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Britain's Johnson hails win, focus turns to Scotland race

by PAN PYLAS THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | May 8, 2021 at 3:55 a.m.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stands Friday next to Jill Mortimer, the winning Conservative Party candidate of the Hartlepool election in northeast England. More photos at arkansasonline.com/58ukpolls/. (AP/Scott Heppell)

LONDON -- Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads in the north of England on Friday, winning a special election in the postindustrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labor Party had held since 1974.

Managing to present themselves as agents of change despite having led the U.K. for 11 years, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives extended their grip on parts of England that had been Labor Party strongholds for decades, if not a century.

Many of these seats that have flipped from red to blue voted heavily in 2016 for Britain's departure from the European Union.

"What has happened is that they can see we did get Brexit done," Johnson said during a visit to Hartlepool, where he posed next to an inflatable blimp of himself. "What people want us to do now is to get on with delivering on everything else. No. 1 is continuing the vaccine rollout, making sure that we go from jab to jab, to jab to jobs, jobs, jobs."

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFN02Lt-2BY]

The Conservatives appeared to be headed for a series of victories a day after millions of voters cast ballots in an array of local and regional elections in England, Scotland and Wales.

On what was dubbed Super Thursday, about 50 million voters were eligible to take part in scores of elections, some of which had been postponed a year because of the pandemic that has left the U.K. with Europe's largest coronavirus death toll.

The party has also picked up a host of council seats across England and hopes to prevent the Scottish National Party from winning a majority in the Scottish parliamentary election, which would speed up the prospect of a second independence referendum.

The results of Thursday's election in Hartlepool, one of the poorest towns in England, showed Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer secured nearly 52% of the vote. The Labor Party candidate, Paul Williams, received about 29%.

"Labor have taken people in Hartlepool for granted for too long," Mortimer said in her victory speech.

In the 2019 general election, the Conservative Party made big inroads into the Labor Party's "red wall" in northern England on a combination of factors, notably Johnson's insistence that he would deliver Brexit after years of parliamentary haggling. The recent success of Britain's coronavirus vaccine rollout also appears to have helped the Conservatives.

Gallery: Conservatives win elections in Britain

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/58ukpolls/]

Whatever lay behind the result, the loss of Hartlepool represents a big blow for the Labor Party and its leader, Keir Starmer. He has already faced a backlash from the left wing of Labour in the wake of the result.

Hopes had been high that Starmer would help Labour reconnect with its lost voters in the north of England when he took the helm a little more than a year ago after succeeding the more left-wing Jeremy Corbyn, who in 2019 led the party to its worst election performance since 1935.

Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, said he took full responsibility for the party's defeat in Hartlepool, adding that he would soon be setting out a strategy of how it can reconnect with its traditional voters.

"Very often we've been talking to ourselves instead of the country and we've lost the trust of working people, particularly in places like Hartlepool," he said. "I intend to do whatever is necessary to fix that."

Starmer and the Labor Party should have some results to cheer over the coming couple of days, with Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham expected to win second terms as the mayors of London and Manchester, respectively. The Labor Party government in Wales is also expected to hold on to power.

Votes are counted Friday in the parliamentary elections in Glasgow, Scotland.
(AP/PA/Jane Barlow)
Votes are counted Friday in the parliamentary elections in Glasgow, Scotland. (AP/PA/Jane Barlow)
First Minister and SNP party leader Nicola Sturgeon celebrates after retaining her seat for Glasgow Southside at the count for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Glasgow, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. On winning her seat in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon, said early results indicated that her party was on course to win its fourth straight election in Scotland but that the final outcome would not emerge until Saturday evening. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
First Minister and SNP party leader Nicola Sturgeon celebrates after retaining her seat for Glasgow Southside at the count for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Glasgow, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. On winning her seat in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon, said early results indicated that her party was on course to win its fourth straight election in Scotland but that the final outcome would not emerge until Saturday evening. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Votes are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Glasgow, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. The election is being seen as crucial to the future of the UK as the result could impact on whether or not there is a second referendum on Scottish independence. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Votes are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Glasgow, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. The election is being seen as crucial to the future of the UK as the result could impact on whether or not there is a second referendum on Scottish independence. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Conservative's Jill Mortimer gives speech after being declared winner in the Hartlepool parliamentary by-election at Mill House Leisure Centre in Hartlepool, England Friday May 7, 2021. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
Conservative's Jill Mortimer gives speech after being declared winner in the Hartlepool parliamentary by-election at Mill House Leisure Centre in Hartlepool, England Friday May 7, 2021. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
Ballot boxes arrive for counting votes for the Welsh Parliamentary Elections at the Cardiff House of Sport, Cardiff, Wales, Friday May 7, 2021.  The counting is taking place Friday for an array of elections across Britain on Thursday, some of which had been postponed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Ballot boxes arrive for counting votes for the Welsh Parliamentary Elections at the Cardiff House of Sport, Cardiff, Wales, Friday May 7, 2021. The counting is taking place Friday for an array of elections across Britain on Thursday, some of which had been postponed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer leaves his home in London, following the declaration that the Labour Party has lost the Hartlepool parliamentary election, Friday May 7, 2021.  Britain's governing Conservative Party has won the Hartlepool election, dealing a blow to the Labour Party, with other by-election results still to be declared. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer leaves his home in London, following the declaration that the Labour Party has lost the Hartlepool parliamentary election, Friday May 7, 2021. Britain's governing Conservative Party has won the Hartlepool election, dealing a blow to the Labour Party, with other by-election results still to be declared. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Votes are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Glasgow, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. The election is being seen as crucial to the future of the UK as the result could impact on whether or not there is a second referendum on Scottish independence. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Votes are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Glasgow, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. The election is being seen as crucial to the future of the UK as the result could impact on whether or not there is a second referendum on Scottish independence. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media next to a large inflatable of him and flanked by Jill Mortimer, the winning Conservative Party candidate of the Hartlepool by-election, at Hartlepool Marina, in Hartlepool, north east England, Friday, May 7, 2021. Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads in the north of England on Friday, winning a by-election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labour Party had held since its creation in 1974. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media next to a large inflatable of him and flanked by Jill Mortimer, the winning Conservative Party candidate of the Hartlepool by-election, at Hartlepool Marina, in Hartlepool, north east England, Friday, May 7, 2021. Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads in the north of England on Friday, winning a by-election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labour Party had held since its creation in 1974. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
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