Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have a 17-point lead in a crucial by-election battle for a Labour stronghold later this week, according to a new poll.
The survey for ITV’s Good Morning Britain by pollsters Survation gives Jill Mortimer, the Tory candidate in the north-east constituency held by Labour since 1964, 50 per cent of the vote share in the area.
It is a considerable lead over Labour’s candidate, Paul Williams, in the area, with just 33 per cent of respondents saying they would cast a vote for Sir Keir Starmer’s party at the 6 May by-election.
According to the poll, three per cent intend to vote Green and just one per cent said they would vote for the Liberal Democrats in Hartlepool — a constituency that voted by almost 70 per cent to Leave at the 2016 Brexit referendum.
At the 2019 general election, Labour, which suffered major defeats in parts of the “Red Wall” in one of its worst results, held on to Hartlepool with 37 per cent of the vote share, compared to the Conservatives’ 28 per cent.
However, support for the Brexit Party, which won 25 per cent of the vote share at the winter election, now appears to have collapsed under its rebrand of Reform UK. Just one per cent of voters polled suggested they would vote for the party’s candidate.
The poll, which interviewed 517 people living in the area between 23-29 April also showed that 51 per cent of respondents view the prime minister “favourably”, compared to just 22 per cent for Sir Keir.
It comes as vast swathes of Great Britain prepare to head to the polls later this week in elections across the country, including ballots for metro mayors in major cities, and elections at the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments.
Attempting to play down expectations for the Conservatives after his third visit to Hartlepool on Monday, the prime minister told supporters at a fundraising event it would be a “massive, massive challenge” for the party to win.
“I want to stress that a lot of people are talking about Hartlepool — I have just been there,” he said at the event, according to Politico. “I think it’s important for people to understand this is not a seat that Conservatives have ever held.
“This is the stamping ground of Peter Mandelson. It’s very important for everybody to be aware of the deep psephological reality, it’s a massive, massive challenge, it would be a quite an extraordinary thing in my view if that were to happen.”
Pressed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the results of the elections later this week would reflect on his leadership — over one year after succeeding Jeremy Corbyn — Sir Keir said: “Yes, and I take full responsibility for the results just I take full responsibility for everything that happens in the Labour Party under my leadership.”
Speaking directly about the party’s prospects at the by-election, the Labour added: “Well, I hope we won’t lose Hartlepool. We’re fighting for every vote there and I know that every vote has to be earned and that’s why I’ve been in Hartlepool three times in the campaign and we’ve got teams on the ground.
“My job as Labour leader was to rebuild the Labour Party out of that devastating loss in 2019 and put us in a position to win the next general election. I said on the day I was elected that that was a mountain to climb — it is, we’re climbing it and I’ve got a burning desire to build a better future for a country and Thursday is a first step towards that better future.
“But I don’t think anybody realistically thought that it was possible to turn the Labour Party around from the worst general election result since 1935 to a position to win the next general election within a period of one year: it was always going to take longer than that.”