LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – MAY 6, 2021: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds go to a polling station in the Methodist Central Hall in London to cast their votes in the local elections on May 6, 2021 in London, England.
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LONDON – Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won a convincing by-election in the northern English city of Hartlepool, cementing its strong position in the working-class areas of the country that once belonged to the rival Labor Party.
Jill Mortimer beat Labour’s Paul Williams by nearly 7,000 votes, according to the census announced Friday morning, and became the first Conservative to win the seat since the constituency was founded in 1974.
By-elections take place in the UK if a seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant between the general elections.
The victory is seen as a barometer of the current mood in the country as it is slowly reopening after strict measures to lock down the coronavirus. Johnson has been heavily criticized for the initial response to the pandemic. With over 127,000 reported deaths, the UK has one of the worst death rates in Europe and the world.
But Johnson has also been at the forefront of a successful vaccination campaign that saw over 50% of the country’s population receive at least one dose of vaccine. Political experts have noted that the prime minister may experience a “vaccine jump,” but the Hartlepool result underscores the trend seen in the last general election in 2019.
The result will be a heavy blow to Labor and its new moderate leader Keir Starmer. Other elections this week for local council seats also appear to be a disappointment for the opposition party.
Steve Reed, a secretary to the shadow communities for Labor, told BBC Radio on Friday: “There is no hiding the fact that this is a staggering result for Labor.”