POLITICS
07/05/2021 06:40 BST

Labour All But Concedes Defeat In Hartlepool By-Election

Keir Starmer will "take responsibility" for the result.

TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images

Labour has all but conceded defeat in the Hartlepool by-election after a shadow cabinet member admitted the party was “not close to winning this”.

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”.

Such a humiliating defeat in a constituency that has voted Labour for almost 50 years will be a blow to 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.

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.”

Votes are still being finalised in the Leave-backing constituency but Tory candidate Jill Mortimer looks on course for victory.

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.

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

Results from the Holyrood election – where the issue of Scottish independence was a main feature in the campaign – will come through later on Friday and Saturday.

Before then, the Hartlepool parliamentary contest is the main focus and it looks set to show how hard Starmer’s job of rebuilding support for Labour will be.

A Labour source said leader Starmer would “take responsibility for these results”.

“We’ve said all along the North East and the Midlands would be difficult,” the source said.

“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.”

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.

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?”

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?”