UK PM Boris Johnson's party win election for parliament seat

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In 2019 - Labour's worst election result since 1935, under the hard-left leadership of Jeremy Corbyn - a quarter of Hartlepool's electorate opted for the upstart Brexit Party.

"Labour must now accelerate the programme of change in our party".

Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads in the north of England on Friday, winning a special election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labour Party had held since its creation in 1974. Labour fielded a former Remain supporter as its candidate in a town where nearly 70 per cent backed Brexit in the 2016 referendum.

It is the first time the Tories have won the seat for 62 years.

Some 250 jobs at the city's Liberty Steel plant are at risk after the collapse of finance firm Greensill Capital, whose failure has dragged in former prime minister David Cameron and drawn Labour accusations of Tory "sleaze".

The defeat was a major blow for Starmer.

The polls could be taken with a grain of salt, as they sampled only half of the typical number of people in a survey of this kind, however, the fact that Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared in Hartlepool for a campaign event on Monday, signals confidence within the Conservative party on their chances of picking up the seat.

In contrast, only 20 per cent of Hartlepool voters surveyed had a favourable opinion of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. In a sign of the vitriol heading towards the Labour leader from the party's leftwing, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Brighton MP, wrote on Twitter: "Good to see valueless flag waving and suit wearing working so well.or not?"

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Labour group leader Qadar Zada said he was not going to make excuses for the result. "It tells us the pace of change in the Labour party has not been fast enough".

Starmer has accepted personal responsibility for the debacle and is likely to reshuffle his low-profile shadow cabinet as he tries to move his party towards the centre and shake it out of its malaise.

The Hartlepool result continues a trend set by Johnson in the 2019 general election when he struck directly at Labour's heartlands, the so-called Red Wall areas of northern and central England, to win a commanding majority in parliament. Counting has been delayed by Covid-19 restrictions.

The "Super Thursday" regional and local elections could reshape the United Kingdom as pro-independence forces in Scotland, where voting for the devolved parliament was also held, bid to break away.

The Conservatives were hopeful of holding on to the mayoralty in the bellwether West Midlands region and the industrial Tees Valley.

The vote in strongly pro-Brexit Hartlepool was held alongside local elections across much of the country after the town's Labour incumbent quit over allegations of sexual harassment.

Sturgeon is expected to use a victory to claim a mandate for a second independence referendum, although Johnson has been adamant that Westminster would refuse to grant a plebiscite on splitting the UK. The result of the contest for London mayor could become clear on Saturday.

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