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Angela Rayner’s hopes shattered as Hartlepool will expose Labour’s ‘failure to reconnect’

Labour: Baroness Chakrabarti discusses Hartlepool candidate

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The Hartlepool by-election has become one of the most hotly anticipated ballots in May’s local elections. With the Labour Party’s Mike Hill having stood down, a window of opportunity has been created that many believe the Conservative Party is about to take. Labour is defending a narrow 3,595 vote majority, with leader Sir Keir Starmer’s choice of candidate, Paul Williams, touted as a disaster for the seat.

An arch-Remainer and advocate of a People’s Vote, he will fight to win a constituency that voted 70 percent to leave the EU.

While a loss in the seat would not spell the end of Labour in the north of England, Paul Embery claimed it would demonstrate how the party has failed to consolidate its differences with working class voters.

Mr Embery, a trade unionist and Labour Party member, told Express.co.uk that the outfit’s approach to the by-election had been “questionable”.

It will come as a blow to the likes of deputy leader Ms Rayner who has since last year attempted to champion Labour as the party for the working class.

Mr Embery said: “Someone from an almost military pro-Remain background, someone who’s a member of the professional and managerial classes wasn’t necessarily the best choice for a constituency that voted Leave, a blue collar, working class constituency that would consider itself part of [the] Red Wall.

“The problem for Labour is that they don’t have much of a choice because the party itself is filled with those kinds of people.

“Neil Kinnock mentioned that elections are won in years not in weeks, and I think that’s right.

“In the long term Hartlepool isn’t necessarily going to make a huge difference, but it would be very symbolic that if Labour couldn’t hold on to one of its own Red Wall seats when it’s been out of power for 11 years.

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“It would say that we are not doing anywhere near enough to reconnect with the people in those constituencies to speak their language, to understand their priorities, to ditch some of the really destructive identity politics stuff that its immersed in.

“A loss in Hartlepool won’t be fatal in the long term, but it would certainly show that we simply haven’t done enough to try to reconnect with those communities.”

Hartlepool has never been won by the Conservatives.

Despite this, Labour is throwing everything it has at the port town.

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Activists have been sent in from the wider region, and the party has diverted campaigning resources from neighbouring councils, according to The Times.

Sir Keir has visited the town twice to drum up support.

Ray Martin-Wells, the president of the local Tory association told The Times: “For the first time in my life, yes, I genuinely do think we could win.”

A telephone poll carried out by Survation earlier this month found that Jill Mortimer, the Tory candidate, has support from 49 percent of voters, while Mr Williams has 42 percent.

A Labour source told The Daily Telegraph the party now expects the seat to turn blue for the first time since 1964.

They said: “Labour would have lost Hartlepool in 2019 had it not been for the Brexit Party.

“In the context of the vaccine bounce, the Conservatives should take this seat.”

While Mr Williams has been criticised for his Remainer past, Ms Mortimer has been similarly called out for her lack of presence in Hartlepool.

She has spent a decade away from the constituency, including time in tax haven the Cayman Islands, and Ms Mortimer herself recently admitted that she had not “spent a lot of time” in the town.

Ms Rayner said the Conservatives had selected a candidate who has “more connection with tax havens than Hartlepool town centre”.

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