BORIS Johnson yesterday promised a “new world” of jobs and opportunity for Hartlepool as he fights to turn one of Labour’s last Red Wall seats blue.
HOAR joined the PM on the campaign trail as he tries to make history and deliver a knock out blow to Labour in the port town on the North East coast.
The seat has been rock solid Labour since it was created a whopping 50 years ago, but this time the Tories are the bookies favourites.
Springing a surprise Bank Holiday visit on the town, Boris launched a charm offensive by promising a triple whammy of “jobs, jabs and cops”.
Speaking on a windswept beach he declared: “We think it’s time for a change in Hartlepool”.
He added: “It’s time for Hartlepool to seize the opportunities that this new world is bringing, and help Hartlepool go forward with the freeport, investment in our hospitals, putting more police out in the street, and the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe.”
Bojo was mobbed by families desperate to get a selfie or have an elbow pump as he strolled along the beachfront.
One lifelong Labour voter dashed over to get a pic and tell the PM he would be voting Tory for the first time ever.
While mums and dads hastily nudged their children forward for a photo with Bojo.
Both the Tories and Labour are “throwing the kitchen sink” at the seat as polls tighten and insiders predict voting could go to the wire.
If Labour lose it will be a bitter and humiliating blow for Sir Keir Starmer.
But while the Tories are trying hard to manage expectations, many in the party reckon this is their moment to add another brick to the new, Tory ‘Blue Wall’.
Mr Johnson is remaining tight-lipped about the party’s prospects, however.
Asked what he thought the chances are of a Tory victory, he smiled and told HOAR: “We will have to see.”
Neighbouring Blue Wall Tory MPs have been out knocking doors, urging voters who are thinking of switching to the Conservatives for the first time to give change a go.
While Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock are among the many Tory big beasts who have flooded the town in recent weeks, banging the drum for the Tory candidate Jill Mortimer.
Ms Mortimer reckons the Tories offer something Labour does not – hope.
She told HOAR: “Boris Johnson has got a vision to level up the North, and I share that vision – I want to make the North rise again.”
But delivering a large dose of expectation management, she said it will still be a tall order to win a seat which has only ever been Labour.
She said: “It has been 50 years of Labour here so it is a very big ask, but I think people are fed up of being taken for granted. They want positive change.”
This note of caution is echoed by Tory MP and party chairwoman Amanda Milling – who has visited the town six times in as many weeks.
She noted: “Despite these red bricks tumbling around us and blue bricks emerging, Labour still had a majority of 3,500 here in 2019.”
But she said Labour has long taken Hartlepool “for granted” and is no longer loved by the locals.
She said: “You get that feel when you speak to residents – it’s about change.”
The by-election is one of a bumper crop of elections this ‘Super Thursday’ after Covid forced a bunch of councils to postpone going to the polls last year.
Brits will have their say on nearly 150 councils, the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and over 50 police and crime commissioners and mayor in the rollover elections.
If Labour lose Hartlepool on Thursday, Sir Keir will face a fresh barrage of questions over whether he is the man to lead the party back to power.
The Labour leader insisted he would take “full responsibility” if his party flops.
He said: “I will take full responsibility for the results in the elections this week, I will take full responsibility for everything that the Labour Party does.
“We have had a fantastic team of candidates and people out there, members and supporters, having conversations on the doors.
“We’ve got a number of days to go but I will take full responsibility whatever the outcome.”