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”.
New Hartlepool phone poll:
J Mortimer, Con 50% (+1)
P Williams, Lab 33% (-9)
T Walker, Ind 6% (+4)
S Lee, Ind 6% (+6)
R Featherstone, Grn 3% (+2)
A Hagon, LD 1% (-)
J Prescott, RFM 1% (-)
— Survation. (@Survation) May 4, 2021
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.
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.
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.