A very intriguing Parliamentary by-election is on the cards after Labour's Mike Hill quit the Commons. The MP has represented Hartlepool since the 2017 general election, but is facing an employment tribunal relating to allegations of sexual harassment against a former member of staff. He was briefly suspended by Labour in 2019 following the initial allegations, but was reinstated ahead of the 2019 general election.
Although Hartlepool is classed as a marginal, it has been held by Labour since its creation in 1974. Peter Mandelson is one of Hill's predecessors. He was re-elected in 1997 with a 17,508 majority, but when he resigned seven years later Labour clung on in the resulting by-election by just 2,033 votes. The Lib Dems were the challengers back then, but since 2010 the Conservatives have finished runners-up, with the exception of 2015 when UKIP were second.
Labour will go into this by-election defending a 3,595 majority, with the Conservatives currently enjoying a poll boost on the back of the vaccine roll-out. However, it's the destination of the 10,603 voters who backed the Brexit Party in 2019 that will decide this election. With Brexit now done and the party rebranded as Reform UK, it's highly likely most of those voters will go elsewhere. That's great news for Labour as the success of euro-sceptic parties generally relies on disgruntled Labour voters. The millions who voted UKIP in 2015 abandoned the party two years later and mostly returned to Labour, one of the key reasons Theresa May lost her majority.
2019 general election
Mike Hill (Lab) 15,464 (37.7%) -14.8%
Stefan Houghton (Con) 11,869 (28.9%) -5.3%
Richard Tice (Brexit) 10,603 (25.8%) New
Andy Hagon (LDem) 1,696 (4.1%) +2.3%
Joe Bousfield (Ind) 911 (2.2%) New
Kevin Cranney (Soc Lab) 494 (1.2%) New
Corbyn loyalists are already calling this by-election a referendum on Starmer's leadership.