Considered a safe Labour seat not too long ago, the Hartlepool by-election on 6 May could well see a Conservative elected to represent the area for the first time in more than 60 years.
Whoever is elected will become the fifth MP to represent the Hartlepool constituency since it was formed in 1964, replacing the existing The Hartlepools seat.
These are the MPs who’ve previously represented Hartlepool.
Edward, or Ted, Leadbitter, was a Labour politician who served as MP for the people of Hartlepool for almost 30 years.
His role began when the constituency was still known as The Hartlepools, in 1964, and carried on through to 1992.
From Easington in County Durham, Leadbitter served as a local councillor prior to his time as an MP, and originally worked as a teacher.
He never took up a cabinet position, and had a reputation as an independent-minded backbencher who was unafraid to stray from the party-line.
So much so that he put his party’s hard-won majority at stake over a local issue, when he wrote to the Postmaster general in 1964.
Harold Wilson had won a general election that year to put a Labour government in power for the first time in 13 years, but his majority was wafer-thin.
As such, every vote in the house of commons mattered when it came to pushing through any legislation, which meant little room for backbench rebellion.
But this didn’t concern Leadbitter when he wrote to Tony Benn MP, then the Postmaster General, about a telegraph pole which had been put up directly in front of one of his constituents’ homes.
When Benn wrote back to say there was little he could do, the newly-elected Leadbitter threatened not to attend Parliament or vote with the party if the issue wasn’t resolved for his constituent.
Leadbitter was admonished by his Chief Whip and relented, though he continued to show his independence throughout his career.
Shortly before he left Parliament in 1992, Leadbitter purchased shares in British Telecom and British Gas, despite his party and party leader being firmly set against the privatisation which had led to their sale.
Leadbitter passed away in 1996 following a road accident, prompting tributes from across the political spectrum.
Peter Mandelson took over from Ted Leadbitter in 1992, having been hand-picked for the seat, which was considered safe at the time, due to his position within the party.Mandelson had been Labour’s director of communications, and one of the first people in British politics to be described as a “spin doctor” due to this role and his purported abilities at handling the press.
While John Smith was leader of the party Mandelson became close friends with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, both of whom were tipped to be future party-leaders.
It was Blair who got Mandelson’s backing following Smith’s death, which soured his relationship with Brown for many years.
Mandelson’s time at the top-end of British politics was far from without incident. He was forced to resign from the cabinet twice following scandals.
While serving as the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry it came to light that Mandelson had accepted an interest free loan of £373,000 to purchase a home in Notting Hill, London.
The loan was provided by Geoffrey Robinson, a colleague of Mandelson’s whose business dealings were subject to an ongoing inquiry by the trade department at the time.
Mandelson did not declare the loan in his register of interests, and was forced to resign in December 1998, less than six months after taking up the post.
A close friend and ally of Blair, Mandelson was back in the cabinet less than a year later, as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
He managed to avoid scandal for a little longer this time, but eventually resigned again in January 2001, over allegations that he had used his position to help a wealthy Indian businessman who was under investigation abroad to acquire a British passport.
He stepped down from parliament altogether in 2004, to take on a role as the UK’s Commissioner to Europe, triggering a by-election in Hartlepool.
The by-election which was triggered by Mandelson’s resignation saw Labour’s Iain Wright retain the seat, albeit with a significantly reduced majority, down from 14,571 to 2,033.
Wright was born and educated in Hartlepool, attending the Fens and Manor schools, and is a lifelong supporter of Hartlepool United.
He emphasised his local roots in the campaign, to see off opposition from the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, who achieved their best electoral performance at the time, coming third.
Wright campaigned unsuccessfully in favour of a North East Regional Assembly in the 2004 referendum, which was rejected by 78 per cent to 22 per cent.
He would go on to increase the party’s majority to 7,748 in the 2005 general election, before taking on a number of junior ministerial roles in Gordon Brown’s government and chairing the Business Innovation and Skills select committee in 2015.
After backing Owen Smith’s failed leadership challenge against Jeremy Corbyn in 2016, Wright declined to stand again in the snap election the following year.
The by-election which is due to take place on 6 May was triggered by the resignation of Mike Hill, who won both the 2017 and 2019 general elections.
Hill is due to face an employment tribunal later this year over allegations of sexual harassment.
Born in Lancashire with a background in the trade union movement, Hill had lived in Hartlepool for more than a decade when he stood to replace Wright in 2017, securing the largest majority in the seat since 2001.
But two years later he was only able to retain the seat thanks to the Brexit Party, whose leader Richard Tice ran in the Brexit-backing constituency and picked up more than 10,000 votes.
Shortly prior to that election Hill was suspended and then reinstated to the Labour Party over allegations of sexual harassment.
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