Keir Starmer is on course for a humiliating defeat in Hartlepool by-election

Sir Keir Starmer is on course for a humiliating defeat in Hartlepool’s by-election as a new poll shows the Tories have a seven-point lead.

Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer is set to win with 49 per cent of the vote at Labour stronghold Hartlepool in next month’s by-election, a Survation poll has revealed. 

Meanwhile Labour’s Candidate Dr Paul Williams is set to take home just 42 per cent, a rise of only four points on the share won by Mike Hill in the 2019 general election.

Mr Hill resigned last month in the wake of reports that he used taxpayers’ money to fight a staff member’s claim of unfair dismissal, sexual assault and harassment. He has denied the allegations.

A poll – commissioned by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and conducted over the phone – suggests North Yorkshire farmer Ms Mortimer will walk away with a 20 percentage point increase on the votes won by the Tories in December 2019.

A win would make the first Tory MP to take the seat since 1959.

CWU leader Dave Ward said Hartlepool’s Labour voters want politicians with ‘a moral backbone’ who stand firm in their personal beliefs.

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) is on course for a humiliating defeat in Hartlepool's by-election as a new poll shows the Tories have a seven-point lead

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) is on course for a humiliating defeat in Hartlepool's by-election as a new poll shows the Tories have a seven-point lead

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) is on course for a humiliating defeat in Hartlepool’s by-election as a new poll shows the Tories have a seven-point lead

Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer (pictured) is set to win with 49 per cent of the vote at Labour stronghold Hartlepool in next month's by-election, a Survation poll has revealed

Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer (pictured) is set to win with 49 per cent of the vote at Labour stronghold Hartlepool in next month's by-election, a Survation poll has revealed

Meanwhile Labour's Candidate Dr Paul Williams (pictured) is set to take home just 42 per cent, a rise of only four points on the share won by Mike Hill in the 2019 general election

Meanwhile Labour's Candidate Dr Paul Williams (pictured) is set to take home just 42 per cent, a rise of only four points on the share won by Mike Hill in the 2019 general election

Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer (left) is set to win with 49 per cent of the vote at Labour stronghold Hartlepool in next month’s by-election, a Survation poll has revealed. Meanwhile Labour’s Candidate Dr Paul Williams (right) is set to take home just 42 per cent, a rise of only four points on the share won by Mike Hill in the 2019 general election

A poll - commissioned by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and conducted over the phone - suggests North Yorkshire farmer Ms Mortimer will walk away with a 20 percentage point increase on the votes won by the Tories in December 2019. Pictured: The predicted split in votes

A poll - commissioned by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and conducted over the phone - suggests North Yorkshire farmer Ms Mortimer will walk away with a 20 percentage point increase on the votes won by the Tories in December 2019. Pictured: The predicted split in votes

A poll – commissioned by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and conducted over the phone – suggests North Yorkshire farmer Ms Mortimer will walk away with a 20 percentage point increase on the votes won by the Tories in December 2019. Pictured: The predicted split in votes

Sir Keir has left the voter base ‘shrugging its shoulders and asking, “Who are you then?”‘, he added.

The Labour leader has been facing mounting criticism of his leadership as the Conservatives have steadily pulled ahead in the polls since the turn of the year.

He has been accused of being too cautious and of failing to offer a clear direction for the party – while the Tories’ fortunes have benefited from the rapid rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. 

Mr Ward wrote in The Times: ‘Working people want the real thing […] politicians that have a moral backbone, that can tell you what they believe because it’s an integral part of who they are and not because it was approved by a focus group and a handful of the political elite.’

He said the Labour leader has been ‘obsessed over telling people he isn’t Jeremy Corbyn’.

Mr Johnson is more popular than Sir Keir in Hartlepool, with 49 per cent having a favourable view of the PM – compared to just 24 per cent for the Labour leader.

Mike Hill with Jeremy Corbyn campaigning ahead of the 2019 general election, in which his majority was more than halved.

Mike Hill with Jeremy Corbyn campaigning ahead of the 2019 general election, in which his majority was more than halved.

Mike Hill with Jeremy Corbyn campaigning ahead of the 2019 general election, in which his majority was more than halved.

The CWU did not support Sir Keir in his bid to be Mr Corbyn’s successor in 2020. 

Last month, Sir Keir faced calls to axe Dr Williams as Labour candidate in Hartlepool after the MP-hopeful was forced to apologise for ‘inappropriate’ tweets.

Mr Williams – who represented Stockton South from 2017 to 2019 – was blasted for recently-resurfaced social media posts from 2011.

In one tweet, written during an event in October 2011 hosted by a Labour pressure group, he wrote: ‘Do you have a favourite Tory MILF? Mind-blowing dinner table conversation.’  

Dr Williams – who currently works as a GP – has since apologised .

But Sir Keir faced calls for his removal – with Labour peer Baroness Shami Chakrabarti urging: ‘We need to change that candidate immediately.’ 

Labour issued a statement from Dr Williams in March which read: ‘These tweets were inappropriate and I am sorry for using such language.

‘They were from a decade ago, which doesn’t diminish the fact that they were wrong, but I want to reassure people that I wouldn’t dream of making comments like this now.’   

This week, Sir Keir warned Labour to prepare for an election in as little as two years – as he said he was looking forward to ‘taking the mask off’ after his first year in charge under Covid. 

Sir Keir said the party’s ambition ‘must match the moment’ with a plan to build an ‘economy that works for everyone’.

Speaking to the Observer, Sir Keir said: ‘I’m now looking forward to taking the mask off and opening the throttle. I’ve instructed the party to be election ready for 2023. 

‘The next election, whenever it comes, will be a once in a lifetime chance to get Britain working for everyone.’

Sir Keir believes that Boris Johnson will repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which limits the ability of prime ministers to call elections outside a five-year cycle. 

Doing so would allow him to go to the country in May 2023, the labour leader said, a year ahead of schedule.

Sir Keir was criticised for the visit to Jesus House in north London by the Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights

Sir Keir was criticised for the visit to Jesus House in north London by the Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights

Agu Irukwu, pastor at Jesus House, has previously spoken out against same sex marriage and equality legislation.

Agu Irukwu, pastor at Jesus House, has previously spoken out against same sex marriage and equality legislation.

The Labour leader (left) faced criticism from his own party after he posted a video on Twitter praising Jesus House for All The Nations church in Brent Cross. The church’s senior pastor, Agu Irukwu (right), has previously attracted controversy for his comments on LGBT+ rights

Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, claimed he was 'not aware' of the establishment's views on gay rights and apologised for the hurt' caused

Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, claimed he was 'not aware' of the establishment's views on gay rights and apologised for the hurt' caused

Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, claimed he was ‘not aware’ of the establishment’s views on gay rights and apologised for the hurt’ caused

Sir Keir is attempting to modernise his party after its disastrous showing in the 2019 election, which saw it suffer its worst defeat in more than 80 years under Jeremy Corbyn.

But the former arch Brexiteer faces a potential headache over Europe, with a new poll today showing almost 60 per cent of Labour Party members think he should campaign to rejoin the European Union

Yesterday, Sir Keir was forced to apologise for the ‘hurt’ caused by his visit to a London church whose pastor has spoken out against gay marriage.

In a video uploaded while visiting a vaccine centre in Jesus House in Brent Cross on Good Friday, Sir Keir praised the establishment for serving its community during the pandemic and said it had set a ‘wonderful example’.  

However, the Labour leader faced criticism from his own party after LGBT+ activists said its senior pastor Agu Irukwu had opposed gay marriage. 

In 2006, Mr Irukwu signed a letter which argued equality laws would ‘force’ churches to ‘promote the idea that homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality’.

‘For the sake of clarity, this is not what the Bible teaches and it is not what we believe to be the truth,’ dozens of Christian pastors had claimed.  

Earlier today, shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves passionately defended Sir Keir’s visit to the church, adding: ‘I don’t think anyone can doubt Keir Starmer’s and Labour’s commitment to the rights of the LGBT+ community.’

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