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By Bishop of Leeds
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Keir Starmer Points To Catastrophic 2019 Election Defeat After Gloomy New Polls For Labour

3 min read

Sir Keir Starmer has said nobody "realistically" thought Labour could reverse their historical 2019 defeat, and still has a “mountain to climb” as fresh polls show the party is trailing in the Hartlepool by-election.

A survey by Survation, conducted for ITV’s Good Morning Britain, found that the Conservatives are on track to for a record win in the traditionally Labour seat, which the party has held since it was formed in 1974.

Just 33% of respondents in Hartlepool said they would be voting for Labour’s Paul Williams in a by-election on 6 May, compared to 50% for the Tory’s Jill Mortimer.

Responding to the poll on Tuesday morning, Starmer insisted that his party was “fighting for every vote” in the seat and hoped to win, but conceded that Labour’s electoral woes may not be over.

“My job as Labour leader was to rebuild the Labour Party out of that devastating loss in 2019 and put us in a position to win the next general election,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

“I said on the day that I was elected that that was a mountain to climb. It is, we're climbing it, and I've got a burning desire to build a better future for our country. Thursday is a first step towards that better future.”

“But I don't think anybody realistically thought that it was possible to turn the Labour Party round from the worst general election results since 1935 to a position to win the next general election within the period of one year. It was always going to take longer than that.”

The Survation poll also revealed that in Hartlepool, Boris Johnson and the Conservatives were viewed much more favourably than Starmer and Labour.

Among the 517 people surveyed, 51% said they viewed Johnson favourable compared to just 22% for Starmer, and 46% said they had a positive view of the Conservatives, compared to 31% for Labour. 

Starmer was also challenged over the party’s electoral stance, with some critics claiming that his headline pledges on jobs and training were too similar to the Conservatives’ “levelling up” agenda. 

But he said that the government had been forced to change its approach due to the pandemic and was already “retreating back to the same old ways”.

“During the pandemic, they put in place support for businesses — and we supported that — but that was a force of necessity during the pandemic.” 

“That wasn't an ideological shift that somehow happened in Conservative party thinking in the last year, and all their instincts are to go back to where we started.”

He continued: “Is Universal Credit uplift of £20, which has been a lifeline to millions of families, going to be kept? No”

“Is the public sector having its pay frozen? Yes? Are NHS frontline staff getting a pay cut in real terms?” 

“This is not evidence of a party this ideologically moved to a progressive agenda. On the contrary, it's a party retreating back to the same old ways.”

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