts on Sir Keir, Lord Mandelson warned that returning to Socialist ‘la la land’ will not help.
The ex-Cabinet minister said Jeremy Corbyn was ‘still casting a very dark cloud over Labour’, adding: ‘He still gets them going on the doorstep.’
And Sir Keir gave little sign he is about to cave in to the hard-Left demands despite offering a grovelling admission of failure.
Instead he is believed to be preparing a radical reshuffle of his shadow cabinet within days as he desperately tries to restore links with working class voters.
Stepping down tonight, Mr Mahmood, 59, who has been a Labour MP for 20 years, said Labour must recognise it is seen as ‘a party that has lost its way’ in places that were once ‘unfailingly loyal’.
Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party sweeps aside Labour in Hartlepool as the Tories take seat from Labour for first time since 1974 creation
Sir Keir Starmer stayed tight lipped as he left his London home after the Conservatives piled up a majority of nearly 7,000 in an extraordinary result – overturning the Opposition’s previous margin of 3,500
Flanked by his new MP Jill Mortimer (right) in Hartlepool, Boris Johnson said voters believe he can ‘deliver’ following the latest devastating hammer blow to the Red Wall
Boris Johnson helped with fixing a leak pipe on his post-election visit to Coventry this afternoon, as he celebrates a stunning set of Super Thursday results
The victory by 15,529 to 8,589 votes in Hartlepool shows that Boris Johnson’s realignment of the British political landscape is continuing, with more of the so-called Red Wall collapsing
Jill Mortimer (pictured after being declared the victor) will now serve as the constituency’s MP in Westminster after she trounced Labour contender Paul Williams
Mother who brought up three children while running B&B becomes Hartlepool’s first female and Tory MP
The Conservative candidate who has won a historic victory in the Labour ‘Red Wall’ seat of Hartlepool is a mother who juggled three children while running a B&B.
And she admits that she will now have to find a home in the town, as she currently resides about a 40-minute drive away in Thirsk.
Jill Mortimer, a Tory councillor, describes herself as an ‘accidental’ cattle farmer and mature law graduate.
Ms Mortimer, who is in her mid-fifties, said she fell into agriculture about 20 years ago to try to earn some money to keep her family.
But in a huge career change she decided to read law at Teesside University, where she worked alongside two of her three children, and became a barrister.
She has also ran a bed and breakfast and has been a landowner up in her rural home land of North Yorkshire.
Yet Mrs Mortimer used to live for a number of years in the Cayman Islands.
It emerged during campaigning for the Hartlepool by-election seat the mother of three had lived there.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tried to attack her along these lines, painting her as having ‘links to tax havens’.
But she was left red-faced when Conservative Party chairman Amanda Milling explained the reason she was in the tropical islands.
Ms Rayner sent a letter to Ms Milling saying ‘it is being reported that your candidate… spent time living in a tax haven where her former husband worked as a banker’.
She said: ‘I am sure I do not need to remind you that businesses that set up in places like the Cayman Islands tend to have a very specific motivation for doing so: namely, to avoid paying their fair share of taxes that contribute to running the public services we all rely on in this country.’
But Sir Keir Starmer‘s deputy was humiliated when Ms Milling replied Ms Mortimer ‘was in Cayman with her family because her then husband was a REGULATOR, working on counter-fraud, anti-corruption, and anti-terrorist financing’.
Ms Milling accused Ms Rayner of making ‘an eye popping error’ as she labelled it a ‘slur’.
Mrs Mortimer has previously admitted she is a bit of a busy-body.
She told Teesside Live earlier this year: ’Being a councillor (for Hambleton in North Yorkshire) has been fantastic.
‘I’m a bit of a busy-body – the type of person who enjoys sorting things out for everyone else and I’m very persistent.
‘I want to use that experience to be a champion for the people of Hartlepool. I want to bring greater investment, jobs, apprenticeships and regeneration to the town.’
But she came under fire from Labour after admitting she hadn’t ‘spent a lot of time’ in the constituency.
She admitted she did not know much about Liberty Steel and has had limited interaction with the press since.
Elsewhere Mrs Mortimer was the Tory candidate for Leeds East at the 2019 election but lost to Labour’s Richard Burgon.
The first ever Conservative MP for Hartlepool called her by-election victory today a ‘truly historic result’.
Giving a victory speech after the result, she said: ‘I am incredibly proud of the campaign my team and I have run in Hartlepool – it is based on local issues of real concern to the community here, and 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 is a truly historic result and a momentous day. 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.’
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tipped for the axe.
He is sounding out high-profile figures including former work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper about a possible return to the frontbench.
‘I take full responsibility for the results, and I will take full responsibility for fixing things,’ Sir Keir said.
‘We have changed as a party, but we haven’t set out a strong enough case to the country.
‘Very often we’ve been talking to ourselves instead of to the country and we’ve lost the trust of working people, particularly in places like Hartlepool.
‘I intend to do whatever is necessary to fix that.’
Challenged on whether that meant moving to the Left or Right, Sir Keir flannelled about stopping ‘quarreling amongst ourselves’.
‘This is not a question of left or right. It is a question of whether we are facing the country,’ he said.
‘We have changed as a party but we’ve not made a strong enough case to the country, we’ve lost that connection, that trust, and I intend to rebuild that and do whatever is necessary to rebuild that trust.’
Ms Mortimer said her victory – with a 7,000 majority after overturning the Opposition’s previous margin of 3,500 – showed that ‘Labour have taken the people of Hartlepool for granted for too long’. ‘People have had enough,’ she added in a speech at the count.
The victory by 15,529 to 8,589 votes shows that Mr Johnson’s realignment of the British political landscape is continuing, with more of the so-called Red Wall collapsing. The 16 per cent swing is believed to be the biggest to a governing party in a by-election since the Second World War.
It heaps pressure on Sir Keir amid a growing revolt from hard-Left activists.
The party is now bracing for further bad news as the votes are counted in England’s council and mayoral battles following ‘Super Thursday’ elections.
Questions are being asked over the choice of a Remainer former MP as the Labour candidate in Brexit-voting Hartlepool.
As brutal recriminations began, Corbyn allies Diane Abbott and John McDonnell were among those demanding a more left-wing approach.
Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle tweeted: ‘Good to see valueless flag waving and suit wearing working so well… or not?’
Corbynite MP Richard Burgon said: ‘We are going backwards in areas we need to be winning. Labour’s leadership needs to urgently change direction.’
Conservative Ben Houchen was re-elected as Tees Valley Mayor with a whopping 73 per cent of the vote, up from 40 per cent in the 2017 election, while Labour leaders in Sheffield, Oldham and Harlow were among 120 of its councillors in England to lose seats so far. In contrast, the Tories gained 95 seats and the Lib Dems gained five.
Labour group leaders lost their seats in Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire – where Labour was hoping a to make gains, but ended up ceding ground.
The Tories won all nine of the seats being contested in Redditch, the first council result of the night, gaining seven from Labour. They took control of Nuneaton & Bedworth from Labour after winning 13 of the first 14 seats declared. The Conservatives also seized control of Harlow Council from Labour, and gained a seat to take overall control in Northumberland – as well as taking charge in Dudley.
However, despite the massive gains in Red Wall areas there were a few setbacks for Mr Johnson. The Tories lost control of Remain-voting Cambridgeshire after shipping eight seats – five to the Lib Dems, two to Labour and one to an independent.
The mayoral contest in the West Mids is looking miserable for Labour, while sitting MP Tracy Brabin securing the West Yorkshire mayor job could leave Sir Keir facing another challenging by-election in Batley & Spen.
Mr Johnson – who also viewed a large inflatable effigy of himself near the count – said in 2019 voters wanted him to ‘get Brexit done’ and ‘we delivered on that’.
Now people were giving him a mandate to ‘get on with delivering with everything else’.
‘It’s a mandate for us to continue to deliver, not just for the people of Hartlepool and the fantastic people of the north east, but for the whole of the country,’ the premier said.
‘If there is a lesson out of this whole election campaign across the whole of the UK is that the public want us to get on with focusing on their needs and their priorities, coming through the pandemic and making sure we build back better.’
He insisted the UK was reaping the benefits of having pushed through the departure from the EU.
Sir Keir holed up in his Westminster office with close aides as he considered his next move after the election pasting
Jill Mortimer pulled off a stunning victory over Paul Williams in Hartlepool (picture together at the count)
Ms Mortimer’s majority of 6,940 was a huge turnaround from the 3,500 margin that Labour’s former MP Mike Hill won by in 2019
‘This a a place that voted for Brexit. We got Brexit done and then we are able to do other things thanks to that,’ he said.
‘It’s thanks to Brexit that we have been able to go ahead with the freeport in the whole of Teesside, do things like take back control of our borders.
‘We are able to deal with things like the European Super League and, of course, we are able to do things a bit differently when it comes to the vaccine rollout that has been so important and enabled (us) to deliver that faster than other European countries.’
Stopping off at Severn Trent Academy in Coventry on his way to Hartlepool this afternoon, the PM said: ‘I know that the results have been coming in since this morning and there’s clearly a lot more to go, and it’s early days, but it’s a very encouraging set of results so far.
‘I think that’s really because we have been focusing, as a Government, on our priorities, the people’s priorities, and bouncing back from the pandemic as much as we can and getting through it.
‘It’s been very nice to be here at Severn Trent talking to them about the 500 Kickstarters they’re employing, which is I think what everybody wants to see as we go through towards the end of the roadmap – really making sure that we’re getting people into work, getting the economy bouncing back very, very strongly in a way that I know it will.
‘Anyway, I’ll be saying a bit more later on in Hartlepool.’
The Conservatives were increasing bullish about Hartlepool as they got the vote out yesterday, despite trying to manage expectations publicly by claiming it was ‘looking tough’.
Meanwhile glum Labour activists had complained they were suffering from ‘Long Corbyn’ and on track for disaster.
Pensions Minister Guy Opperman predicted on Twitter shortly after the polls closed that Jill Mortimer would win the seat for the Conservatives.
Amazingly, a shock poll by Survation earlier this week that showed the Tories 17 points ahead underplayed the final margin.
In interviews this morning, Conservative Party chair Amanda Milling credited Mr Johnson’s personal appeal. ‘He is popular but he has also delivered… we made the promise at the general election that we would get Brexit done. That is very much what we did last year.’
As Labour plunged immediately into a bitter civil war, former leader Jeremy Corbyn said Sir Keir needed a ‘bolder vision’.
‘Tory gains are bad news for jobs, the environment & public services for the many not the few,’ he tweeted.
‘With millions not voting, these results show a loss of hope. We must offer a bolder vision to transform people’s lives & give them the confidence to strive for a more equal world.’
The Corbynite grassroots Momentum group said the result was a ‘disaster’ and warned Sir Keir could soon be ‘out of a job’.
Co-chair Andrew Scattergood 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.’
Diane Abbott, who was shadow home secretary during the Corbyn era, 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 strategy.’
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Keir’s got to be given his chance and I’ve said that all the way along.
‘I’m not going to be one of those people treating (him) the way they treated Jeremy (Corbyn) – always challenging him, coups and all the rest.
‘Keir now needs to sit down and think through what happened in this campaign, and what I’ve been saying to him is you need to demonstrate to people the sort of society you want to create, the policy programme that will achieve that society, and you need to get back to that real grassroots campaign.
‘We must never again send our candidates into an election campaign almost naked, without a policy programme, without a clear view on what sort of society you want to create.
‘That’s the sort of thing that we need now.’
Lord Peter Mandelson, a former Labour MP for Hartlepool, said he felt ‘fairly gutted’ at the result.
‘I feel sad, disappointment above all, for the excellent campaign workers and party staff and volunteers and our excellent candidate, Paul Williams, who fought such a strong campaign,’ he said.
He added: ‘I also feel, I have to say, a mild fury, that the last 10 years of what we have been doing in the Labour Party nationally and locally has brought us to this result, because that is above all fundamentally an explanation of what’s happened today.’
Lord Mandelson went on: ‘What I would say is this, and remind the party we have not won a general election in 16 years.
‘We have lost the last four, with 2019 a catastrophe – the last 11 general elections read: lose, lose, lose, lose, Blair, Blair, Blair, lose, lose, lose, lose.
‘We need for once in this party to learn the lessons of those victories as well as those defeats, and I hope very much that when Keir and his colleagues in the shadow cabinet say this means that we have got to change direction that they actually mean it.’
Lord Mandelson insisted that Brexit had not been raised with him once on the doorstep.
‘The one thing they did raise with me however is Jeremy Corbyn – he is still casting a very dark cloud over Labour. Labour voters are not letting this off lightly, he still gets them going on the doorstep,’ he said.
‘One person said to me ‘Sort yourselves out, sort yourselves out. You picked the wrong brother and you ended up with Corbyn so that’s goodbye to you. When you’ve sorted yourselves out, we’ll look at you again’.
Another former Cabinet minister, Lord Adonis, gave an even more damning verdict.
‘I supported Keir to replace Jeremy. There was no one else credible and retrieving the leadership from the hands of the Marxist far-left was the first step towards electability,’ he wrote in a blog.
‘I hoped that Keir, an effective ex-public prosecutor, might have sufficient leadership capacity and modernising social democratic vision to reshape Labour.
‘Unfortunately, he turns out to be a transitional figure – a nice man and a good human rights lawyer, but without political skills or antennae at the highest level.’
Shadow minister Steve Reed was sent out to shore up Sir Keir’s position, insisting the party was getting a better reception on doorsteps.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast he said: ‘We’re going to see a lot more results throughout today and Saturday and over the weekend, from elections right across the country, so we’ll have a clearer picture at the end of that period, and I suspect the results are going to be patchy.
The scale of the changes in key areas was laid bare in charts produced by Election Maps UK
Former No10 chief Dominic Cummings launched an extraordinary Twitter diatribe against both Sir Keir and his former boss Mr Johnson
A jubilant Boris Johnson (pictured on a stop at Severn Trent Academy in Coventry on the way to Hartlepool) said he would keep fighting for the ‘people’s priorities’ after he dealt another devastating hammer blow to the Red Wall
Hartlepool residents give their verdict on by-election result
Residents of Hartlepool were quick to give their views after hearing of Jill Mortimer’s historic by-election win on Friday.
One local said Labour would have to ‘climb to the moon and back’ to recoup what has been lost while others spoke of disillusionment with the party.
Sheena Keers, 43, who works in the care sector, said: ‘I am really happy with this result.
‘Things need to change in Hartlepool. I feel very let down by the Labour Party.
‘I am happy the Conservatives got in because we need more for this town.
‘At the moment it’s just going further and further down hill. Under the Conservatives, more money will be pumped into the town.
Residents of Hartlepool were quick to give their views after hearing of Jill Mortimer’s historic by-election win on Friday. Sheena Keers, 43, who works in the care sector, said: ‘I am really happy with this result’
‘It’s also great that MP Jill Mortimer is the first woman MP. I think it’s a really positive thing, but we will just have to see.
‘There’s nothing Labour can do to turn this round now. Everything has to change.’
She added that she does not like Keir Starmer and said Boris Johnson ‘made the effort’ to visit the town in the run-up to the by-election.
‘I love Boris. He’s had a massive effect on the voting up here,’ she added.
But Hartlepool pensioner Elizabeth Lyth, 76, a retired primary school teacher, said she was ‘appalled’ by the result.
‘Historically the Conservatives have done nothing for the North East,’ she said.
Hartlepool pensioner Elizabeth Lyth, 76, a retired primary school teacher, said she was ‘appalled’ by the result
‘Yesterday a 90-year-old neighbour of mine had a fall in his garden and he was left on the concrete for three hours before an ambulance arrived.
‘I am not blaming the ambulance service at all.
‘This Conservative government has been in power for 11 years and they have done nothing to improve the situation.
‘I think people in Hartlepool have abandoned the Labour Party because they are not thinking about it from a moral view point.
‘These days people are much more affluent than they were.
‘They don’t believe the issues impact them. I think there’s an element of ‘I’m all right Jack’ and that’s why they’ve voted Conservative.’
She added that she didn’t think Labour had the ‘right candidate’ and said the result had a ‘lot to do with Brexit’.
Liam Carr, 29, works in a shoe repair shop in Hartlepool town centre
Liam Carr, 29, works in a shoe repair shop in Hartlepool town centre.
He said: ‘Everyone saw this result coming.
‘I agree with Labour’s policies but I don’t have confidence in them to follow through.
‘I don’t think anyone knows how it will pan out with the Conservatives, we’ll just have to see what happens.
‘I’m not sure what Labour can possibly to do turn things round. It will be many years before that happens.
‘I didn’t vote but I actually think having the Conservatives in power will work out for the best.
‘There needs to be some kind of change in this town.
‘It’s hard in the North East. Everyone knows that, and it’s only going to get harder.’
He added: ‘I think Brexit had a role in all this. The Brexit Party did very well in Hartlepool.
‘Everyone supported it up here, and now they are supporting the Conservatives instead.’
Philip Spence, 67, who worked as a cooked meat butcher before he retired, voted for the Monster Raving Loony Party.
Philip Spence, 67, who worked as a cooked meat butcher before he retired, voted for the Monster Raving Loony Party
He said: ‘I think the result is absolutely shocking. The Tories closed the Sure Start centres down.
‘I think they have something against the working man.
‘People would say my vote was a wasted vote because the MRLP were never going to get in but we all have the right to a democratic vote.
‘I think one of the reasons the Conservatives have got in is because of support for the Brexit Party.
‘When that collapsed people started voting Tory instead.
‘I have always voted Labour in the past but I have not voted for them this time as they have lost their direction.
‘At one time they were all for the working man. Now all the main parties treat it as a job and aim to make as much money as possible.’
‘I don’t think anyone cares anymore.
‘I was born in the 1950s and everyone cared back then.
‘Keir Starmer hasn’t been given much of a chance yet but I don’t think he’s concentrating on the issues that matter.
‘The main issue up here is unemployment.
‘My grandson is 21 and it’s taken him three years to get a job.
‘Before this election Labour had a mountain to climb. Now they will have to climb to the moon and back to recoup what they have lost.’
Mr Spence’s wife Susan, 58, added: ‘The Conservative win was a foregone conclusion.
Mr Spence’s wife Susan, 58, added: ‘The Conservative win was a foregone conclusion
‘I’m not very happy about it at all. I would prefer someone who lives in the town.
‘The focus is all on the Marina area and there are other places that need attention.
‘We lived on Rodney Street in Hartlepool for 32-years but we had to move out because of drug addicts.
‘I feel very let down by Labour. They have ruined the town. They became lazy and didn’t work hard enough.
‘I don’t think there is anything they can do to turn it round now. People have become disillusioned with them.’
‘Certainly from my door-knocking – places like Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol, Milton Keynes, Hertfordshire – the reaction on the doorstep to me as a Labour campaigner has been a lot warmer than it has been in recent years, but that isn’t enough if it’s not translating into votes.
‘So I think people understand the leader has changed, they don’t understand the party has changed, because we haven’t yet done enough to prove that.’
Meanwhile, former No10 chief Dominic Cummings launched an extraordinary Twitter diatribe against both Sir Keir and his former boss Mr Johnson.
In a brutal assessment, he wrote: ‘KS is a beta-lawyer-gamma-politician, like ~all in SW1 he obsesses on Media Reality not Actual Reality, he’s played the lobby game (badly) for a year WITHOUT A MESSAGE TO THE COUNTRY, now the pundits will a/ savage him, b/ tell him he needs to focus on them more, more exclusives!’
He added: ‘A measure of how bad KS is: until I googled yesterday I didn’t know who Shadow CHX is & when I looked at photo I had 0 recognition, she never touched my consciousness in a year…’
Mr Cummings also took aim at the current No10 operation – with whom he has been engaged in a bitter war of words.
‘We have a No10 & Opposition who see their job as Media Entertainment Service & neither knows how to be this better than TB/Mandy. Neither will try to be… a government,’ he wrote.
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon faces a nervous wait to find out if the SNP has won a Holyrood majority – seen as crucial to her hopes of forcing a second independence referendum.
The coronavirus pandemic resulted in last year’s elections being delayed by 12 months.
That means that two years’ worth of polls took place across the UK yesterday, making for a bumper crop of results.
Voters have had their say on the make-up of English councils, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Senedd as well as in a wave of mayoral contests, including in London.
A Labour source said this morning: ’We’ve said all along the North East and the Midlands would be difficult. We also said the places declaring Thursday would be particularly difficult.
‘But, 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.
‘People don’t want to hear excuses. Keir has said he will take responsibility for these results – and he will take responsibility for fixing it and changing the Labour Party for the better.’
The Hartlepool by-election outcome was triggered when former MP Mike Hill resigned in March amid sexual harassment allegations.
Respected elections expert Professor Michael Thrasher said the results so far were a ‘nightmare’ for Labour and ‘the slide appears to be continuing’.
He told Sky News that voters had ‘simply migrated from Labour to the Conservatives’. ‘That is a hard thing for voters to do but but we saw it in 2019 and we are seeing it again in 2021,’ he said.
Voter turnout in the contest in Hartlepool was 42.55 per cent – a relatively high number for a Westminster by-election.
Hartlepool was held by Labour with a majority of 3,595 in 2019, even as other bricks in the ‘Red Wall’ crumbled – in part due to the Brexit Party splitting the Tory vote.
Both Mr Johnson and Sir Keir made three visits to Hartlepool during the campaign in a sign of the importance the by-election represents to their parties.
Opinion polls suggested the Tories were on course to win the seat for the first time ever, with one survey putting the party 17 points ahead of Labour.
Mr Johnson sought to dampen expectations ahead of polling day as he said the contest looked like it would be a ‘very tough fight’.
Sir Keir said during the campaign that his rebuild of the party would take longer than 12 months.
He stressed he had taken over the leadership after the party’s worst general election result since 1935 and ‘we’ve got to rebuild into the next general election – that is the task in hand’.
Sir Keir said: ‘This is the first test and we go into that test fighting for every vote, but I never thought we would climb the mountain we have to climb in just one year – it is going to take longer than that.’
However, losing ground instead of gaining it at 2021 elections would represent a devastating set of results for Sir Keir as he tries to lay the foundations for a general election victory in 2024.
He said on Wednesday that he would take responsibility, regardless of how the elections play out.
‘I take full responsibility for everything the Labour Party does, including the elections whatever they are tomorrow,’ he said.
‘And for me it’s very important – it’s the same approach I took when I was director of public prosecutions running the Crown Prosecution Service for five years, which is when things go right, the leader takes the plaudits; when they don’t go right, the leader carries the can and takes responsibility.’
Sir Keir’s allies last night said they were expecting civil war to break out in the party if election results are as gloomy as forecast by some opinion polls.
Alan Milburn, a Labour Cabinet minister under Tony Blair, told BBC Newsnight that the elections should not be seen as a referendum on Sir Keir’s leadership because it was ‘always going to be a long, hard battle back’ after the party’s 2019 collapse.
However, Mr Milburn said ‘this is the time to inject new blood’ into the shadow cabinet because some of its current members are ‘barely visible’.
He warned the party is in a state of ‘crisis’ and said: ‘The truth is that the Labour Party, and social democratic parties, they need to reinvent themselves.
‘It’s not a question of just rebuilding – it’s a process of reinvention. There needs to be a big programme change, a big policy change and I think a big procedure change.’
Shadow public health minister Alex Norris said Labour did not expect to recover from its 2019 general election loss within 18 months.
Asked whether Sir Keir would be to blame for a defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, Mr Norris told Sky News: ‘No, not in the slightest. Let’s not prejudge it, for one.
‘But what Keir is going to be very clear about, what we are clear about as a Labour Party is that this is going to be a no-excuses election for us.’
But in a sign of the discontent on the Labour left, MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle appeared to mock the party’s attempts to change its image.
He said: ‘Good to see valueless flag waving and suit wearing working so well… or not?’
The comment is a reference to a leaked strategy document which suggested Labour must make ‘use of the flag, veterans, dressing smartly’ to win back voters in ‘Red Wall’ seats in the party’s former industrial heartlands.
Bullish Conservative MPs who had been on the ground in Hartlepool claimed they had noticed a ’clear swing’ towards their party as they predicted a bad set of results for Sir Keir.
‘If you thought the bottom of Labour was Corbyn then you are wrong,’ one told MailOnline.
Labour activists doorknocking in the constituency sounded relentlessly glum.
‘We are suffering from Long Corbyn,’ one senior figure said in a grim coronavirus analogy. ‘It is going to be really difficult… we will find out tonight whether we have hit bottom.’
The elections came after Mr Johnson faced a number of weeks of damaging headlines over the Covid crisis, a Whitehall lobbying row and controversy over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
Many senior Tory figures believed the rows were only of interest in the ‘Westminster bubble’ and they will be hoping that they are proved correct after the nation went to the ballot box.
Meanwhile, in Scotland the SNP will be hoping to have strengthened its position in Holyrood as Ms Sturgeon pushes for a re-run of the 2014 independence referendum.
A number of opinion polls in the run up to ‘Super Thursday’ suggested the SNP was on course to win a majority.
Ms Sturgeon believes winning a majority would give her a mandate to hold another border poll.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly rejected calls for another independence vote, arguing the first one was supposed to be a once in a generation event.
But Ms Sturgeon believes an SNP majority would force the PM to reconsider.
The SNP leader said after the polls closed tonight that it had been ‘an election like no other’ as she laid down the gauntlet to Mr Johnson on independence.
She said: ‘At this election the SNP have also offered the people of Scotland the opportunity to choose their future once the Covid crisis has passed.
‘If, when the ballots are counted, there is a parliamentary majority for that choice then when the crisis has passed that democratic mandate must be respected.’
Authorities have found it difficult to predict when results will come in because they are unsure how long counting will take because of social distancing requirements.
The results of all of the UK’s elections are not expected to be finalised until Monday.
Most of the seats in the Holyrood election are expected to count during the day on Friday, with results starting at lunchtime and peaking in the evening.
However, some areas are expected to count votes during the day on Saturday, with results due from lunchtime.
Results from the eight regional proportional representation top-up seats are expected on Saturday night.
Counting for the Welsh Assembly elections is expected to take place on Friday with results in the afternoon and evening.
In London, the result of the race for City Hall may come on Saturday but it could potentially be Sunday as Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan tries to secure a second term by defeating Tory rival Shaun Bailey.
A giant inflatable representation of Boris Johnson was put up outside the by-election count in Hartlepool
Left, Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary under Mr Corbyn, tweeted: ‘Crushing defeat for Labour in Hartlepool.’ Right, MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle took to Twitter to question his party’s attempts to change its image
In London, the result of the race for City Hall may come on Saturday but it could potentially be Sunday. Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan is hoping to secure a second term by beating Tory rival Shaun Bailey, pictured arriving at a polling station with his wife Ellie today
The Tories are expected to find out on Friday night if Ben Houchen has held on as Tees Valley mayor, in what is seen as a key race and a barometer for how the party is performing in the former ‘Red Wall’ constituencies that Labour lost to the Tories in the 2019 general election.
The parties will face another by-election if Labour MP Tracy Brabin succeeds in her bid to become West Yorkshire mayor, as expected.
It means she will stand down from her Batley and Spen constituency, which she held in 2019 with a small majority of 3,525 over the Tories.
Labour figures have suggested the party could delay holding a by-election until the autumn in a bid to avoid losing another brick in the ‘Red Wall’.
The results of 39 police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales are expected to be announced across Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Let it be BLUE! How Beatlemania was sweeping world in the swinging sixties when Hartlepool last had a Tory MP… before Jill Mortimer’s victory today signalled times have changed in former steel town
The last time the north-east town of Hartlepool had a Conservative MP, Beatlemania was spreading across the world and the average home cost just £3,000.
John Kerans, a former Royal Navy officer and author, was MP for Hartlepool from 1959 until 1964, when it was covered by its original constituency.
His predecessor, D.T. Jones, was the town’s first Labour MP and was elected in 1945 – the year of the party’s historic landslide victory over hero wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s Conservatives.
Kerans’s decision not to contest the Hartlepool seat at the 1964 election firmly cemented the strong association with the Labour party that the town had until Jill Mortimer’s victory today.
The people of the town, which has a proud industrial heritage as a one-time centre of steel production, coal mining and shipbuilding, opted to vote for a succession of Labour candidates.
Ted Leadbitter, who was elected after Kearns stood down, continued being the town’s MP when the current constituency was created in 1974.
After that, he continued in office until the 1992 election, when he stood down and was replaced by senior New Labour figure Peter Mandelson.
The last time the north-east town of Hartlepool had a Conservative MP, Beatlemania was spreading across the world and the average home cost just £3,000. John Kerans, a former Royal Navy officer and author, was MP for Hartlepool from 1959 until 1964, when it was covered by its original constituency. Pictured from left: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon, perform on the CBS ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in New York in 1964
Mandelson, who had served as the Labour Party’s director of communications from 1985 to 1990, gained a reputation for being media savvy, leading to him gaining the nickname of the ‘Prince of Darkness’.
At the 2001 election, Mandelson was famously challenged by Margaret Thatcher’s one-time nemesis Arthur Scargill, who was formerly president of the National Union of Mineworkers.
Although firebrand Scargill won less than 1,000 votes, Mandelson was challenged at the same election by former Labour Party press officer John Booth, who branded himself as ‘Genuine Labour’.
In his exuberant acceptance speech after victory over both men, as well as the Conservative candidate, Mandelson declared he was a ‘fighter, not a quitter’.
The controversial Mandelson opted to stand down as Hartlepool’s MP when he took up a role as a European Commissioner.
John Kerans, a former Royal Navy officer and author, was MP for Hartlepool from 1959 until 1964, when it was covered by its original constituency. Ted Leadbitter, who was elected after Kearns stood down, continued being the town’s MP when the current constituency was created in 1974
Leadbitter was replaced by senior New Labour figure Peter Mandelson at the 1992 election
The controversial Mandelson opted to stand down as Hartlepool’s MP when he took up a role as a European Commissioner. At the subsequent by-election, new Labour MP Ian Wright was elected with a much-reduced majority
At the subsequent by-election, new Labour MP Ian Wright was elected with a much-reduced majority.
Wright remained Hartlepool’s MP until 2017, when he announced he would not be seeking re-election.
He was replaced by Mike Hill, whose resignation in March amid sexual harassment allegations triggered last night’s by-election and Labour’s historic defeat.
Hartlepool’s reputation as a heartland of industry stretches back to the mid-19th century, when the then fishing town’s port and docks were built up, allowing it to become the third largest seaport in England.
Hartlepool was now able to act as a hub from which huge shipments of coal, wool and fish and steel could be sent around the country.
By 1862, Hartlepool had become one of the most successful coal exporters in the North-East, with shipments peaking in the late 1920s.
Hartlepool’s reputation as a heartland of industry stretches back to the mid-19th century, when the then fishing town’s port and docks were built up, allowing it to become the third largest seaport in England. Pictured: Workers in Hartlepool’s ship building industry
By 1862, Hartlepool had become one of the most successful coal exporters in the North-East, with shipments peaking in the late 1920s. Pictured: An old image of Hartlepool’s West Harbour area, including its coal dock to the right
As for its ship-building industry, the town was home to famous yards such as Gray’s, Irvine’s, Richardsons and Pounders. Pictured: A ship in Hartlepool’s docks
View of Central Shipyard from Central Dock in Hartlepool. It shows eight ships in stocks. The image was taken before Hartlepool’s ship building industry declined
As for its ship-building industry, the town was home to famous yards such as Gray’s, Irvine’s, Richardsons and Pounders.
Due to its importance as an industrial heartland, Hartlepool became a key target for German bombs in both the First and Second World War.
In between the wars, it had suffered badly in the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Whilst World War Two did allow the town’s shipbuilding and steel industries to recover after the decade of decline, the end of the conflict in 1945 saw both industries deteriorate once more.
The last ship to be built in Hartlepool, the Blanchland, left its dry dock in 1961.
In 1977, the British Steel Corporation closed the Hartlepool steelworks, leading to the loss of 1,500 jobs.
South Durham Steel Works seen from Coronation Drive. In between the World Wars, Hartlepool suffered badly in the Great Depression of the 1930s
In 1977, the British Steel Corporation closed the Hartlepool steelworks, leading to the loss of 1,500 jobs. Pictured: South Durham Steel Works
In the 1980s, the town suffered from very high levels of unemployment, which peaked at 30 per cent – the highest in the UK.
In 1983, a further blow was dealt to the shrunken steel industry when British Steel announced 630 job cuts.
Ms Mortimer’s victory over Labour candidate Paul Williams marks just the fifth time since the Second World War that a candidate from the governing party has won a seat from the opposition in a by-election.
Chris Lloyd, features writer of the Northern Echo, said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday that Labour lost the former stronghold because the party had not ‘moved into this new reality of life in the post-industrial North-East’.
He said that the town’s industrial heritage is now so far in the past that ‘people do not have the memory of those large monolithic industries on which the Labour movement is based.’
He added: ‘In Hartlepool, shipbuilding is now a nostalgia industry. And so the Conservatives are managing to move away from those old times by this levelling up agenda…’