The Conservatives have pulled off a shock election victory in the Hartlepool by-election.
Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer will be the town’s first Tory MP since Royal Navy war hero John Kerans edged a victory in 1959.She will also become the first woman to ever represent the town in parliament.
The Conservatives won with a total of 15529 votes, giving them a majority of 6940, overturning a Labour majority of 3595 with a massive 16 per cent swing.
A historic victory
It is only the fifth time since WW2 that an incumbent government has gained a seat in a by-election, and the largest swing toward an incumbent government in recent political history.
Turnout for the by-election was 42.55%, which is relatively low compared with the typical turnouts at a general election, although is fairly high for a by-election, particularly in Hartlepool which typically has low turnout.
Speaking after the result, Mortimer said the contest had been fought with “dignity and respect” and said she was proud of the campaign she’d run.
She said: "Labour have taken people in Hartlepool for granted for too long, I heard this time and time again on the doorstep, people have had enough. And now through this result, the people have spoken, and they’ve made it clear its time for change. People voted for that positive change, for jobs and investment, and it is exactly what I’m going to deliver.”
Here are the vote totals:
Jill Mortimer, Conservative – 15529
Dr Paul Williams, Labour – 8589 Samantha Lee, Independent – 2904
Claire Martin, Heritage – 468
John Prescott, Reform UK – 368
Rachel Featherstone, Green – 358
Andrew Hagon, Liberal Democrat – 349
Thelma Walker, Independent (Northern Independence Party) – 250
Chris Killick, Independent – 248
Ralph Ward Jackson, Independent – 157
Adam Gaines, Independent – 126Gemma Evans, WEP – 140The Incredible Flying Brick, Monster Raving Loony – 108 David Bettney, SDP – 104
Steve Jack, Freedom Alliance – 72
Keir Starmer will ‘take responsibility’
Another Labour source has said Sir Keir Starmer will ‘take responsibility’ for the party’s poor performance in Hartlepool and across the country.
They said: “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.”
‘We are not close to winning’
Speaking before the totals had been announced, shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon had conceded Labour has not “got over the line” in Hartlepool.
Asked whether Labour would be claiming victory in the by-election, Mr McMahon told Sky News: “It would be difficult to do that given how we see the numbers beginning to pan out.”
“It is pretty clear in the way the ballots are landing that we are not close to winning this despite our best endeavours, despite the hard work of many fantastic volunteers and despite a fantastic candidate, who of course is a local GP working at Hartlepool hospital who has been working on the frontline during the pandemic.
“And so I think we have given it our all but sometimes you don’t get over the line on the day.
“That’s where we are, that’s the reality of where we are.
“We haven’t got over the line, that’s quite clear from the ballots.”