A new poll has revealed the Tories could be on course to win the Hartlepool by-election after its candidate polled 17 points ahead of Labour.
Tory candidate Jill Mortimer could win 50% of the vote with Labour GP Dr Paul Williams on 33%, if undecideds were removed, according to Survation.
Independents Thelma Walker and Sam Lee would win 6% of the vote each, with the Greens on 3%.
With undecideds included, the Tories would win 31% of the vote and Labour 22%.
Tory sources remain downbeat about a victory, highlighting the poll was carried out between April 23 and April 29, before the “cash for curtains” scandal kicked off.
Survation suggested the seat, vacated by Labour’s Mike Hill, would likely have gone blue in 2019 if not for the Brexit Party. Labour won a 3,595 majority after Nigel Farage’s outfit split the vote for the two main parties.
A victory for the Tories would serve as a major blow for Keir Starmer in the first Westminster contest since he became Labour leader.
Asked if he accepts that this week’s election results will reflect on his leadership, Sir Keir BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Yes, and I take full responsibility for the results, just as I take full responsibility for everything that happens in the Labour Party under my leadership.”
On Hartlepool, he said: “Well, I hope we won’t lose Hartlepool, we’re fighting for every vote there and I know that every vote has to be earned and that’s why I’ve been in Hartlepool three times in the campaign and we’ve got teams on the ground.
“My job as Labour leader was to rebuild the Labour Party out of that devastating loss in 2019 and put us in a position to win the next general election.
“I said on the day that I was elected that that was a mountain to climb. It is, we’re climbing it and I’ve got a burning desire to build a better future for our country, and Thursday is a first step towards that better future.
“But I don’t think anybody realistically thought that it was possible to turn the Labour Party round from the worst general election result since 1935 to a position to win the next general election within the period of one year; it was always going to take longer than that.”
Boris Johnson also downplayed his party’s chances in Thursday’s elections.
“When we last had these elections, the council seats that are up on Thursday, don’t forget that back then we were way ahead of Labour in the polls,” he cautioned.
“I think I’m right in saying it was an absolute high water mark for us. We’re now a government that’s really coming towards mid term.
“And you would expect in these circumstances for it to be a tough night.”
On Hartlepool, he said: “It’s very important for everybody to be aware of the deep psephological reality, it’s a massive, massive challenge, it would be a quite extraordinary thing in my view if that were to happen — but that doesn’t mean that we’re not fighting for every single vote.”
He also said it would be a “tough night” in
Labour faces a challenge hanging onto Hartlepool in a by-election on Thursday and to win the West Midlands mayoralty at the heart of the Red Wall, as well as seats in the Scottish elections.