'Hartlepool is not a town that likes to be taken for granted' - says former MP Lord Peter Mandelson
Former town MP Lord Peter Mandelson has warned political parties ahead of the upcoming by-election that “Hartlepool is not a town that likes to be taken for granted”.
Lord Mandelson, who served the town as Labour MP between 1992-2004, was speaking following the sudden resignation of Mike Hill from the role on Tuesday.
Mr Hill has yet to disclose why he has stood down from a seat the party has held for more than half a century.
Yet Lord Mandelson, whose own resignation to become a European Commissioner triggered the town’s last Parliamentary by-election in 2004, has warned party leader Sir Keir Starmer that “it will be a tough fight” for Labour to win.
Referring first to his own battle to retain the seat in 2001 after two cabinet resignations, he wrote in The Times: “I went into the 2001 general election following my ejection from the government with the media pouring into the town to dance on my grave.
“Hartlepool loved the publicity then put two fingers up to the throng, returning me to Parliament with a thumping great majority.
"Townspeople like to swim against the tide and they like supporting an underdog.
“This is the position that the Labour candidate may be in because although the constituency has been solid Labour for most of the postwar period it definitely fell out of love with the party at the last election.
"The seat might have gone to the Conservatives had it not been for the Brexit party dividing the non-Labour vote.”
Mr Hill’s majority was more than halved at the 2019 General Election to 3,595 votes.
Lord Mandelson later added in his article: “Labour in Hartlepool has certainly gone through the wars in recent years and many of the party’s local leading lights haven’t helped.
"They have now largely left the scene, along with the resigning MP, and ‘real Labour’ members are back in the driving seat.
“Keir Starmer will be hoping that normal Labour service can be restored in Hartlepool but it will be a tough fight. The Tories feel they have wind in their sails and that the town will drop into their lap.
"My advice is have a care: Hartlepool is not a town that likes to be taken for granted.”