The Labour party is set for a massive defeat at Thursday’s polls with the party trailing the Conservatives by 17 points ahead of Britain’s biggest set of elections since 1973.
Sir Keir Starmer has already moved to fend off imminent questions about his leadership in anticipation of a series of humiliating defeats.
Polls before the elections – to the Scottish parliament, Welsh Senedd, English councils, 13 directly elected mayors, and 39 Police and Crime Commissioner posts – on what has been dubbed Super Thursday (May 6), are making grim reading for the Labour party.
A Survation poll for ITV’s Good Morning Britain is giving the Conservatives a 17 point lead over Labour in a crucial byelection battle in Hartlepool.
The first byelection since Boris Johnson won the December 2019 general election is the focus of much media attention with Labour supporters set to desert the party and vote in a Conservative MP to represent Hartlepool for the first time since 1959.
Internal polling conducted by the Labour and reported in the Guardian shows only around 40% of former Labour supporters prepared to pledge their vote for candidate Paul Williams.
Thursday is set to be a terrible night elsewhere in north-east England for Labour with the party said be “in danger of losing control of Sunderland and Durham councils for the first time in half a century.”
Johnson focuses on ‘tough fight’
While campaigning in Hartlepool – 70% of which voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum – Johnson spoke of a “tough fight” and hoped voters focus would be on the “massive opportunities” brought about by Brexit.
“Here in Hartlepool, for instance, you’ve got a fantastic community that voted for change in 2016 and we’re delivering that change and I hope that they will come forward and vote for change again,” said the prime minister. He has visited the town three times during the campaign to support North Yorkshire farmer Jill Mortimer, the Conservative candidate.
The independent leader of Hartlepool council, Shane Moore said the town was “Labour through and through” but that the byelection was the Tories “to lose”.
Moore told the Telegraph: “People said ‘I voted Labour because my dad voted Labour’, but it’s been broken and it’s difficult to get those votes back. Almost perversely, [Old Etonian] Boris Johnson has, bizarrely, managed to speak more to the working class and Hartlepudlian.”
‘Cost saving measures’ could cost Labour dear
If the Conservatives take Hartlepool it will be the first time since 1964 that town has not been represented by a Labour MP. Countless questions will be asked about the party’s leadership, not least around the selection of their candidate, prominent Remain campaigner Paul Williams in a town that overwhelmingly voted Leave.
In the December 2019 election, Mike Hill – who is stepping down as MP following sexual harassment allegations, which he denies – won the seat with a narrow 3,595 majority on 37% of the vote. The Conservatives registered 28% and the Brexit party took 25% of the vote.
Another factor in the poor Labour turnout could be the impact of “cost saving measures” which will see “about 90 members of staff” leaving the party, news that is “not great for morale”, said one Labour fixer to the Guardian.
These activists “are the clipboard-carrying organisers” that are vital to election campaigns and the fixer said: “We would’ve made money at party conference to pay for these elections but of course they were cancelled. We haven’t got the small donors that [Jeremy] Corbyn brought and haven’t got the big donors that [Tony] Blair had. We’re trapped between the two worlds.”
Starmer told the BBC he will take “full responsibility “ for the party’s performance on Thursday, stating there is a “mountain to climb”.