Hartlepool: 'Labour's got a big problem,' says former MP, as Tories win 'iconic' seat

7 May 2021, 08:31

By Fiona Jones

Former Labour MP Phil Wilson insists it wasn't the candidate who lost the by-election, the party itself has "got a big problem", as the Conservatives win the Hartlepool seat for the first time since its creation in 1974.

The seat turned blue, electing Jill Mortimer as MP, after being held by Labour for almost 50 years.

Her 15,529 votes were nearly 7,000 ahead of Labour's candidate Paul Williams who polled 8,589.

Results will continue to come in throughout Friday but early results in council contests across the country also show voters turning their backs on Labour.

Nick asked whether it was the candidate, a doctor who had served on the Covid frontline, or Labour Party who had lost.

Former key Labour MP Phil Wilson responded: "I know Paul very well and he's excellent, he would have been a great MP for Hartlepool. I don't think it was necessarily the candidate...I think the Labour Party's got a big problem.

"What you find with the Tories, which they're very good at, is reinventing themselves and the Labour Party isn't. After the massive defeat we took in 2019, we still need to do that. The over-hang of the Corbyn era is still there."

He told Nick he spent six weeks in Hartlepool prior to the by-election: "I know from the doorstep what the feeling still was, I got the feeling people wanted to come back to the Labour Party but they feel disillusioned.

"That long Corbyn is still there. It was like 2019 without the anger."

Nick asked: "What does Labour stand for now?"

"This is something that we've really got to define, we've got to reestablish what our core principles are. I think the Corbyn era really dented what Labour values," said the former MP.

He insisted it is "not curtains" for Sir Keir as he's "well aware what needs to be done and the party needs to redefine itself."

"There's got to be a real detailed analysis of our policies [and]...our principles," Phil Wilson said, "he's got to re-look at the Shadow Cabinet: who's doing a good job and who isn't doing a good job."

A Labour source has responded to the election results: "These were always going to be tough elections for Labour.

"Keir has always been honest about the mountain we must climb to rebuild trust to win the next general election.

"Labour is listening and we will continue to change in order to win back the trust of working people in Britain and their communities."

Read more: Local elections 2021: Live results