Hartlepool was the scene of a particularly unpleasant by-election back in the New Labour days. Labour just held off the Liberal Democrats after a remarkably scurrilous campaign, which included attacking the then Lib Dem deputy leader Ming Campbell over some of the clients he’s represented in court. As a QC, Campbell followed the ‘cab rank’ rule which means everyone, however wonderful or horrible, gets the chance of proper legal representation. It’s a bit of equality baked into the legal system that you would have thought chimed with Labour’s values… but that didn’t stop Campbell being attacked over it.
Labour also won the by-election on a promise to save the local hospital. A promise that was broken. To his credit, this did lead to the Labour MP quitting the government, though not resigning his seat.
This time around the focus is going to be much more on the seat now being part of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ (sort of). Although Labour won the seat in 2019, between them the Conservatives and the Brexit Party polled over 50%.
The Liberal Democrat vote was back on the up in the seat last time out, rising from 2% to 4%.
P.S. Chapeau, Alexander Brown: