A frantic last push is under way today on the eve of ‘Super Thursday’ – with Keir Starmer admitting he fears a ‘vaccine bounce’ for the Tories.
The Labour leader is facing the threat of a hard-Left coup with polls suggesting the party is on track for disaster in the crucial elections tomorrow.
Labour’s own canvassing data shows only 40 per cent of the party’s previous supporters in Hartlepool have pledged to back it tomorrow, according to the Guardian. The figures come from 10,000 doors knocked during the campaign.
It would be only the second time in 38 years that a ruling party has snatched a seat from the Opposition in a by-election.
Meanwhile, other polls have indicated that Andy Street and Ben Houchen, the Tory mayors in former Labour strongholds of the West Midlands and Tees Valley, are on course to score victories.
Keir Starmer (left in Pontefract today) and Boris Johnson (pictured right in Stourbridge) are engaged in a frantic final day of campaigning before the Super Thursday elections
Mr Johnson took a bike ride with West Midlands mayor Andy Street (left) on the last day before voters go to the polls
The graphic shows Labour’s poll position in the upcoming elections at the end of this week
Corbynites in Sir Keir’s party already appear to be sharpening their knives, with warnings that the leader will have to ‘consider his position’.
Asked during a campaign visit to Pontefract in west Yorkshire whether he accepted that this week’s elections were a test of his leadership, Sir Keir told reporters: ‘We are fighting for every vote into those elections tomorrow.
‘We are having a very positive reception on the doorsteps, we are going into tomorrow in good spirit.
‘Whatever the results are, I will take responsibility, as I take responsibility for everything in the Labour Party.’
Pressed on whether he might have to rethink his leadership approach if the results are poor, the party leader added: ‘Well, look, I took over the Labour Party after the worst general election result since 1935.
‘We’ve got to rebuild into the next general election – that is the task in hand.
‘This is the first test and we go into that test fighting for every vote, but I never thought we would climb the mountain we have to climb in just one year – it is going to take longer than that.’
Mr Johnson made a final pitch to the electorate in the West Midlands today.
Asked whether he would put money on getting the ‘hat-trick’ of Hartlepool, Teeside and West Midlands, Boris Johnson said: ‘Obviously with those, I think Andy Street has done an outstanding job in the West Midlands, I think Ben Houchen is a fantastic mayor in Teeside and obviously we are fighting for every vote in Hartlepool.
‘But these are tough contests and Hartlepool in particular you’d have to say, that hasn’t been a Conservative since its inception – 46 years ago or whatever it was.
‘So I think that will be a very tough fight but I hope everybody gets out to vote.’
With the coronavirus pandemic delaying a host of elections by 12 months, there will be two years’ worth of polls taking place across Great Britain tomorrow.
Voters will have their say on the make-up of English councils, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Senedd and decide who holds power in city halls, with a number of areas choosing regional mayors.
As part of Thursday’s slew of polls, Hartlepool will also elect a new MP as Labour looks to keep a seat that has been red since its inception in the 1970s.
In the West Midlands, former John Lewis boss Mr Street is projected to beat Labour’s Liam Byrne by 59 per cent to 41 per cent in the run-off – a huge improvement on his winning margin of less than 1 per cent in 2017.
The Tories also are on course for a landslide in Tees Valley, where incumbent Mr Houchen is expected to get 63 per cent support.
Tomorrow’s local elections, dubbed ‘Super Thursday’, are the biggest since 1973 and will be the first major electoral test for Sir Keir.
Voting is taking place everywhere in Great Britain – including for seats on 143 councils, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Senedd, as well as for 12 directly elected mayors and 39 police and crime commissioners.
Party sources said Labour are in ‘huge trouble’ and they are also in danger of losing Durham and Sunderland councils for the first time in 50 years.
Internal data shows just over 40 per cent of previous Labour supporters said they will vote again for the party this week.
An insider said: ‘If we were knocking on every single door and getting 40 per cent, we could win it, depending on how it splits.
‘But we’re only getting about 40 per cent of people who we think are Labour, so it’s not great.’
In 2019, Labour held a 3,595-vote majority in the constituency after the Brexit Party split the Leave vote by taking 25 per cent.
Separate polls suggested the Tories will also romp home in two key mayoral races in former Labour heartlands.
Nicola Sturgeon is fighting the Holyrood elections on a promise to force another independence referendum – but support for splitting the union appears to be dropping
Sir Keir said it was always going to take longer than a year to fix the damage caused under former leader Jeremy Corbyn
Amid the gloomy polling, Sir Keir yesterday acknowledged his party had a ‘mountain to climb’ to rebuild trust with voters.
Defeat in Hartlepool would be a humiliating blow to his leadership.
Getting his excuses in early, the Labour leader yesterday said it was always going to take longer than a year to fix the damage caused under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I hope we won’t lose Hartlepool. We are fighting for every vote there. I know that every vote has to be earned.
‘I said on the day that I was elected that it was a mountain to climb. It is, we are climbing it and I’ve got a burning desire to build a better future for our country.
‘I don’t think anybody realistically thought that it was possible to turn the Labour Party round from the worst General Election result since 1935 to a position to win the next General Election within a period of one year. It was always going to take longer than that.’
Speaking on the campaign trail in Wales, Sir Keir added: ‘We lost very badly in December 2019, and my job is to rebuild trust and confidence and reconnection with the Labour Party and that’s what I’m doing. That will take time.’