Election 2021: Keir Starmer vows to do ‘whatever is necessary’ after 'bitterly disappointing' Hartlepool defeat

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston has results from around the country as Labour looks worried

Sir Keir Starmer has described Labour's defeat in the Hartlepool by-election as "bitterly disappointing" and has said he will do "whatever is necessary" to rebuild trust in the party.

The Labour leader told his party to “stop quarrelling among ourselves” and address the needs of the country after Jill Mortimer's "truly historic" victory added another red wall seat to the list of Tory wins in traditional Labour areas.

In a stunning result, the Conservatives overturned majority of 3,500 at the general election to take the seat – which had been Labour-held since it was formed in 1974 – with a majority of 6,940.

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With Labour braced for further damaging losses in the English council elections, Sir Keir said he was determined to address the problems.

"I’m bitterly disappointed in the result and I take full responsibility for the results – and I will take full responsibility for fixing this," Sir Keir said.

"We have changed as a party but we haven’t set out a strong enough case to the country.

"Very often we have been talking to ourselves instead of to the country and we have lost the trust of working people, particularly in places like Hartlepool.

"I intend to do whatever is necessary to fix that."

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Pressed on what that change would look like, he added: “It means stopping as a party quarrelling among ourselves, looking internally and facing the country and setting out that bold vision for a better Britain and changing the things that need changing.

He insisted he was up to the job of being Labour leader and that he will set out a plan to “reconnect” the party to voters.

But he refused to be drawn on reports he was planning a shadow cabinet reshuffle, with shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds rumoured to be among the casualties.

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The Conservatives won the Labour stronghold of Hartlepool with almost more than half of the votes cast, and a swing from Labour of almost 16%.

A jubilant Boris Johnson travelled to Hartlepool to hail the result as a mandate for the Government to continue delivering on its “levelling up agenda”.

"I think what this election shows is that people want a party and a government that is focused on them, focused on delivering change," he said.

“It’s a mandate for us to continue to deliver, not just for the people of Hartlepool and the fantastic people of the north east, but for the whole of the country."

In a result which was widely forecast by pollsters, Ms Mortimer beat Labour candidate Dr Paul Williams, a GP and former MP for Stockton South, after she gained 15,529 votes – more than half the total cast – with Dr Williams, trailing on 8,589.

Newly elected MP for Hartlepool Ms Mortimer described it as a “momentous day” and claimed Labour had taken people in the area “for granted for too long”.

Political Editor Robert Peston on why these elections are so "devastating" for Labour

In Scotland, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon held her Glasgow Southside seat, seeing off Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

The First Minister won 19,735 votes, compared to Mr Sarwar’s 10,279, a majority of 9,456.

Ms Sturgeon told ITV News on Friday night she was "quietly confident" as the count reached the halfway mark.

"The SNP is on course for a fourth consecutive election victory and a fourth term in office after 14-years in government. That's an extraordinary achievement."

On what an overall majority would mean for a second independence referendum, and whether Boris Johnson could block it, she said the issue could go as high as the Supreme Court.

'The absurdity of a position where a PM was going to court to overturn the democratic decision of the Scottish people? I don't think we'll get to the position'

ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith questioned Ms Sturgeon about how she could ensure a second independence referendum when one cannot take place unless approved by the UK government in Westminster.

"We would proceed with the legislation that is necessary, and that would only happen if it was passed by the Scottish Parliament," Ms Sturgeon said.

"If he [Boris Johnson] wanted to stop that it would be the case that he would have to go to the Supreme Court to challenge it - and that would be his decision not mine.

She continued: "The absurdity of a position where a PM was going to court to overturn the democratic decision of the Scottish people? I don't think we'll get to the position."

Boris Johnson, in Coventry, describes early election results as “very encouraging”

Labour seem to be performing better in Wales. First Minister Mark Drakeford said it is “too early to say” whether Welsh Labour will be the first party to ever win an outright majority in the Senedd.

“But I am looking forward to an afternoon that is a good bit better than the predictions with which we started this campaign," he said.

He polled just over 12,000 votes, 48% of the total, with a 7,528 majority over Plaid Cymru’s Elwyn Vaughan.

ITV Wales Political Editor Adrian Masters on what's been a good night for Labour in Wales and a disappointing one for the Conservatives

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.

The defeat provoked a furious reaction from the Labour left – sidelined since Sir Keir became leader last year – who said the party must now change direction.

Mr Corbyn said the results showed “a loss of hope” and called for a “bolder vision to transform people’s lives and give them the confidence to strive for a more equal world”.

"I'll turn this town around." Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer says she will work hard for the people of Hartlepool after her by-election win

It is likely to mean questions about the strategy he has pursued as leader over the past year, with traditional Labour voters seemingly continuing to turn away from the party in the wake of Brexit.

How the electoral map of northern England has changed. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson had predicted his party would face a “tough fight” to win Hartlepool, which had been a Labour stronghold since it was created in 1964, while Labour leader Sir Keir previously acknowledged the party had a “mountain to climb” to rebuild voters’ trust.

Labour MP Diane Abbott, who was shadow home secretary during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, branded it a “crushing defeat for Labour” and urged Sir Keir to rethink his strategy.

She tweeted: “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.”

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell on what he thinks went wrong for Labour

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell blamed a "failure" "to demonstrate a sense of direction".

"No point in saying we are under new leadership without saying what that new leadership means by way of political direction. What society you want to create and what are the policies that will help us achieve that?

"You need that and you cannot send people into campaigns without that basic campaigning material."

Steve Reed, shadow secretary for communities and local government, said the defeat was “absolutely shattering”.

Labour leader Keir Starmer during a visit to the Liberty Steel Mill in Hartlepool on Saturday Credit: Ian Forsyth/PA

Former shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the party needs to “urgently change direction”.

“We are going backwards in areas we need to be winning,” he tweeted.

“Labour’s leadership needs to urgently change direction. It should start by championing the popular policies in our recent manifestos.”

Labour’s Dr Paul Williams was defeated by Conservative Jill Mortimer Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

Labour’s Mike Hill won the 2019 election with a majority of 3,595 – while other bricks in the red wall fell – but he stepped down in March following claims of sexual harassment and victimisation.

Labour first won the predecessor seat, The Hartlepools, in 1964. The current constituency was created in 1974.

What's the result from rest of England?

Early results in council contests after the Super Thursday elections appeared to show voters deserting Labour, with the Tories seizing Redditch and Nuneaton & Bedworth councils in the Midlands, along with Harlow in Essex, while Sir Keir’s party saw heavy losses across North East local authorities.

Joanne Anderson has been elected as Liverpool City Mayor, she has become the first female leader in they city's history and the first black female leader of a city in the UK.

Conservative Ben Houchen secured a landslide victory in the Tees Valley mayoral contest.

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