A shock poll has tipped the Tories to win the Hartlepool by-election despite Boris Johnson fearing a “tough night” in this Thursday’s local elections.
Survation polled 1,000 people in the seat – Labour since its creation in 1974 – and predicted a 17-point lead for the Conservatives.
Tory land-owning barrister Jill Mortimer would win 50% of the vote with Labour GP Dr Paul Williams on 33%, according to the survey – which was carried out on April 23-29, before most of the “cash for curtains” scandal took hold.
Independents Thelma Walker and Sam Lee would win 6% of the vote each, with the Greens on 3%.
Survation suggested the seat, vacated by Labour’s Mike Hill, would likely have gone blue in 2019 if not for the Brexit Party. Labour won a 3,595 majority after Nigel Farage’s outfit split the vote for the two main parties.
A victory for the Tories would be a major blow for Keir Starmer in the first Westminster contest since he claimed Labour’s leadership.
But it is only one of more than 5,000 battles in this week’s ‘Super Thursday’ local elections.
Last night Boris Johnson predicted a “tough night” in the wider English council elections on a call with Tory activists.
He said: “When we last had these elections, the council seats that are up on Thursday, don’t forget that back then we were way ahead of Labour in the polls.
“I think I’m right in saying it was an absolute high water mark for us. We’re now a government that’s really coming towards mid term.
“And you would expect in these circumstances for it to be a tough night.”
Despite making a high-profile visit to the seat yesterday, he said winning Hartlepool would be a “massive challenge” and “it would be quite an extraordinary thing if that were to happen.”
The Tory leader added: ““I want to stress that a lot of people are talking about Hartlepool – I have just been there.
“I think it’s important for people to understand this is not a seat that Conservatives have ever held.”
Keir Starmer will today send an open letter to the country urging them to reject Tory sleaze at Thursday’s elections.
The Labour leader will call on the Government to “overhaul” the system which allowed taxpayer’s cash to be wasted on contracts to cronies.
Boris Johnson has been mired in a series of rows in recent days over the financing of the lavish refurb of his Downing Street flat, as well as allegations a Tory donor was asked to pay for his son Wilfred’s nanny.
The Government has also faced difficult questions over multi-million pound Covid contracts going to businesses with Tory links.
Three other polls in a row have shown the Tory lead has been dented over “cash for curtains” row – suggesting claims by the party that the row was not “cutting through” may have been wide of the mark.
But Labour faces a challenge hanging onto Hartlepool in a by-election on Thursday and to win the West Midlands mayoralty at the heart of the Red Wall, as well as seats in the Scottish elections.
Sir Keir told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We are fighting for every vote in this election and we’re fighting to rebuild the Labour Party, rebuild trust and reconnection.
“I never thought, and I don’t think anybody realistically thought, that the Labour Party could go from the devastating defeat in 2019 – the worst since 1935 – and mend all that in about a year or a year and a half.
“Of course it’s going to take longer than that, but we’re fighting for and we know we’ve got to earn every vote into that election.”