For the first time in decades, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party stole the House of Commons mandate from Labor in Hartlepool, northeast England. In a by-election, Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer received the largest number of votes, the Election Commission announced Friday morning. The result in the home of Labor is a huge success for the Conservatives, who continue to score there through the Brexit cycle.
“This is a historic finding,” said Amanda Milling, vice chairwoman of the Conservative Party, in the first reaction. For Labor leader Keir Starmer, who has been in office for more than a year, the defeat is a major setback. The by-elections have no direct bearing on the balance of power in London because the Conservatives in the House of Commons already enjoy a comfortable majority.
Hartlepool was still in the hands of the opposition even in the Labor Party’s historic defeat in the general election in December 2019, in which the Conservative Party seized dozens of Red Bastions. By-elections became necessary because incumbent Representative Mike Hill was forced to resign after allegations of sexual assault.
Both Johnson and Starmer traveled to the North Sea city with around 92,000 residents multiple times during the election campaign. It is also part of the European Union’s stronghold of opponents. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, nearly 70 percent of Hartlepool voters voted in favor of the UK’s exit from the European Union. Johnson was the spokesperson for the European Union’s opponents and later pushed through Brexit as head of government against massive domestic political resistance.
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