Hartlepool by-election challenging for Labour, concedes Anas Sarwar

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar on stage at a drive-in rally in Glasgow during campaigning for th

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar on stage at a drive-in rally in Glasgow during campaigning for the Scottish parliamentary election - Credit: PA

The Hartlepool by-election will be “really, really challenging” for Labour, the party’s Scottish leader Anas Sarwar has said.

Sarwar said both he and Sir Keir Starmer are working to build Labour as a “credible alternative”.

He spoke to journalists after attending a drive-in rally in Glasgow with former prime minister Gordon Brown, ahead of polling day in the Scottish parliament election on Thursday.

He was asked about upcoming Westminster by-elections in Hartlepool – a seat which Labour held in 2019 – and Airdrie and Shotts, where voters will choose a new MP next week.

Sarwar said: “Hartlepool is a really, really challenging seat.

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“I don’t think we can escape the fact that there was a huge Brexit Party vote in the last election, that poses its own challenge.”

One recent opinion poll suggested the Tories have a double-digit lead over Labour in Hartlepool, which has been won by Labour since the seat was created in 1974.

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Sarwar, who became Scottish Labour leader in February, said the election campaign in Scotland had given him the chance to present himself in a more “energetic and forceful way”, while a UK-wide general election is likely to be a number of years away.

He said: “Keir, like every leader, has not been able to do large events and he’s not even had an opportunity to shake a single hand since he’s been a leader due to the pandemic.

“I hope we get a good result in Hartlepool.

“But how we rebuild the country – we rebuild the country with humility, with honesty, with authenticity, with energy to demonstrate we are building a credible alternative.

“That’s what I’m doing in Scotland and that’s what Keir is doing across the UK.”

He said Labour is running an “energetic” campaign in Airdrie and Shotts with a “phenomenal local candidate”.

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