'I take responsibility for Hartlepool by-election loss,' Labour leader Keir Starmer tells shadow cabinet
Sir Keir Starmer has told his shadow cabinet that he takes full responsibility for Labour's crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election.
The Labour leader met his reshuffled top team at Westminster on Monday for the first time following the party's damaging losses in last week's elections.
Losing the Hartlepool by-election to the Conservatives was at the epicentre of a disastrous night for Labour, losing councillors and control of authorities across the country.
Jill Mortimer was declared the winner in Hartlepool at just after 7am on Friday morning with a majority of 6,940 votes, breaking Labour’s 57-year Parliamentary reign over the town.
Mrs Mortimer received 15,529 votes with Labour’s Paul Williams finishing second on 8,589 votes and independent challenger Samantha Lee coming third with 2,904 votes.
The Labour reshuffle followed intense criticism over the weekend after he stripped deputy leader Angela Rayner of her roles of party chairwoman and campaign co-ordinator.
Amid furious accusations he was trying to make her a scapegoat, it was announced late on Sunday she would be given a new role shadowing the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
She was also made shadow first secretary of state, effectively making her the shadow deputy prime minister.
Labour sources said Sir Keir made clear during the meeting on Monday that he was not trying to shift the blame for the party's dismal election showing.
He was said to have told them there was no escaping the scale of the defeats which said "something profound about the size of the journey we have to go".
He said: "To be clear, I take responsibility. Nobody else.
"I lead the Labour Party and it is entirely on me."
Sir Keir said that he had given Ms Rayner "a big new role, taking the fight to the Tories".
In other changes shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds was demoted to party chairwoman, to be replaced by Rachel Reeves who was previously shadowing Mr Gove.
Veteran chief whip Nick Brown also stood down to be replaced by Alan Campbell.