Nigel Farage's Reform to leapfrog Tories into second place in key Red Wall seat of Hartlepool - survey

Boris Johnson celebrated after defeating Labour in the Hartlepool by-election 2021 (PA Archive)
Boris Johnson celebrated after defeating Labour in the Hartlepool by-election 2021 (PA Archive)

An explosive survey of voters has put the Tories down in third place behind Reform UK and Labour in a Red Wall seat that was emblematic of Boris Johnson’s political success.

The survey in Hartlepool shows Labour in first place and Reform in second, with the Tories languishing in third place at just 10 per cent.

Hartlepool was the site of a Tory by-election victory in 2021 that was hailed as the moment of “peak Boris”.

In the survey Labour polls at 58 per cent, with Reform at 23 per cent and the Tories on 10 per cent.

The survey, conducted by WeThink for The Economist, will send panic through the ranks of Red Wall Tory MPs, those who won in historically Labour seats in 2019 and are hoping to cling on at this election despite dire national poll results for the Conservatives.

A new national poll by YouGov on Tuesday evening puts the Conservatives and Reform within one point of each other. The polling company has Labour at 38 per cent, with the Conservatives at 18 per cent and Reform at 17 per cent.

Boris Johnson famously posed on Hartlepool’s waterfront next to a giant inflatable of himself after securing a win in the historically Labour-voting seat in the May 2021 by-election.

The result, which ended decades of Labour dominance in the seat, led to much soul-searching by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. He decided to change the direction of his leadership following the defeat.

Sir Keir considered resigning the party leadership because of the Hartlepool result, according to a biography of him by journalist Tom Baldwin.

Over three years on, support for the Conservatives in the seat appears to have been crushed by a Labour resurgence and the unexpected rise of Nigel Farage’s Reform party, which is widely expected to win at least one seat in Clacton where Mr Farage is standing.

Until the by-election, Hartlepool had returned a Labour MP at every vote since its creation in 1974.

“This poll in Hartlepool has seismic implications for British politics,” said Professor Patrick Diamond, a public policy professor at Queen Mary University of London.

”First it indicates that the Conservative vote is being severely squeezed by Nigel Farage’s Reform party, which appears particularly effective at peeling away older Tory voters. Second the poll suggests that Labour’s message of stability and moderation is striking a chord in so called red wall constituencies, enabling the party to make a dramatic recovery since the disastrous 2021 by election.”

Meanwhile Johnson’s brother Jo Johnson, a former Conservative MP, said tonight on LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr show that the election looks “desperately grave” for his party. “I think it will be a very heavy defeat,” he said.

On today’s manifesto launch, Johnson said: “I don't think it is going to change things dramatically and let's be clear, this was the last chance to really have an impact with a giant set piece event. They don't come along very often in the calendar, you have a Party Conference, then you have perhaps an Autumn Statement, then you have the Spring Budget, and this was all that was left really.”