Lisa Nandy says Labour could lose elections in Midlands and North East

Labour facing another possible elections hammering in its heartlands, Lisa Nandy says

Party could lose all key tests in northeast and West Midlands on Thursday, shadow foreign secretary warns

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 02 May 2021 15:44

Labour is facing another possible elections hammering in its heartlands when voters go to the polls this week, Lisa Nandy has admitted.

Asked if the party could lose all three key tests it faces – the Hartlepool by-election and the mayoral races in the West Midlands and Tees Valley – the shadow foreign secretary replied: “Anything is possible.”

Ms Nandy suggested Labour was encountering a cool response from voters on the doorstep, who were only “glad you’ve come because I’m thinking about it”.

“For a party that lost our entire base in every nation and region of the UK just over a year ago, that’s not a terrible place to be,” she told Times Radio.

The comments will be seen as expectation management before the elections on Thursday, but Labour has been genuinely alarmed that it is failing to win back its lost voters.

It is almost unthinkable for a mid-term government to win a seat in a by-election, especially one mired in sleaze allegations, but the Hartlepool result is on a knife-edge.

Labour won the seat in the 2019 general election, but it benefited from a split vote between the Tories and the Brexit Party. Defeat would be a crushing blow for Keir Starmer.

In the wider Tees Valley, the Conservative mayor Ben Houchen – whose victory in 2017 was early evidence of his party’s march into Labour areas – is the favourite to win again.

And, in the West Midlands, the former John Lewis boss Andy Street has successfully modelled himself as a new-style Tory not beholden to No 10 and keeping the HS2 project on track.

Ms Nandy said: “We’re not going to take anybody for granted. We always expected these elections would be difficult for us.”

But she added: “Nevertheless, it does feel, as I’ve been out in different parts of the country including in Hartlepool twice in the last few weeks, that something has shifted.

“People have noticed that Labour is under new management and they appreciate it. They are really quite frustrated with the Tory government and the numerous allegations of sleaze and misconduct.”

There is some evidence of the polls narrowing ahead of election day, one finding that more voters now believe Mr Johnson is corrupt and dishonest.

The Opinium survey for The Observer showed the Tory lead falling from 11 points to 5, after a week when the prime minister was also under for reportedly saying he would rather see “bodies pile high” than order another Covid-19 lockdown.

A Sunday Times poll found survey his party’s lead nationwide had fallen sharply, with the Conservatives on 40 per cent, only one point ahead of Labour.

The elections are the first since the pandemic struck – last year’s having been shelved – and represent the first electoral test for Sir Keir since he became Labour leader in April last year.

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