Keir Starmer grilled by host over 'tough contest' in Hartlepool

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Labour is on course to lose a crucial seat it has held since 1964 as residents in the northeast coastal town take to the polls on May 6 to elect a new MP after former Labour MP Mike Hill resigned. He was accused of sexual harassment and suspended by the party in 2019 over claims he harassed a woman. Mr Hill denies the allegations, which will be heard at a tribunal in May this year. Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer is predicted to beat Labour’s Candidate, Dr Paul Williams, in the vote.

If this happens, it will be the first time a Tory MP has been elected in Hartlepool since 1959.

Ms Mortimer told Express.co.uk: “For the first time in decades, residents have the chance to secure real change after 57 years of Labour MPs.

“Conservatives delivered Hartlepool’s Brexit vote, now we can deliver the change we need with more jobs, more apprenticeships, and more investment.

“The alternative is more of the same with a Labour candidate who voted to block Brexit 46 times when he was an MP.

“Labour can’t deliver the change Hartlepool really needs.”

A poll carried out by Survation for ITV’s Good Morning Britain between April 23 and 29 showed Tories currently have a 17-point lead at 50 percent over Labour at 33 percent.

However, Dr Paul Williams, who previously represented the nearby constituency of Stockton South from 2017, said a Labour MP would make Hartlepool “an even better place to live”.

A Hartlepool Labour spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “Dr Paul would be a brilliant representative for our town.

“He is a local NHS doctor who has been working on the frontline during the ongoing pandemic.

“Throughout the crisis he has been seeing coronavirus patients at Hartlepool hospital and his wife is a nurse at the local vaccination centre.

“His father was a teacher and his mum was a nurse, who inspired him to go into medicine.

“Paul will work with Labour’s committed team of local people standing for Council to make Hartlepool an even better place to live.”

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Sir Keir said today that he hopes Labour will not lose another seat in the party’s crumbling “red wall” region.

However, he admitted that the party still has a “mountain to climb” after losing swathes of traditional northern Labour voters under former leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 general election.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I hope we won’t lose Hartlepool. We are fighting for every vote there. I know that every vote has to be earned.

“I said on the day that I was elected (Labour leader) that it was a mountain to climb. It is, we are climbing it and I’ve got a burning desire to build a better future for our country.

“I don’t think anybody realistically thought that it was possible to turn the Labour Party round from the worst general election result since 1935 to a position to win the next general election within a period of one year.

“It was always going to take longer than that.”

Mr Johnson added he hoped voters would focus on the “massive opportunities” the Tories had brought by delivering on Brexit after Hartlepool residents backed leaving the EU in 2016 by around 70 percent.

During a visit to the coastal town yesterday, Mr Johnson said there is still be a “tough fight” for the seat.

He said: “I have always believed that it was going to be a tough fight, and I still believe that is the case.

“Here in Hartlepool, for instance, you’ve got a fantastic community that voted for change in 2016 and we’re delivering that change.

“I hope that they will come forward and vote for change again.”

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