Hartlepool by-election candidate blames Labour 'credibility and identity gap' for party's first Westminster seat defeat in 57 years

Labour’s defeated candidate in Hartlepool’s parliamentary by-election says the party needs to restore its identity and credibility.

By Mark Payne
Monday, 10th May 2021, 4:29 pm

Dr Paul Williams had hoped to become the town’s new MP but lost out to Conservative Jill Mortimer in a crushing and historic defeat in last Thursday’s vote.

Labour suffered losses to Tories in local council elections around the country piling pressure on leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Dr Williams, 48, came second in the by-election which saw the Conservatives win the seat for the first time in 57 years and a majority of nearly 7,000.

Dr Paul Williams says he is very disappointed not to have won the Hartlepool by-election which he put down to an identity and credibility gap for Labour. Picture by FRANK REID

The dad of two said he was very disappointed at the result saying: “I would have loved the opportunity to serve Hartlepool as their MP.

"I don’t blame the voters. It’s my responsibility, it’s Labour’s responsibility to listen, to learn and to change.”

Dr Williams believes Labour lost Hartlepool due to a credibility and identity gap with people believing the town and services have been left behind in the years it had a Labour MP and council.

"I’ve listened to thousands of people over the course of the last six weeks,” he said.

Jill Mortimer was confirmed as Hartlepool's new Conservative MP early on Friday morning.

"They didn’t think there was any credibility in us because they didn’t see us making a difference to these things.

"Lots of people didn’t know who we are and who we stand for. That’s a huge problem for us as a party but also our challenge and opportunity.

“We need to turn round those credibility gaps and that identity gap to show that we have listened and learned from this defeat.”

But he is sticking by leader Keir Starmer as the best person for the job saying the party’s problems are also his chance to define what Labour under him looks like.

Dr Williams added: “People in places like Wales and Manchester have seen the benefits of Labour being in power.

"Keir has articulated his vision of having the best country in the world to grow up and to grow old in but that needs fleshing out.

"He needs to use every opportunity he has to say what difference a Labour government under his leadership would make.

"I desperately want to see a future Labour government improving things for people in this part of the world.”

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