Labour candidate marches off stage in silence after Hartlepool by-election loss

·2-min read

A Conservative MP has won the seat of Hartlepool for the first time since it was created in 1974 - and losing candidate Dr Paul Williams didn't want to talk about it too much. 

Labour suffered a crushing defeat, one that illustrates just how much the Conservatives are turning the party's northern 'Red Wall' to Tory blue.

As the result was announced at the Mill House Leisure Centre - with the Tories winning by a majority of 6,940 votes - Dr Williams briefly congratulated his opponent and then promptly walked off stage, leaving the building while ignoring questions about the ignominious defeat.

HARTLEPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Labour Party candidate for Hartlepool Dr Paul Williams (R) congratulates Jill Mortimer after he loses the Hartlepool Parliamentary By-election Count on May 07, 2021 in Hartlepool, England. Hartlepool will decide between returning a Labour Party MP, who has held the seat since its creation in 1974, and a candidate from the Conservative Party who took a number of Labour's so-called
Labour's Hartlepool by-election candidate Dr Paul Williams walked off stage abruptly after losing the seat to his Conservative rival Jill Mortimer. (Getty)

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According to one onlooker, he had only showed up moments before the results were announced, meaning reporters could not ask him any questions about what many saw as his impending defeat.

He later tweeted a thank you to everyone who had voted for him and to Labour volunteers, as well as congratulating his rival, Tory candidate Jill Mortimer.

He added: "I’m off to do the important job now of taking the kids to school."

Watch: Voters in Hartlepool react to Tory by-election win

But his abrupt departure came in for criticism, with one Tory councillor tweeting: "Hartlepool’s Labour candidate Paul Williams petulantly refusing to make any comments and thank the staff, police, and his volunteers is really graceless."

Oliver Cooper, who is leader of the Conservative in Camden, added: "Particularly as it means that no other candidates can make any comments (if second place doesn’t speak, third etc can’t)."

The loss of Hartlepool has sparked fury in the Labour Party, with critics questioning leader Sir Keir Starmer's strategy. 

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Sir Keir took over as Opposition leader from Jeremy Corbyn four months after the party’s disastrous 2019 general election performance with the promise of turning it back into a winning force.

But early results in Thursday's elections suggested that voters have continued to turn away from the party, with the Tories seizing Redditch and Nuneaton & Bedworth councils in the Midlands, along with Harlow in Essex and Northumberland.

In her victory speech, Mortimer said the result was “truly historic”, saying: "Labour have taken people in Hartlepool for granted for too long. I heard this time and time again on the doorstep."

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said it had been a “crushing” defeat, tweeting: "Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result. Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy."

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