Conservatives post crushing win in Labour stronghold

Published May 8, 2021
HARTLEPOOL: Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during his visit to Jacksons Wharf Marina on Friday. — Reuters
HARTLEPOOL: Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during his visit to Jacksons Wharf Marina on Friday. — Reuters

HARTLEPOOL: Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday welcomed early election results in Britain’s first major vote since Brexit and the pandemic, including a stunning by-election victory for his Conservative party in an opposition Labour stronghold.

Labour, however, should have some results to cheer over in the coming couple of days, with Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham expected to win second terms as the mayors of London and Manchester, respectively. The Labour government in Wales is also expected to hold onto power.

The “Super Thursday” local and regional contests could reshape the UK as pro-independence forces in Scotland, where voting for the devolved parliament was also held, bid to break away.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon won re-election in Glasgow and said she was confident her Scottish National Party (SNP) was on track to win a fourth, consecutive election victory.

“If that’s indeed the outcome of this election, I pledge today to get back to work immediately, to lead this country in recovery from Covid, and then, when the time is right, to offer this country the choice of a better future,” she said.

Comprehensive results in Scotland are due on Saturday.

In early returns in England on Friday, Johnson’s Tories were performing strongly, notably winning by a landslide in the northeast parliamentary seat of Hartlepool, in a bitter blow for Labour and its leader Keir Starmer.

The rust-belt town constituency, which is deep in traditional Labour heartlands and had never voted Conservative since its creation in 1974, saw a 16 per cent swing to the Tories.

The Tory mayor for Tees Valley, also in northeast England, won re-election, also by a landslide, increasing his share of the vote compared to 2017.

Johnson described the results as “very encouraging”. “What this election shows is that people want a party and a government that is focused on them, focused on delivering change,” he added on a victory tour of Hartlepool.

Newly-elected Tory MP Jill Mortimer called her win “truly historic” and accused Labour of taking its people “for granted for too long”.

The results continue the trend from the last general election in December 2019, when Brexit was the dominant issue and Conservatives grabbed a string of seats across Labour’s so-called “Red Wall” heartlands in northern England.

In 2019 — Labour’s worst election results since 1935, under the hard-left leadership of Jeremy Corbyn — around a quarter of Hartlepool’s electorate opted for the upstart Brexit Party.

Now, with Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union complete and that party rebranded, those voters appeared to flock to the Conservatives.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2021

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