In the 2019 general election, the Conservatives in Hartlepool polled 11,869 votes and Labour 15,464. In yesterday’s by-election the Conservatives polled 15,529 and Labour 8,589, marking a considerable gain for the Conservatives and loss for Labour. Generally, mid-term disenchantment with the national government can boost the opposition’s voters in a by-election and so this win for the Conservatives is even more significant.
Conservative gains were largely obtained from Brexit voters. In 2019, the Brexit Party polled 10,603 while its successor, the Reform Party polled just 368 yesterday. Labour losses are less-easily explained and may be attributed (or not) to party leadership, the shift to the right, Brexit, the general trajectory towards conservatism in working-class areas and so on.
Turnout yesterday was 42.3 percent of the 70,855 eligible voters. While the election result is a resounding success for the Conservatives and low turnouts always work in their favour, only 22 percent of the electorate voted for them. Only 12 percent voted for Labour. To put that in perspective, in 2019 15 percent of the electorate voted for the Brexit Party and they came third.
The turnout for the election in 2019 in Hartlepool was 57.9 percent, significantly higher (36 percent higher) than yesterday. The turnout for the EU referendum was 66.6 percent of which 65.97 percent voted to leave the EU. There’s no doubt that Brexit energised people in Hartlepool and they turned out to express their views in 2016 and in 2019.
Whatever political choices the voters in Hartlepool made yesterday, the ‘winner’ of this election was indifference. The majority of people in Hartlepool stayed at home.