This should be a formality – Peter Mandelson one of the founders of New Labour, could command over 60 per cent of the vote when he represented this proud North East town.
But the fact that Labour success on May 6 is far from assured explains why this outcome here is being viewed as a barometer of Sir Keir’s first year as leader. For, while he did, initially, bring new purpose to the Labour front bench in the House of Commons, he is still to cut through with the public despite many concerns about Boris Johnson’s handling of the Covid pandemic.
And this explains why the Hartlepool election, triggered by the resignation of sitting Labour MP Mike Hill over sexual harassment claims, has the potential to be a defining one. Its levels of deprivation, and disenfranchisement, are akin to the levels of disillusionment which persist in Yorkshire industrial towns – and those ‘red wall’ seats that returned a Tory MP for the first time in the 2019 election.
If Labour cannot win here, it has little chance of winning a national election. And while many voters said they had only ‘loaned’ their ballots to Mr Johnson in 2019 to see Brexit delivered, Sir Keir has still to offer sufficient reason for once loyal supporters to return to the party that once dominated the North. He should begin by detailing, and costing, a post-Brexit ‘levelling up’ policy which addresses the public’s concerns here and also demonstrates that this is, in fact, a ‘new’ Labour party.
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