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KEIR STARMER faces urgent calls to change course following a devastating result in the Hartlepool by-election.
The Conservatives seized the north-eastern town for the first time since the constituency was created, with Jill Mortimer winning 15,529 votes – 51.9 per cent.
Labour’s Paul Williams, the former Stockton South MP who lost that seat in 2019, received 8,589 votes, 28.7 per cent – down from 37.7 per cent in 2019 and 52.5 per cent in 2017.
Rightwingers tried to blame former leader Jeremy Corbyn for the result, despite Labour holding Hartlepool twice under his leadership – including, in 2017, with a dramatic 16.9 per cent increase in the Labour vote compared with 2015.
Peter Mandelson, a former Hartlepool MP, said Mr Corbyn was still casting a “very dark cloud” over the party and claimed he had heard on the doorstep anger at its leftward shift ever since 2010. He said he had been told “you picked the wrong brother,” a reference to the election of Ed Miliband in 2010 rather than his Blairite sibling and former foreign secretary David.
But Diane Abbott tweeted: “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.”
And Richard Burgon, secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs, said: “Incredibly disappointing defeat in Hartlepool. We are going backwards in areas we need to be winning.
“Labour’s leadership needs to urgently change direction.
“It must take the fight to the Tories and offer a much clearer and more inspiring vision of what Labour stands for.
“It should start by championing the popular policies in our recent manifestos – which are backed by a large majority of voters.”
CWU polling in Hartlepool had predicted the Labour defeat while revealing widespread support for raising public-sector pay and extending public ownership, including by renationalising Royal Mail.
Labour’s choice of Mr Williams, an anti-Brexit candidate whose vocal support for a second referendum has been blamed for the loss of Stockton South – a seat that voted by over 60 per cent to leave the EU – has been criticised given Hartlepool voted to leave by an even bigger margin.
Results from the Scottish and Welsh elections will begin to come in this afternoon but are not expected to be known in full before tomorrow. Many local election counts across England, including for some directly elected mayors, will not be held until tomorrow.
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