Why even a narrow win in Hartlepool would not bode well for Labour

Labour leader Keir Starmer campaigning in the Hartlepool by-election on 30 March.

If Labour was in a position to win a majority at the next general election, it would be comfortably ahead in the by-election.

We are fast approaching “Super Thursday” and all the talk this morning is of a new Survation poll from Hartlepool indicating a 17-point lead for the Conservatives over Labour ahead of this week’s crucial by-election. 

It is generally bad practice to isolate a particular poll, rather than considering them in aggregate, especially so given the larger margin of error in this poll and the famous unreliability of constituency polling. Constituency polling is good at identifying trends, such as, in this case, the transfer of Brexit Party votes to the Conservatives, but less good at estimating the scale of that trend, because of the risk of overestimating the most motivated voters and the challenge of estimating turnout. 

But it’s worth remembering that even if Labour narrowly holds Hartlepool,, this would not be a good result for the party. As Stephen set out in more detail last week, there are different ways of thinking about the seat and Labour’s position. You can view Hartlepool as the Labour-held seat that it is on paper, or treat it as a de facto Conservative seat given how one would expect the 25 per cent vote for the Brexit Party (which has disbanded) to break in favour of the Tories. Yet whatever the starting point, if Labour was in a position to win a majority at the next general election it would be comfortably ahead in Hartlepool.

Labour is, of course, now simply hoping to scrape an against-the-odds win in Hartlepool. If the party narrowly holds the seat, Keir Starmer will breathe a sigh of relief at avoiding the nightmare scenario envisioned by the Survation poll, and the mood music will brighten. But even that scenario would not augur well for Labour’s future. 

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Stefan Rousseau-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Labour leader Keir Starmer campaigning in the Hartlepool by-election on 30 March.

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Source:: New Statesman

      

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