Keir Starmer set to lose Hartlepool for Labour for first time since seat contested in 1974

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Labour leader Keir Starmer has insisted the party is “fighting for every vote” in the Hartlepool by-election as an opinion poll showed the Tories opening up a double-digit lead in the constituency.

17 points ahead

Ahead of the vote on 6 May, the Survation poll for ITV’s Good Morning Britain put the Conservatives on 50% – 17 points ahead of Labour in a seat it has held since it was created in 1974. Starmer, who has visited the constituency three times in the course of the by-election, said he hopes Labour will not lose another seat in the party’s so-called “red wall”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I hope we won’t lose Hartlepool. We are fighting for every vote there. I know that every vote has to be earned. I said on the day that I was elected (Labour leader) that it was a mountain to climb. It is, we are climbing it and I’ve got a burning desire to build a better future for our country.

Testing times

With voting taking place across Great Britain on 6 May – including for English councils, the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Senedd – Starmer acknowledged he is facing his first major electoral test. He said:

I take full responsibility for the results, just as I take full responsibility for everything that happens in the Labour Party under my leadership

Since the turn of the year, the polls nationally have consistently shown the Conservatives ahead – although there was some tightening over the weekend, suggesting the charges of “sleaze” may be cutting through. Starmer blamed lockdown rules for his lack of progress, saying they had restricted his ability to get out and campaign in the year since he became leader.

He argued:

I have been beyond frustrated. I haven’t addressed a roomful of people as leader of the Labour Party. Every single speech has been in a sterile room down the barrel of a camera

Forget kissing babies, I’ve not been able to shake the hand of a single voter. So am I frustrated? Of course I am.

I am pleased now that, at last, I am getting the chance to get out there and show who I am and what I stand for and what I want to do and what my burning desire is to change our country for the better.

‘Opposition’

Starmer, who has faced criticism for his failure to make more of an impact in the polls since the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, insisted he had been right to pursue a policy of “constructive opposition” during the pandemic.

He said that, as the country emerges from the pandemic, Labour is committed to tackling the “inequality and injustice” of the Tory years. He said:

The inequality that’s built into our economic model is morally unjust, but it’s economically stupid.

The inequality and injustice in our economy were baked in because of austerity before we got to the pandemic and, as we come out of the pandemic, we’re at a fork in the road.

We’ve got to decide, do we go on to a different and better future, or do we go back and try to patch up what we had before?

Starmer has also been criticised for trying to attract wealthy donors back to the party. This included David Abrahams who was involved in a 2007 Labour donation scandal that saw him secretly funnelling “£650,000 to the Labour Party via his builder, his secretary and some others”. Abrahams was further criticised for posting Islamophobic tweets.

– Survation interviewed 517 Hartlepool residents aged 18 and over by telephone between April 23 and 29.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Yes Starmer must indeed take responsibility for Labour’s current situation. Frustrated over COVID? It’s surely been a godsend for him: Conference would have been empty and speeches only attended by a few. Even promotional ‘pointing’ photos show just one or two ppl looking uninspired and/or facing the other way.

      Sorry, Starmer, but those who protect traitors deserve to lose. The supporters who say ‘you’ll be letting the tories in’ [by not voting Labour] are actually supporting someone who is protecting those who would have preferred a Tory government to a socialist one.

      No Forde. No vote. Get stuffed.

    2. He’s failed to act on anti-black racism in the party, he’s failed to act on Islamophobia in the party (see the leaked Labour report), he is supporting a brutal apartheid state ‘without qualification’, he’s suspended Corbyn for no reason, he has kicked out many activists from the party; he thinks that those who care about social justice and racism will accept that they can’t influence Labour policy, but will still vote Labour because the alternative is supposedly worse than the right-wing Blairite direction he is charting. This election is a test of whether the country supports his policies. And I didn’t even mention his part in the persecution of Assange.

    3. Ooh, Jeremy Corbyn, Ooh, Jeremy Corbyn, Ooh, Jeremy Corbyn…

      I wonder if Starmer has ever realised that having a face that screams the words to the poor Public – “I’d love to help BUT”: may well help him with the oligarchy that he so blatantly serves, but doesn’t do any favours with the general public who simply DO NOT TRUST HIM.

      Jeremy Corbyn, Steer Calmer is not.

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