Keir Starmer outlines planned Labour Party 'changes'
The Tories took the Leave-supporting North East constituency on Friday for the first time since it was created almost 50 years ago. Jill Mortimer secured a 6,940 majority, winning 15,529 votes compared to the 8,589 for Labour candidate Dr Paul Williams.
Further success came for the Conservatives in the North East, as Ben Houchen beat Labour's Jessie Joe Jacobs to win a second term as Tees Valley mayor - with a landslide 73 percent of the vote.
Labour’s misery was compounded by poor results across England, with the party also losing control of Harlow and Nuneaton councils to the Tories.
Speaking on Friday, Sir Keir told reporters: “I am bitterly disappointed in the results and I take full responsibility for the result and I will take full responsibility for fixing things.
“We have changed as a party but we haven’t set out a strong enough case to the country, very often we have been talking to ourselves instead of to the country and we’ve lost the trust of working people, particularly in places like Hartlepool.
The Tories took the Leave-supporting Hartlepool on Friday
Boris Johnson in Hartlepool on Friday
“I intend to do whatever is necessary to fix that.”
The Hartlepool constituency was formed in 1974, and had returned a Labour MP in every vote until Thursday’s poll.
In 1997, it was won by Labour's Peter Mandelson with a majority of over 17,000.
The by-election was seen as a key test of Sir Keir's leadership after the party’s disastrous 2019 General Election defeat which saw its so-called Red Wall crumble.
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But the party had faced criticism for picking a Remainer as its candidate when Hartlepool backed Brexit by almost 70 percent in the 2016 referendum.
Dr Williams campaigned for a second referendum during his time as Labour MP for Stockton South from 2017-19.
Reacting to the by-election results, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted: "Tories don't just win Hartlepool, they've romped home with nearly double the Labour vote."
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'What's next?' Mr Johnson and Ms Mortimer in Hartlepool on Friday
Announcing his decision on a blog post for the think tank Policy Exchange, he said: "We must recognise that is how we are seen by so many people in the places that were once unfailingly loyal to us – as a party that has lost its way.
"It is only by engagement on a local level, meeting eye to eye with voters and hearing their concerns, that we will fix that.
"I will be doing so not from the Labour front bench, but walking the streets of my constituency as a backbencher and talking face to face with the people I have the honour to serve."