Inside Westminster

The Tories shouldn’t get too carried away by their brilliant victory in Hartlepool

Red wall voters will want to see the headline-grabbing promises of money translate into tangible progress on the ground by the next general election, writes Andrew Grice

Friday 07 May 2021 21:30
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<p>Research suggests it will be harder for Johnson to satisfy wider aspirations of Leave voters</p>

Research suggests it will be harder for Johnson to satisfy wider aspirations of Leave voters

Boris Johnson is entitled to savour the moment after the Conservatives’ stunning victory in the Hartlepool by-election. But he and his party should not get carried away.

The result reflects unfinished business from the Brexit process, as many of the 10,600 voters who backed the Brexit Party in 2019 switched to the Tories, rather than a total vote of confidence in Johnson’s government.

For now, voters give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt over whether he will keep his promise to “level up” the country’s poorest regions. Government promises of extra money and civil service jobs for these regions come thick and fast. One factor in Hartlepool was “double Tory voting” for Ben Houchen, the popular mayor of Teeside credited with winning investment and jobs, as well as the party’s by-election candidate Jill Mortimer. One Labour insider said Hartlepool voters could not be blamed for a transactional decision to secure more money for their town.

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