Scottish Daily Mail
Boris leads the charge as Tories blow up Labour
Starmer left stunned at by-election setbacks
‘Level up opportunity’ ‘Continuing vaccine rollout’
BORIS Johnson defied political gravity yesterday as the Tories racked up a string of stunning poll victories.
Labour was thrashed in the Hartlepool by-election, with Jill Mortimer securing a majority of almost 7,000 in a seat the Conservatives had not held since 1964.
Tory Ben Houchen won a second term as mayor of Tees Valley in the North East of England, with an astonishing 73 per cent share of the vote.
The Conservatives also gained control of a series of councils and seats across the West Midlands.
Labour conceded the results were a ‘shattering’ blow to Sir Keir Starmer, who last night admitted his party had ‘lost the trust of working people’.
The dismal results triggered a fresh wave of Labour infighting, with the Left hitting back at claims by Lord Mandelson that the party was suffering from ‘Long Corbyn’ syndrome.
Khalid Mahmood dealt a fresh blow to Sir Keir last night by announcing he was quitting Labour’s front bench.
The former defence spokesman said the party had been ‘effectively captured’ by a ‘London-based bourgeoisie, with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors’. Labour sources warned that low turnout and voter ‘complacency’ could even cost Sadiq Khan a second term as London mayor – a contest he had been expected to win by a landslide.
But senior Tories remained on alert for results from the Scottish parliament election, with Nicola Sturgeon insisting a majority for the SNP would give her a ‘mandate’ to hold a second independence referendum.
On a victory tour of Hartlepool yesterday, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the success of the vaccine rollout had played its part, but said it was now up to ministers to deliver for voters on his pledge to ‘level up’ opportunity. He said Brexit had allowed the Government to deliver the vaccine rollout ‘faster than other European countries’.
Asked about the future, he replied: ‘Number one is continuing the vaccine rollout, making sure that we go from jabs, jabs, jabs, to jobs, jobs, jobs, make sure that we have a strong economic recovery.’ The results came as:
■ Blairite former Labour minister Lord Adonis joined calls for Sir Keir to resign, saying he was a ‘transitional figure’ who lacked ‘political skills at the highest level’;
■ Dominic Cummings hit out at both Labour and the Tories, saying neither was focused on being a ‘serious government’;
■ In a glimmer of hope for Labour, Welsh first minister
Mark Drakeford suggested the party could become the first to ever gain an outright majority in the Welsh Assembly;
■ Sir Keir was sharpening his axe for a major reshuffle in which both his Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Home Secretary could get the chop;
■ The Conservatives lost control of Cambridgeshire County Council as the Liberal Democrats gained a handful of seats;
■ Miss Sturgeon insisted that an SNP majority remained a ‘very, very long shot’, despite early gains;
■ In a blow to the Tories, the SNP gained the Edinburgh Central seat previously held by Ruth Davidson;
■ Mr Johnson dropped the strongest hint yet that the next easing of Covid restrictions would go ahead on May 17, allowing indoor socialising and stays away from home.
Thursday’s polls were the biggest test of electoral opinion since the 2019 election, with 48million people able to vote in local, regional and devolved elections.
Both main parties admitted being surprised by the scale of the Tory surge, following a campaign in which normal election canvassing was restricted by Covid regulations. Counting was also delayed by health and safety restrictions imposed because of the pandemic.
But, as the results rolled in, it became clear that Mr Johnson had confounded the conventional wisdom that voters use local elections to punish the sitting government.