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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