Sir Keir Starmer: Labour must 'earn back every vote' lost under Jeremy Corbyn

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener speaks to voters and Labour leader Keir Starmer about the problems with the opposition party

Labour must earn back "every vote" lost under Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir Starmer has said as he battles to secure Hartlepool, a vulnerable seat in the party's "red wall".

Sir Keir spoke to ITV News while campaigning ahead of a by-election in the north-eastern town. The contest was triggered after Labour MP Mike Hill resigned suddenly in March.

Admitting to ITV News that Labour "lost badly" in the 2019 election, Sir Keir said the party had been rebuilding trust within northern, traditional Labour seats, like Hartlepool.

If the Conservatives take the town on May 6, it will join the scores of "red wall" seats lost to the Tories in 2019.

Sir Keir has thrown his support behind Labour candidate Paul Williams, an NHS doctor, former Stockton South MP and "excellent candidate", according to the Labour leader.

Mr Williams faces Jill Mortimer, a councillor and farmer campaigning to be the first Conservative MP for Hartlepool since the seat was created in 1974.

ITV News heard various voting intentions from the people of Hartlepool, including a nurse who said she plans to vote Conservative.

Sir Keir explains how he plans to win back lost Labour votes

"That shows we have work to do," Sir Keir said.

"We have to earn every vote back. You only earn votes back if you listen to what people are saying and make it clear that the Labour party has changed."

According to Sir Keir, "jobs, jobs, jobs" are what the people of Hartlepool want - especially since the local nuclear power station, a notable local employer, is set to be decommissioned in 2024.

But employment is something the Tories have also promised the town - in February they announced that a new freeport in nearby Teesside will create 18,000 jobs.

Also campaigning in Hartlepool on Friday, Boris Johnson said the freeport plans wouldn't be possible without Brexit, "which people in this town voted overwhelmingly to do".

Boris Johnson outlines his vision for Hartlepool

So with the Conservatives delivering Brexit and Labour's majority falling from 7,650 to just under 3,600 in 2019, are Sir Keir's offers be too little too late?

"We're fighting for every vote," he said.

"We're having conversations on the doorstep every day. We're very much up for this."

Despite Labour's campaigners being out in full force, some voters told ITV News they didn't understand what Sir Keir stood for, and that unlike Boris Johnson, he wasn't very "visible".

Sir Keir responds to claims he is not a "visible" leader

Sir Keir put these perceptions down to Covid.

"It means that I've not been out in a way I'd have liked to have been. I'd have been in Hartlepool very soon after becoming the leader of the Labour party if I'd had my way," he said.

"Am I looking forward now to the easing of restrictions and getting out there and making the argument about what comes next, you bet I am".

Here are the 16 candidates running to be the member of parliament for Hartlepool:

  • David Bettney - Social Democratic Party

  • The Incredible Flying Brick - The Official Monster Raving Loony Party

  • Hilton Dawson - The North East Party

  • Gemma Evans - Women's Equality Party

  • Rachel Featherstone - The Green Party

  • Adam Gaines - Independent

  • Andrew Hagon - Liberal Democrat

  • Steve Jack - Freedom Alliance

  • Chris Killick - Independent

  • Sam Lee - Independent

  • Claire Martin - Heritage Party

  • Jill Mortimer - Conservative Party

  • John Prescott - Reform UK

  • Thelma Walker - Independent

  • W. Ralph Ward-Jackson - Independent

  • Paul Williams - Labour Party

  • Will Labour's claims of 'Tory sleaze' have a lasting impact? The ITV News politics podcast Calling Peston explores: