THE first by-election for a parliamentary seat since the 2019 General Election was contested last week – and the result surprised many.

The Hartlepool seat was expected to be a close-run fight following the resignation of sitting Labour MP Mike Hill in March.

Mr Hill is due to face an employment tribunal later in the year following allegations of sexual harassment and victimisation.

However, the result saw Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer romp home with 51.9 per cent of the vote and a majority of 6,940, a swing of 23 per cent. Labour’s Paul Williams, meanwhile, only managed 37.7 per cent of the vote, a fall of nine per cent.

The news was welcomed by Workington MP Mark Jenkinson, who had campaigned for Ms Mortimer in Hartlepool.

He said: “I’ve been over and campaigned with Jill. She is a fantastic candidate who got a stonking majority.

“It is a ringing endorsement of Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party, and our policies.

“Labour are not cutting through. They are looking backwards.”

The constituency is part of the so-called ‘red wall’ of seats that historically backed the Labour Party – indeed, it had been held by the party since 1964.

The defeat has led to criticism of Labour and leader Keir Starmer from both inside and outside the party. Many members were quick to point out that former leader Jeremy Corbyn held the constituency twice in 2017 and 2019.

But Carlisle’s former Labour MP, Eric Martlew, said he was not surprised by the result, and pointed to the signs in those two previous elections.

He said: “Obviously it’s a bad result for us, but if you look at the last General Election result where 25 per cent voted for the Brexit Party, they weren’t going to vote for Labour.

“I don’t think it was unexpected. We’ve got to take note of it.

“If we had elections this time last year, when things were bad with lockdown, it could’ve been a different result.

“It’s the vaccine bounce, and it’s the profile that Boris Johnson has. He’s a bit of a lad, which isn’t the profile that Keir has.

“I’ve seen people say the electorate is wrong – we may disagree with the electorate, but we have to listen to what they say.”

The result came amid a night of bad results for Labour, but in Cumbria the party held seats in Copeland and Barrow.

Mr Martlew added: “I’m looking at the change in the electorate. If you look at West Cumberland, we won in Keswick, but lost traditional Labour areas.

“The other thing is – if you send gunboats to Jersey then bring them back after the election – it’s clever, but it’s dangerous.”