All you need to know about the Hartlepool by-election on May 6
Thursday, May 6, marks the eagerly-awaited Hartlepool Parliamentary by-election.
Here’s our guide to a political battle which has attracted local, national and international attention.
Why is there a Parliamentary by-election so soon after the last General Election in 2019?
It was called after Mike Hill, who defended his seat for Labour in December 2019 with a 3,595 majority, suddenly resigned on March 16.
While Mr Hill has yet to comment on his decision to step down, he faced an uncertain political future prior to the last General Election amid suggestions that he had sexually harassed a woman.
Mr Hill denied any impropriety and had his party suspension lifted before the 2019 poll amid disputed claims that the woman at the centre of the allegations had asked for Labour’s investigation to be paused.
How long have Labour held the seat?
They have held the constituency in its current and former guise for the last 57 years.
The last non-Labour MP to hold the seat, naval hero Commander John Kerans, stood down ahead of the 1964 General Election after five years as Conservative MP for the Hartlepools.
Why has the by-election attracted so much attention?
It is the first Parliamentary by-election since the Conservative Party’s 2019 national victory allowed them to ultimately broker a Brexit agreement with the European Union.
It is also seen by many political observers as a measurement of the Government’s overall handling of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
What about issues here in Hartlepool?
Protecting and enhancing services at the town’s University Hospital of Hartlepool as well as pledges to campaign for the reopening of Hartlepool’s police cells and magistrates’ court have all been aired by candidates.
Oh and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party have vowed to move Parliament itself to Hartlepool.
How has the campaign itself gone?
While both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have headed to Hartlepool three times, their visits have been largely kept behind closed doors owing to social distancing restrictions.
Few if any babies’ cheeks have been squeezed during this political campaign and nor have any partisan rallies or Question Time-style public grillings of candidates taken place.
Speaking of the candidates, how many are taking part?
What do the bookmakers think?
Dr Paul Williams, the former Stockton South MP, has seen his odds increase as second favourite from 6/4 to 6/1.
The Northern Independence Party’s Thelma Walker, another of the three former Labour MPs, is third favourite at 100/1 with the remaining 13 candidates all priced between 200/1-500/1.
What time might the winner be announced?
You could almost run a book on that question in itself.
Anywhere from 3am to 5am on Friday has been mentioned.
The answer is complicated by the fact that votes for the three other local polls taking place on May 6 – to elect Hartlepool borough councillors, a Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner and a Tees Valley Mayor – have to be verified before the by-election count at the Mill House Leisure Centre can begin.
One thing which will be running throughout the night is a Hartlepool Mail LIVE blog here at www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk.
Keep logging to be among the first to learn the result and for all the latest reaction and analysis.