The party leader’s authority has been hit by a bruising result in the former Labour seat that saw a Conservative MP elected for the first time in 50 years. Just hours after the result has been announced, critics of Sir Keir are already briefing against him.
Blaming the leadership’s lack of socialist policies for failing to win the seat that was won twice under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Diane Abbott tweeted: “Crushing defeat for Labour in Hartlepool. Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result.
“Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy.”
Another MP labelled the leader a “lame duck”, warning of a leadership challenge to come.
“You’ll begin to see his authority wane and the big fish maneuver quite disrespectfully around the still-moving carcass,” they told Politico.
Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer beat Labour’s Dr Paul Williams – an avid Remainer and second-referendum campaigner during his time as MP for Stockton South from 2017-19 – with a majority of nearly 7,000 in the by-election.
The result represents a swing of over 10,000 votes to the Tories in the seat since the 2019 vote.
A Labour source said Sir Keir Starmer would take responsibility for the result but claimed the loss was due to a failure to move to the centre quickly enough, and did not represent a need to return to the policies adopted under Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
They said: “We’ve said all along the North East and the Midlands would be 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.
“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.”
More to follow…