Keir Starmer begged for more time to turn Labour’s fortunes around today as shock polls showed he is on track for disaster on ‘Super Thursday’.
The Labour leader admitted he still has a ‘mountain to climb’ after Survation research found the Tories are set for a stunning victory in Hartlepool – with their candidate Jill Mortimer 17 points clear in the by-election for a Westminster seat the party has never held.
Separate polls have put the Conservatives on course to romp home in the West Midlands and Tees Valley mayoral battles – cementing their control of the ‘Red Wall’ that delivered the historic Commons majority in 2019.
The Hartlepool survey for ITV’s Good Morning Britain comes with health warnings as it is a relatively small sample, and was conducted a week ago before Boris Johnson‘s ‘wallpapergate’ scandal fully took hold.
But it suggests that Sir Keir is facing a brutal night as he struggles to resurrect Labour’s fortunes after Jeremy Corbyn oversaw its worst general election defeat since 1935.
Sir Keir tried to put a brave face on the situation today, saying he will take ‘full responsibility’ for the results.
He said his job is to ‘rebuild the Labour Party’ and insisted that nobody ‘realistically’ thought he could fix the damage from the Corbyn era quickly.
‘I understand that every vote needs to be earned,’ he said.
Sir Keir dodged questions over whether he might even quit if the outcome is dire for Labour, and complained that people were ‘missing the point’ about his much-derided photo op in John Lewis.
Survation research puts Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer 17 points clear in a seat that Labour has always held since its creation in 1974
Separate polls have also found that the Tories are on course to romp home in the West Midlands and Tees Valley mayoral battles – cementing their control of the ‘Red Wall’ that delivered the historic Commons majority in 2019
Sir Keir tried to put a brave face on the situation today, saying he will take ‘full responsibility’ for the results on Thursday
Voters in England, Scotland and Wales will go to the polls on Thursday for contests in the devolved parliaments, regional mayors and local councils, with Labour expecting a ‘very difficult’ night
Fresh poll blow for Nicola Sturgeon’s independence drive
There is more evidence that Nicola Sturgeon‘s independence drive is losing ground today with just days until crucial elections.
A Survation poll found that 53 per cent would vote ‘no’ in an independence referendum – down two points on a week earlier.
Meanwhile, although the SNP is on track for a big win on ‘Super Thursday’ the party looks set to miss out on an overall majority.
Ms Sturgeon has made calling a fresh ballot on separation as early as this year the key plank of her manifesto.
She has insisted that a SNP landslide would provide a mandate for another contest, even though the last vote in 2014 was billed as ‘once in a generation’.
However, after riding high for months, a slew of recent polls have shown backing for dividing the UK has been slipping, as Ms Sturgeon’s civil war with Alex Salmond rages.
Tories have been warning they are likely to lose some council seats as they are defending the results of the drubbing that was handed to Labour in 2017 by Theresa May, before her premiership turned sour.
The by-election and mayoral races are likely to define who is seen as winning of losing ‘Super Thursday’.
Opinium research for the Northern Powerhouse Partnership published today suggests that in the critical ‘Red Wall’ mayoral battles in the West Midlands and Tees Valley the Conservative incumbents are coasting home.
Andy Street is projected to beat Labour’s Liam Byrne by 59 per cent to 41 per cent in the run-off in the former – a far cry from his narrow win in 2017.
And Ben Houchen is on track to see of his competition in Tees Valley with a landslide 63 per cent of first preferences.
Sir Keir told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I hope we won’t lose Hartlepool, we’re fighting for every vote there and I know that every vote has to be earned and that’s why I’ve been in Hartlepool three times in the campaign and we’ve got teams on the ground.
‘My job as Labour leader was to rebuild the Labour party out of that devastating loss in 2019 and put us in a position to win the next general election.
‘I said on the day that I was elected that that was a mountain to climb. It is, we’re climbing it and I’ve got a burning desire to build a better future for our country, and Thursday is a first step towards that better future.
‘But 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 the period of one year; it was always going to take longer than that.’
Asked on Sky News whether ‘taking responsibility’ meant he might resign, Sir Keir said: ‘Well, look, I do take full responsibility for these election results.
‘I take full responsibility for everything that the Labour Party does under my leadership, just as I took full responsibility for everything the Crown Prosecution Service did when I was Director of Public Prosecution.’
Mr Johnson seemed to receive a warm reception when he visited Hartlepool yesterday, elbow bumping locals and posing for selfies.
A bullish premier dismissed the impact of the row over his lavish No11 flat refurbishment, saying people would not focus on ‘trivia.
The seat voted heavily for Brexit, but the Tories did not flip it in 2019 in the same way as much of the rest of Labour’s ‘Red Wall’.
Other national polls have suggested that Conservative support is dipping as the lobbying and refurbishment rows take their toll – although the party was enjoying huge leads in the early stages of the campaign.
A much higher proportion of postal votes than normal are expected to be cast due to the pandemic, meaning many people could have made their decision before the allegations filtered through.
In a sign of rising angst, one Cabinet minister told the Times: ‘For people who don’t like Boris it accentuates that.
‘That’s got to be a worry ahead of the local elections.’
In a call with Tory activists last night, Mr Johnson tried to play down expectations for Hartlepool – once held by New Labour mastermind Lord Mandelson.
‘I want to stress that a lot of people are talking about Hartlepool — I have just been there,’ he said.
‘I think it’s important for people to understand this is not a seat that Conservatives have ever held.
‘This is the stamping ground of Peter Mandelson. It’s very important for everybody to be aware of the deep psephological reality.
‘It’s a massive, massive challenge, it would be a quite extraordinary thing in my view if that were to happen — but that doesn’t mean that we’re not fighting for every single vote.’
Tories are nervously waiting to see what damage the brutal briefing war between Downing Street and Dominic Cummings (pictured today) might have done
Mr Johnson seemed to receive a warm reception when he visited Hartlepool yesterday, elbow bumping locals and posing for selfies
Other polls have suggested the previously huge national Tory advantage has been trimmed back as ‘Super Thursday’ approaches
What is up for grabs in the ‘Super Thursday’ elections?
Voters across Great Britain will go to the polls on May 6 on what has been dubbed ‘Super Thursday’.
Every adult in England, Scotland and Wales will be entitled to vote in at least one contest.
The results could provide a critical marker for the direction of Britain – and in the case of Scotland, give an indication of whether Nicola Sturgeon’s drive for another independence referendum will get traction.
Here is a run-down of the different contests happening on Thursday:
Voters in Scotland will elect 129 MSPs in a crucial contest which will give an indication of the level of support for the SNP’s push for a fresh vote on independence.
People will cast two ballots under the additional member system – a form of proportional representation – electing both constituency and regional MSPs.
Votes for the individual candidates in the 73 constituencies are counted first.
The 56 regional MSPs – split across eight regions – are elected using a formula aimed at ensuring that the number of seats a party gets in total across a region is about the same as the percentage of votes it receives.
Labour has run Wales since devolution and Mark Drakeford hopes to maintain the party’s grip on the Senedd.
The additional member system is used to elect 40 constituency and 20 regional members.
The contest to elect Hartlepool’s next MP provides a key test for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. The party held the seat in 2019 with a majority of 3,595.
But the ‘red wall’ across the north crumbled, handing Boris Johnson the keys to No 10, so the by-election will give an indication of whether Sir Keir has been able to reverse the process that has seen Labour’s heartlands disappear.
Bookmakers have made the Tories odd-on favourites to secure the seat, a rare feat for a governing party.
As in a general election, the first-past-the-post system is used – whoever gets the most votes wins the seat.
In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan is the bookies’ favourite to retain City Hall.
Voters choose the mayor using the supplementary vote system, picking a first and a second preference for the job. If a candidate receives more than half of all the first choice votes they are elected. If this does not happen, the two candidates with the most first choice votes go through to another round, with second preferences from the eliminated candidates taken into account.
Voters in the capital will also elect 25 London Assembly Members using a system similar to that in Scotland and Wales.
Regional mayors will be elected for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands, West of England and – for the first time – West Yorkshire. High-profile names seeking re-election include Labour’s Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Tory Andy Street in the West Midlands.
Five local mayors are also due to be elected on May 6, for the local authorities of Bristol, Doncaster, Liverpool, North Tyneside and Salford.
Like the London mayoral contest, the supplementary vote system is used.
There will be 21 county councils holding elections, along with 28 unitary authorities, 59 district councils and 35 of the 36 metropolitan boroughs (the one exception is Birmingham, where elections will take place in 2022).
In total around 5,000 councillors are due to be elected, all using the first-past-the-post system.
Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections
PCCs will be elected in all areas of England apart from London, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, where these powers are held by the directly-elected mayor. A total of 39 commissioners will be chosen across England and Wales using the supplementary vote system.