United Kingdom

Ministers say Boris could rule longer than Thatcher

Boris Johnson could take 36 more Westminster seats from Labour at the next General Election, analysis shows, as triumphant Tories last night dubbed themselves the 'true workers' party' after a series of astonishing electoral gains. 

Labour was thrashed in the Hartlepool by-election on Thursday, with Jill Mortimer securing a majority of almost 7,000 in a seat the Tories had not held since 1964.  

In a second stunning Tory victory in the North East, Ben Houchen secured a second term as Tees Valley mayor. He grabbed 73 per cent of the vote – up from 39.5 per cent four years ago. 

And the Conservatives gained control of a series of councils, including Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Dudley, Harlow and Nuneaton and Bedworth – reversing the mid-term slump often suffered by governing parties. 

The Tories could snatch dozens more Red Wall seats at the next General Election following a collapse in support for the Brexit Party, with a switch in allegiance of Nigel Farage's old voters winning Mr Johnson the Hartlepool by-election.

At the last election in 2019, Labour managed to cling on to the constituency with 15,464 votes as Leavers were split between the Tories and Brexit Party – which picked up 11,869 and 10,603 votes respectively.

But this time support for Mr Farage's party – now renamed Reform UK – dwindled to just 368 votes, allowing Mr Johnson to clean up with a majority of 6,940.

A Daily Mail analysis has found there are a further 36 Labour seats across the country where the party's lead over the Tories in 2019 was smaller than the number who voted for the Brexit Party. 

Alarm bells will be sounding in Labour HQ about if these are the next bricks in the Red Wall to fall. 

The party's leader Sir Keir Starmer is considering moving out of London to the North to reconnect with Red Wall voters, sources told the Guardian. 

Cabinet ministers believe there has been a permanent shift in the nation's political identity and claimed Mr Johnson could outlast Margaret Thatcher's 11 years in Downing Street, The Times reports.

They believe the Conservative Party must establish its electoral advantage by winning the 'culture wars' and challenging 'woke' views.

Boris Johnson could take 36 more Westminster seats from Labour at the next General Election, analysis shows, as triumphant Tories last night dubbed themselves the 'true workers' party' after a series of electoral gains

Labour was thrashed in the Hartlepool by-election, with Jill Mortimer securing a majority of almost 7,000 in a seat the Tories had not held since 1964

In a second stunning Tory victory in the North East, Ben Houchen secured a second term as Tees Valley mayor. He grabbed 73 per cent of the vote – up from 39.5 per cent four years ago

It comes as senior Tories called the Conservatives the 'true workers' party' last night after several astonishing electoral gains - including snatching Labour's Hartlepool stronghold.

Johnson, who made a whirlwind visit to Hartlepool yesterday, hailed the result as a 'mandate for delivery' on his pledge to 'level up' opportunity across the country. In a sign of the town's remarkable political transformation, well-wishers erected a 30ft inflatable of Mr Johnson outside the counting centre.

On his arrival, the Prime Minister gestured at the inflatable and joked: 'Who's that fat bloke over there?' In the biggest round of local elections for decades, the Conservatives defied the odds to make gains in bellwether seats and traditional Labour areas.

Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Dudley and Nuneaton and Bedworth all fell to the Tories, having previously been under no overall control.

They also gained Harlow in Essex directly from Labour after seven seats changed hands. Harlow MP Robert Halfon said the result was a sign that the Tories had now usurped Labour as the 'true workers' party'.

The former Tory minister added: 'There has been lots of talk about a vaccine bounce, but it is not just stick a needle in someone's arm and they will vote Tory – it's much more than that.

'Labour has become very metropolitan and its whole campaign has just been negative mudslinging. We have been focusing on people's priorities like the NHS, skills, keeping fuel duty down and recruiting more police. 

'We are the true workers' party now. And the Boris brand works – he is liked by people in a way that Labour do not understand.'

Boris Johnson speaks, with an inflatable figure depicting him in the background, at Jacksons Wharf Marina in Hartlepool following local election

Stepping down tonight, Mr Mahmood, 59, who has been a Labour MP for 20 years, said Labour must recognise it is seen as 'a party that has lost its way' in places that were once 'unfailingly loyal'.

Boris Johnson's Conservative Party sweeps aside Labour in Hartlepool as the Tories take seat from Labour for first time since 1974 creation

Sir Keir Starmer stayed tight lipped as he left his London home after the Conservatives piled up a majority of nearly 7,000 in an extraordinary result - overturning the Opposition's previous margin of 3,500

Flanked by his new MP Jill Mortimer (right) in Hartlepool, Boris Johnson said voters believe he can 'deliver' following the latest devastating hammer blow to the Red Wall

Fellow Tory MP Neil O'Brien, who was appointed last week as the Prime Minister's 'levelling up' adviser, said there was a chance to 'use this incredible moment to change the country for the better'.

Mr Houchen, who has become a galvanising figure for Tory support across the North East, said his thumping win in what was once a rock-solid Labour area was down to a record of delivery following 'years and years of neglect'. 

He added: 'Governments of both colours have failed to invest in this region and this Government under Boris Johnson has invested hugely – people are seeing tangible benefits on the ground.'

Simon Clarke, Tory MP for Middlesbrough South, said political allegiances that saw some communities vote Labour for decades were now shifting.

'People in the North East have stopped voting Labour 'because my parents did',' he said.

'They are looking at the two parties clear-sightedly, on the basis of what they offer – and they aren't going to go back for being taken for granted.' In Hartlepool, Mrs Mortimer gained 15,529 votes – more than half the total cast.

Boris Johnson helped with fixing a leak pipe on his post-election visit to Coventry this afternoon, as he celebrates a stunning set of Super Thursday results

The victory by 15,529 to 8,589 votes in Hartlepool shows that Boris Johnson's realignment of the British political landscape is continuing, with more of the so-called Red Wall collapsing

She said the result – overturning a Labour majority of more than 3,500 at the 2019 general election – was 'truly historic'. The Tory surge also saw the party pick up a smattering of seats in some of the most solidly Labour areas. 

In Sheffield, the party won its first seat on the city council since 2008. In nearby north Derbyshire, the Tories won for the first time in Clay Cross.

Elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice said early results showed 'Leave and working-class areas are moving more strongly to the Conservatives than are Remain and more middle class places' 

Labour conceded yesterday's results were a 'shattering' blow to Sir Keir Starmer, who last night admitted his party had 'lost the trust of working people'.

The dismal results triggered a fresh wave of Labour infighting, with the Left hitting back at claims by Lord Mandelson that the party was suffering the effects of 'Long Corbyn' syndrome.

Khalid Mahmood dealt a fresh blow to Sir Keir last night by announcing he was quitting Labour's front bench.

The former defence spokesman said the party had been 'effectively captured' by a 'London-based bourgeoisie, with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors'.

Labour sources warned that low turnout and voter 'complacency' could even cost Sadiq Khan a second term as London mayor – a contest he had been expected to win by a landslide.

Jill Mortimer (pictured after being declared the victor) will now serve as the constituency's MP in Westminster after she trounced Labour contender Paul Williams

Sir Keir holed up in his Westminster office with close aides as he considered his next move after the election pasting 

Jill Mortimer pulled off a stunning victory over Paul Williams in Hartlepool (picture together at the count) 

Ms Mortimer's majority of 6,940 was a huge turnaround from the 3,500 margin that Labour's former MP Mike Hill won by in 2019

But senior Tories remained on alert for results from the Scottish Parliament elections, with Nicola Sturgeon insisting a majority for the SNP would give her a 'mandate' to hold a second independence referendum.

On a victory tour of Hartlepool yesterday, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the success of the vaccine programme had played its part in the results, but said it was now up to ministers to deliver for voters on his pledge to 'level up' opportunity.

He said Brexit had allowed the Government to deliver the vaccine rollout 'faster than other European countries'.

Asked about the future, he replied: 'Number one is continuing the vaccine rollout, making sure that we go from jabs, jabs, jabs, to jobs, jobs, jobs, make sure that we have a strong economic recovery.'

Thursday's polls were the biggest test of electoral opinion since the 2019 election, with 48million people able to vote in local, regional and devolved elections.

Both main parties admitted being surprised by the scale of the Tory surge, following a campaign in which normal election canvassing was heavily restricted by Covid regulations. Counting was also delayed by health and safety restrictions imposed because of the pandemic.

But, as the results rolled in, it became clear that Mr Johnson had confounded the conventional wisdom that voters use local elections to punish the sitting government.

Mr Johnson said delivering on his pledge to 'Get Brexit Done' had been vital in boosting Tory support in Leave-voting areas in the North and Midlands.

He said the results gave him a 'mandate' to deliver on the rest of his programme, but studiously avoided any sense of triumphalism.

Mr Johnson said people 'can see we did get Brexit done... and I think what people want us to do now is to get on with delivering on everything else'.

In an upbeat assessment he said upgraded economic growth forecasts from the Bank of England suggested there was a 'prospect of a really strong rebound in the second half of the year'.

A lack of Labour wins to celebrate meant that Sir Keir was forced to deliver his response to the election from his office in London.

The Labour leader appeared rattled by the scale of the setback, but insisted the party was not facing an 'existential crisis'. He promised to do 'whatever is necessary' to rebuild voter trust following a 'bitterly disappointing' defeat in Hartlepool.

Lord Mandelson, who once held Hartlepool for Labour, said Jeremy Corbyn still cast a 'long shadow' over the party.

The architect of New Labour said the pandemic had also played a key role, with voters more interested in vaccines and the release from lockdown than day-to-day policies.

Richard Burgon, a former Labour frontbencher, claimed Mr Corbyn would have won in Hartlepool, and urged Sir Keir to move further to the Left.

'We are going backwards in areas we need to be winning,' he added. 'Labour's leadership needs to urgently change direction.'  

The scale of the changes in key areas was laid bare in charts produced by Election Maps UK 

Former No10 chief Dominic Cummings launched an extraordinary Twitter diatribe against both Sir Keir and his former boss Mr Johnson

A jubilant Boris Johnson (pictured on a stop at Severn Trent Academy in Coventry on the way to Hartlepool) said he would keep fighting for the 'people's priorities' after he dealt another devastating hammer blow to the Red Wall

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon faces a nervous wait to find out if the SNP has won a Holyrood majority - seen as crucial to her hopes of forcing a second independence referendum.     

The coronavirus pandemic resulted in last year's elections being delayed by 12 months.

That means that two years' worth of polls took place across the UK yesterday, making for a bumper crop of results.  

Voters have had their say on the make-up of English councils, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Senedd as well as in a wave of mayoral contests, including in London.

A Labour source said this morning: 'We've said all along the North East and the Midlands would be difficult. We also said the places declaring Thursday would be particularly difficult.

'But, the message from voters is clear and we have heard it. Labour has not yet changed nearly enough for voters to place their trust in us.

'We understand that. We are listening. And we will now redouble our efforts. Labour must now accelerate the programme of change in our party, to win back the trust and faith of working people across Britain.

'People don't want to hear excuses. Keir has said he will take responsibility for these results – and he will take responsibility for fixing it and changing the Labour Party for the better.'

The Hartlepool by-election outcome was triggered when former MP Mike Hill resigned in March amid sexual harassment allegations. 

Respected elections expert Professor Michael Thrasher said the results so far were a 'nightmare' for Labour and 'the slide appears to be continuing'. 

The result in Hartlepool 

Jill Mortimer, Conservative

 15,529 (51.88 per cent of total vote, up 22.96 per cent on 2019)

Paul Williams, Labour

8,589 (28.69 per cent, down 8.99 per cent)

Sam Lee, Independent

2,904 (9.70 per cent)

Claire Martin, Heritage 

468 (1.56 per cent)

John Prescott, Reform 

368 (1.23 per cent)

Rachel Featherstone, Green

358 (1.20 per cent)

Andrew Hagon, Lib Dem 

349 (1.17 per cent, down 2.97 per cent)

He told Sky News that voters had 'simply migrated from Labour to the Conservatives'. 'That is a hard thing for voters to do but but we saw it in 2019 and we are seeing it again in 2021,' he said.  

Voter turnout in the contest in Hartlepool was 42.55 per cent - a relatively high number for a Westminster by-election.   

Hartlepool was held by Labour with a majority of 3,595 in 2019, even as other bricks in the 'Red Wall' crumbled – in part due to the Brexit Party splitting the Tory vote.

Both Mr Johnson and Sir Keir made three visits to Hartlepool during the campaign in a sign of the importance the by-election represents to their parties. 

Opinion polls suggested the Tories were on course to win the seat for the first time ever, with one survey putting the party 17 points ahead of Labour.

Mr Johnson sought to dampen expectations ahead of polling day as he said the contest looked like it would be a 'very tough fight'. 

Sir Keir said during the campaign that his rebuild of the party would take longer than 12 months.

He stressed he had taken over the leadership after the party's worst general election result since 1935 and 'we've got to rebuild into the next general election – that is the task in hand'.

Sir Keir said: 'This is the first test and we go into that test fighting for every vote, but I never thought we would climb the mountain we have to climb in just one year – it is going to take longer than that.'

However, losing ground instead of gaining it at 2021 elections would represent a devastating set of results for Sir Keir as he tries to lay the foundations for a general election victory in 2024.

He said on Wednesday that he would take responsibility, regardless of how the elections play out. 

'I take full responsibility for everything the Labour Party does, including the elections whatever they are tomorrow,' he said. 

'And for me it's very important – it's the same approach I took when I was director of public prosecutions running the Crown Prosecution Service for five years, which is when things go right, the leader takes the plaudits; when they don't go right, the leader carries the can and takes responsibility.'

Sir Keir's allies last night said they were expecting civil war to break out in the party if election results are as gloomy as forecast by some opinion polls.

Alan Milburn, a Labour Cabinet minister under Tony Blair, told BBC Newsnight that the elections should not be seen as a referendum on Sir Keir's leadership because it was 'always going to be a long, hard battle back' after the party's 2019 collapse.  

However, Mr Milburn said 'this is the time to inject new blood' into the shadow cabinet because some of its current members are 'barely visible'.

He warned the party is in a state of 'crisis' and said: 'The truth is that the Labour Party, and social democratic parties, they need to reinvent themselves. 

'It's not a question of just rebuilding - it's a process of reinvention. There needs to be a big programme change, a big policy change and I think a big procedure change.'  

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