TORIES

BOZ THE BULLDOZER: Boris DEMOLISHES Final Brick in Labour Red Wall 

BORIS Johnson stunned critics last night as polls closed in the biggest electoral test of his premiership so far. 

Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer handed Boris Johnson a major boost with a staggering majority of almost 7,000 – smashing both Tory and Labour predictions. 

Despite a crippling pandemic that has battered Britain, working-class voters stuck with Bashful Bozzer and in the key battleground of Hartlepool in North East England as Labour “conceded defeat” as the Tory party won a landslide victory in this historically Red Wall seat. 

Voters in the town backed Tory candidate Jill Mortimer to be their next MP over Labour’s Dr Paul Williams – an avid Remainer and second-referendum campaigner during his time as MP for Stockton South between 2017-19 – in a rare by-election victory for a party in power for more than a decade.

The Conservative, who declared it a “truly historic result”, secured a 6,940 majority winning 15,529 votes to Dr Williams’ 8,589.

Jill Mortimer wins Hartlepool by-election for the Conservatives by nearly 7,000 votes | Hartlepool Mail

Sources told Politicalite that Labour boss Sir Keir Starmer was set to face a “humiliating loss” and it could even cost him his job. 

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon, who led the Opposition party’s campaign to hold the North East town, said it looked clear that Labour had not “got over the line”.

Labour Leader Keir Starmer set to visit Bedfordshire today - and has accused Conservatives of failing to protect residents from violent crime | Bedford Today

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Such a humiliating defeat in a constituency that has voted Labour for almost 50 years will be a blow to Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, after he stressed during the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn that he was the person to turn the outfit back into a winning force again.

Mr McMahon told Sky News: “It is pretty clear in the way the ballots are landing that we are not close to winning this despite our best endeavours.

“We haven’t got over the line, that’s quite clear from the ballots.”

McMahon told Sky News: “It is pretty clear in the way the ballots are landing that we are not close to winning this despite our best endeavours.”

Labour's Oldham West victory proved a few enduring truths

“We haven’t got over the line, that’s quite clear from the ballots.”

Votes are still being counted in the Leave-backing constituency but Tory sources have predicted that the majority for blue candidate Jill Mortimer will be in the thousands.

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 Super Thursday polls – the largest test of political opinion outside a general election.

The Tories also seized Redditch and Nuneaton & Bedworth councils in the Midlands from Labour, along with Harlow in Essex, while Sir Keir’s party saw heavy losses across North East local authorities.

Results from Scotlands Holyrood election – where the issue of Scottish independence was a main feature in the campaign – will come through later on Friday and Saturday, and Boris could see an Independence conundrum in the coming months and years with Scottish independence becoming a major political issue once again in Westminster for the foreseeable future. 

Is Nicola Sturgeon in the clear? | The Independent

Tories at the by-election count were confident of victory, while early results in council contests in the north-east also appeared to show voters deserting Labour.

Bookmakers have made Tory Jill Mortimer favourite to take the seat in a rare by-election victory for a governing party, with a result expected early on Friday.

A Labour source said: “These were always going to be tough elections for Labour.

“Keir has always been honest about the mountain we must climb to rebuild trust to win the next general election.

“Labour is listening and we will continue to change in order to win back the trust of working people in Britain and their communities.”

Shadow cabinet minister Thangam Debbonaire admitted the party’s message had not been cutting through.

“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.”

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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?”

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 during the campaign in a sign of the importance the by-election represents to their parties.

The Conservatives hope to achieve a “hat trick” of successes, winning Hartlepool and retaining the mayoralties in Tees Valley and the West Midlands.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC’s Newsnight: “At this point in previous electoral cycles under Tony Blair or under Margaret Thatcher the opposition would be winning many, many council seats, would be winning places like the West Midlands, like the Tees Valley – in fact it was surprising to many people that we won the Tees Valley in the first place four years ago.

“Seats like Hartlepool which Labour have held for 40 or 50 years, it would be inconceivable that the party of government could even be talking about being competitive in those places.”

He told Sky News that “if it is even close, I would say that is a really serious indictment of Keir Starmer”.

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

Results of the elections – which also include the Welsh Parliament, police and crime commissioners and English local authorities and mayors – are expected to continue filtering through until Monday as counting will take longer than normal due to coronavirus restrictions.

In Wales, Mark Drakeford hopes to maintain Labour’s grip on the Senedd – but he may find himself forced to forge a new coalition to stay as First Minister.

That could mean talks with Plaid Cymru, whose leader Adam Price has committed to an independence referendum within five years if his party wins a majority.

Additional Reporting by PA Media 

 

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