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UK Special Election Results   05/07 07:26


   LONDON (AP) -- Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads 
in the north of England on Friday, winning a special election in the 
post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main 
opposition Labour Party had held since its creation in 1974.

   Managing to present itself as the party of change despite having led the 
U.K. for 11 years, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives extended their 
grip on parts of the country that were Labour strongholds for decades, if not a 

   The Conservatives appeared to be headed for a series of victories a day 
after millions of voters cast ballots in an array of local and regional 
elections in England, Scotland and Wales. The party has already picked up a 
host of local council seats in towns across England in addition to the victory 
in Hartlepool.

   "I know that the results have been coming in since this morning and there's 
clearly a lot more to go, and it's early days, but it's a very encouraging set 
of results so far," Johnson said in the central England city of Coventry before 
heading off to Hartlepool.

   On what was dubbed Super Thursday, around 50 million voters were eligible to 
take part in scores of elections, some of which had been postponed a year 
because of the pandemic that has left the U.K. with Europe's largest 
coronavirus death toll.

   The results of Thursday's election in Hartlepool, one of the poorest towns 
in England, showed Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer secured nearly 52% of 
the vote. The Labour candidate, Paul Williams, only received around 29%.

   "It is a truly historic result and a momentous day," Mortimer said in her 
victory speech. "Labour have taken people in Hartlepool for granted for too 

   In the 2019 general election, the Conservative Party made big inroads into 
Labour's "red wall" in northern England on a combination of factors, including 
Johnson's pro-Brexit stance. The recent success of Britain's coronavirus 
vaccine rollout also appears to have given the Conservatives a shot in the arm.

   Whatever lay behind the result, the loss of Hartlepool represents a stunning 
defeat for the Labour Party and its leader, Keir Starmer.

   Hopes were high that Starmer would help Labour reconnect with its lost 
voters in the north of England when he took the helm a little more than a year 
ago after succeeding the more left-wing Jeremy Corbyn, who led the party in 
2019 to its worst election performance since 1935.

   Steve Reed, Labour's communities spokesman, said it was "absolutely 
shattering" to see a Conservative candidate win in a place like Hartlepool.

   "I think what this shows is that although we have started to change since 
the cataclysm of the last general election, that change has clearly not gone 
far enough in order to win back the trust of the voters," he told the BBC.

   Over the coming couple of days, Labour should have some results to cheer, 
with Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham expected to easily win second terms as the 
mayors of London and Manchester. The Labour government in Wales is also 
expected to hold onto power.

   The result that could have the biggest U.K-wide implications is the Scotland 
election, where the governing Scottish National Party is looking for a renewed 
mandate that could speed up the prospect of a second independence referendum.

   The SNP's leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, says she's is looking to 
push for another referendum if her party wins a majority in the parliament in 
Edinburgh, but only after the pandemic has been dealt with and the economic 
recovery from it is on track.

   Scotland has been part of the U.K. since 1707 and the issue of Scottish 
independence appeared settled when Scottish voters rejected secession by 
55%-45% in a 2014 referendum. But the U.K.-wide decision in 2016 to leave the 
European Union ran against the wishes of most Scots: 62% voted in favor of 
staying within the bloc, while most voters in England and Wales wanted to 
leave. That gave the Scottish nationalist cause fresh legs.

   In the first result from Scotland, the Liberal Democrats held onto the seat 
in the Orkney Islands, though the SNP increased its share of the vote. Further 
results are expected later Friday but many may not come until the weekend.

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