Starmer asked if Labour has ‘lost touch’ after Hartlepool loss
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And Chris Hopkins said it was clear Labour had utterly failed to make any inroads on the Conservative vote, 18 months after the general election which saw the Tories break through the so-called “red wall” of previously safe Labour seats in the north. Labour was today attempting to pick up the pieces after its candidate, Dr Paul Williams, lost out to Conservative rival Jill Mortimer by 6,950 votes, delivering a crushing blow to Sir Keir barely a year after he was elected party leader.
What a disaster for Labour
Mr Hopkins, a polling consultant with Savanta ComRes, who has been tracking the contest regularly over the last few weeks, said it was difficult to overstate the magnitude of what had happened.
He told Express.co.uk: “What a disaster for Labour.
“No use underestimating it, this is terrible for them and a shocking indication of what some of their heartlands think about them.
“Clearly the electoral map is being redrawn and the path to Downing Street is only going to get tougher for them if they can no longer rely on seats they’ve held for half a century.”
Worryingly for the former Director of Public Prosecutions, who beat Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey to the leadership in April 2020, Mr Hopkins said he appeared to have had little impact since.
He said: “We see in our polling that the only in-roads Starmer has made is squeezing the Liberal Democrat vote.
“That will never be enough, and the party needs to make a play for the voters that have abandoned them over the last few elections.
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“If some Labour talking heads are asking for a change of direction this morning, I’d argue what’s led them here is having no clear direction in the first place.
“Voters do not know what Labour stands for and while that’s the case why should they switch away from the Conservatives?
“Labour need to at least give people a choice, but for now they make voting Conservative too easy, as a vote for Labour no longer feels credible to millions of people across the country.”
Ms Mortimer beat Labour’s candidate by 15,529 votes to 8,589, achieving what less than a decade ago would have been regarded as an impossible task.
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The overwhelming victory in the former industrial port town gives Prime Minister Boris Johnson an even bigger Parliamentary majority.
Steve Reed, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, told the BBC: “There’s no hiding from the fact this is a shattering result for Labour, absolutely shattering.
“It tells us that the pace of change in the Labour Party has not been fast enough. We need to quicken it up.”
The Tories meanwhile have described it as an historic day, with defence secretary Ben Wallace tweeting: “I have represented a Lancashire seat for 16 years.
“Labour swapped the North and it’s voters for fashionable lefty elites long ago and are now paying the price.”
The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Labour MP Mike Hill.
Labour had held Hartlepool for decades. Election analysts said it was the biggest swing of votes to the governing party at a by-election since World War Two.
Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott was among those who questioned Sir Keir’s leadership in the wake of the result.
She tweeted: “Crushing defeat for Labour in Hartlepool.
“Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result.
“Labour won the seat twice under his leadership.
“Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy.”
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