Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer visits Hartlepool ahead of May by-election

Video report by Political Correspondent Tom Sheldrick

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has been campaigning in Hartlepool ahead of a by-election in the town which will be a key test of his Labour leadership.

He visited Hartlepool Power station, supporting former Stockton South MP Paul Williams as he stands following the resignation of Mike Hill earlier this month.

The May 6 contest will give an indication of whether the Labour leader can shore up support in the party's former industrial heartlands after large sections of the so-called "red wall" fell in the 2019 general election.

Speaking to ITV Tyne Tees Political Correspondent Tom Sheldrick, Starmer said: "We've spent the last year rebuilding trust across the United Kingdom.

Dr Paul Williams

Ahead of the visit Sir Keir highlighted a series of local issues and the work candidate Paul Williams has done as a frontline doctor during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hartlepool is a seat long held by Labour and the party fought off a strong Conservative and Brexit Party challenge at the 2019 general election, although their majority was reduced to just under 3,600. That was down from 7,650 in 2017.

The contest was triggered after Mike Hill quit as an MP and will take place alongside a series of local elections in England and votes for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

Sir Keir Starmer visits Hartlepool Power Station with the party's by-election candidate, Dr Paul Williams. Credit: PA

Ahead of the trip, the Labour leader said Dr Williams "knows first-hand how the Conservatives are letting down the NHS".

He blamed the Tories for a "dismal" record of cuts in public services in the town over the past decade.

"When they came to power there was an A&E in Hartlepool, a magistrates' court in the town, and a full custody suite at the police station," Sir Keir said.

"That has all gone and people feel that sense of loss."

Sir Keir will hope a win in Hartlepool and a strong showing in the other May 6 elections will boost Labour morale after Boris Johnson's Tories won a series of seats in northern England in 2019.

Candidate selection

On his visit to Hartlepool on Tuesday, Sir Keir was asked why no women were given the chance to be the Labour candidate for Hartlepool. Here is how he responded:

Hartlepool by-election candidates

Below is a list of the candidates so far who will be standing in the Hartlepool by-election. Nominations close on the 8th of April:

  • Conservatives - Jill Mortimer

  • Labour - Paul Williams

  • North East Party - Hilton Dawson

  • Northern Independence Party - Thelma Walker

  • Social Democratic Party - David Bettney

  • Women's Equality Party - Gemma Evans

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