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Elections 2021: Conservatives hail historic Labour defeat in Hartlepool by-election

The Conservatives have beaten Labour in the Hartlepool by-election, with a Tory MP elected for the first time in the current constituency's history. Tory candidate Jill Mortimer - who defeated Labour rival Paul Williams by nearly 7,000 votes - hailed the result as a "truly historic" moment. It comes as a blow to Sir Keir Starmer's efforts to win back support in traditional Labour heartlands.

On a walkabout in Hartlepool with the victorious Tory candidate, Boris Johnson said her win was a "mandate for us to continue to deliver" for the north-east of England and the rest of the country. "If there is a lesson out of this whole election campaign across the whole of the UK is that the public want us to get on with focusing on their needs and their priorities, coming through the pandemic and making sure we build back better," added the prime minister.

Sir Keir said he was "bitterly disappointed" by the results. The Labour leader said the party had "lost the trust of working people, particularly in places like Hartlepool," but added: "I will take full responsibility for fixing things." He said Labour had "not made a strong enough case to the country" and he promised to set out changes in the next few days to help the party "reconnect" with lost voters.

The Hartlepool constituency was formed in 1974 and had returned a Labour MP in every vote since - until Thursday's poll.

Ms Mortimer hailed it as a "truly historic" result, adding: "Not only that, I am the first woman ever to be elected as MP for this town. Labour have taken people in Hartlepool for granted for too long. I heard this time and time again on the doorstep and people have had enough and now, through this result, the people have spoken and have made it clear it is time for change."

Diane Abbott, an ally of Sir Keir Starmer's predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted: "Crushing defeat for Labour in Hartlepool. Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result. Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy."

Another Corbyn ally, union boss Len McCluskey, warned Labour faced a "continuous downward decline" unless Sir Keir started "talking about the radical alternative for ordinary working people". "People don't know what his vision is. People don't know what Labour stand for anymore," said the Unite general secretary. He told Nick Robinson's Political Thinking podcast he did not trust Sir Keir and had not spoken to him since Mr Corbyn's expulsion from the Parliamentary party last year.

Mr Corbyn, who now sits as an independent MP, tweeted: "With millions not voting, these results show a loss of hope. We must offer a bolder vision to transform people's lives and give them the confidence to strive for a more equal world."

But key figures from the centrist wing of the party say the Hartlepool defeat, which saw a 16% swing from Labour to the Conservatives, showed Labour had not changed enough. Lord Adonis, who served under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said the party was in "no man's land" under Sir Keir, who he described as a "transitional leader". He warned "it could be curtains for Labour" unless it became a "modernising, centrist, dynamic" party.

And former Hartlepool MP Lord Mandelson said it was clear from his conversations with voters in the town that Mr Corbyn was "still casting a very dark cloud over Labour" and that the party had more work to do put that era behind it. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the Hartlepool defeat was down to "two Cs: Covid and Corbyn".

The by-election was one of a raft of elections taking place across Britain on Thursday, with voters picking representatives for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd, as well as mayors and local councils in England, and police and crime commissioners.

(Credit to the BBC for this article: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-57019456)

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Scottish election 2021: Nicola Sturgeon celebrates 'historic' SNP election win

Nicola Sturgeon has hailed the SNP's "historic and extraordinary" fourth consecutive victory in the Scottish Parliament election. The party finished on 64 seats - one short of a majority but one more than it won in 2016.

Ms Sturgeon said her priority was the pandemic but she still intended to hold an independence referendum once the crisis has passed. Ms Sturgeon said there was no democratic justification for the prime minister, or anyone else, to attempt to block it. But Mr Johnson said talk of "ripping our country apart" would be "irresponsible and reckless".

In Scotland the SNP won 64 seats, the Conservatives 31, Labour 22, the Scottish Greens eight and Liberal Democrats four. Ms Sturgeon said her party had won the most constituency seats and secured the highest share of the constituency vote in the history of devolution. And she pledged that "the task of building a better Scotland for everyone who lives here will be my priority every single day."

Ms Sturgeon said her focus in government would be on leading the country through the pandemic and keeping people safe from Covid. She added: "It is then to kick-start and drive our recovery with an ambitious and transformative programme for government. "And, yes, when the crisis has passed, it is to give people in Scotland the right to choose their future. All of that is what I promised and all of that is what I intend to deliver."

She said the result of the election meant there was "no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future." And she insisted that holding a referendum was now "the will of the country".

The prime minister congratulated Ms Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on their re-elections and invited them to a meeting "to discuss our shared challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to overcome them". In a letter to Ms Sturgeon published on Saturday night, he invited her to "discuss our shared challenges", adding "we will not always agree - but I am confident... we will be able to build back better, in the interests of the people we serve." But he warned it would be a "difficult journey", adding: "The broad shoulders of the UK have supported jobs and businesses the length and breadth of the country, but we know that economic recovery will be a serious shared responsibility."

Prior to the Holyrood election's final results, Mr Johnson wrote in Saturday's Daily Telegraph that it would be "irresponsible and reckless" to talk about "ripping our country apart" with an independence referendum at a time when people wanted to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The Scottish voting system was specifically designed to prevent any one party having a majority in the 129-seat parliament - although the SNP did manage to do so in the 2011 election. The SNP, which formed a minority government after the last election in 2016, had hoped that winning another majority in this election would further strengthen its calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence to be held. It would also have allowed the party to pass laws and the Scottish government's annual budget at Holyrood without having to rely on the support of any other party. But there will be another, slightly increased, pro-independence majority in the parliament thanks to the seats allocated to the Scottish Greens through the regional list system and the additional seat won by the SNP. However, the Alba Party - which was formed by former SNP leader and first minister Alex Salmond - will not win any seats.

Polling expert Prof Sir John Curtice said the results have seen 51% voters backing pro-UK parties in the constituency ballot - and 51% backing pro-independence parties in the regional list ballot.

(Credit again to the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-57038039)

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Welsh election results 2021: Labour set to stay in power

Labour is set to stay in power in Wales after matching its best-ever Senedd election result, with exactly half of the 60 seats in the Welsh Parliament. With 52 of the 60 seats declared, Labour is on 30 with the Conservatives on 16, Plaid Cymru 13 and the Liberal Democrats one.

The Tories took the Vale of Clwyd from Labour, and Brecon and Radnorshire from the Liberal Democrats. Labour held firm in other Tory target seats and took Rhondda back from Plaid Cymru.

Current first minister Mr Drakeford, who raised his majority in his Cardiff West seat by 12.7 points and more than 6,000 votes, told BBC Wales he would "do whatever I can" to ensure Wales has a "stable and progressive" government. He added he would prefer to be in a position "where you have a government that is able to command a majority for the action that it needs to take on the floor of the Senedd".

The Tories took the Vale of Clwyd from Labour, and Brecon and Radnorshire from the Liberal Democrats. Labour held firm in other Tory target seats and regained Rhondda from Plaid Cymru, toppling its former leader Leanne Wood. Her win there in 2016 was one of the major upsets of the last Senedd election but Labour's Buffy Williams overturned it with a 19% swing and a majority of more than 5,000. Ben Lake, the Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, said losing the Rhondda seat was a "terrible blow for the party"

The Conservatives held on to Montgomeryshire, Aberconwy, Clwyd West, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, and Preseli Pembrokeshire. The party also kept Monmouth where ex-Monmouthshire council leader Peter Fox is its new incumbent following the deselection of Nick Ramsay. But the Tories failed to capture the Vale of Glamorgan, another Labour-held target seat which is Conservative at Westminster.

Following his victory in Llanelli, Welsh government deputy transport minister Lee Waters said Mark Drakeford was "definitely an asset", due to his leadership during the pandemic. "He may not be flashy, he may be a bit nerdy, a bit boring, he's a university professor, but thank God for him," he said. Health Minister Vaughan Gething also paid tribute to his party leader, saying: "The recognition of the way Mark has run the Welsh government in this extraordinary time was undoubtedly a factor in the way that people have voted."

Laura McAllister, professor of public policy at Cardiff University, said Labour had "performed better than most people expected. After 22 years in power, with a Conservative Party that was really strongly tipped to make significant breakthroughs, and of course Plaid Cymru biting its ankles as well, that's some achievement."

Political commentator Prof Roger Awan-Scully said: "I think it's been an astonishingly resilient performance by the Welsh Labour Party, amidst disasters for Labour elsewhere in the UK. The Conservatives are also performing strongly, but not quite bringing it home in terms of the number of constituency victories that they might have expected. For Plaid Cymru I think this has to be said to be a deeply disappointing election."

The Vale of Clwyd was the only Conservative gain in Labour's "red wall" of seats in north Wales where the Tories had enjoyed success in the 2019 General Election. Winning candidate Gareth Davies, an NHS physiotherapist, said: "It's a magnificent achievement. In 1999 I was a small boy, and now I'm in my 30s and I never thought back then I'd ever be in this position. So I feel really humbled."

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Tories in the Senedd, said the result in the Vale of Clwyd was "fantastic". North Wales has been a fiercely contested battleground, with re-elected Aberconwy Tory MS Janet Finch-Saunders saying she had been "horrified" by personal attacks which had hurt her family during the campaign.

Labour, which has been in charge of the Welsh government for 22 years, is now set to remain in power for a sixth term with exactly half the seats in the Senedd chamber. Of the 60 members of the Senedd (MSs) being elected, 40 will serve constituencies and 20 will be elected to represent larger regional areas of North Wales, Mid and West Wales, South Wales West, South Wales Central and South Wales East. A party needs to win 31 seats to claim a majority but it has never happened, with Labour last time having 29 seats. It previously won 30 seats in 2003 and 2011.

(BBC credit: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-politics-57009547)

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London elections: Sadiq Khan wins second term as mayor

Labour's Sadiq Khan has won a second term as London's mayor, beating Conservative rival Shaun Bailey. He won 55.2% of the popular vote, after entering a run-off with Mr Bailey when neither managed to secure a majority in the first round of voting. The former MP became the first Muslim mayor of an EU capital city when he was elected to the role in 2016. Speaking at City Hall, he promised "to strain every sinew to help build a better, brighter future for London".

The Green Party's Sian Berry came third, while the Liberal Democrats' Luisa Porritt was fourth. The Lib Dems lost their deposit, as Ms Porritt failed to win more than 5% of the vote.

Mr Khan was seen as the favourite throughout the campaign, with some pollsters predicting he would win more than half of the first-round votes. The 51-year-old failed to reach his record-setting vote total of 2016, but won with a 228,000-vote majority. Mr Khan's closest rival was Mr Bailey, who received 44.8% of the first and second-round votes, and increased the Conservative vote share by 1.6%.

Speaking after the results were announced, Mr Khan said: "I will always be a mayor for all Londoners, working to improve the lives of every single person in this city. The results of the elections around the UK shows our country, and even our city, remains deeply divided. The scars of Brexit have yet to heal. A crude culture war is pushing us further apart." Mr Khan continued: "Economic inequality is getting worse both within London and in different parts of our country. As we seek to confront the enormity of the challenge ahead, and as we endeavour to rebuild from this pandemic, we must use this moment of national recovery to heal those damaging divisions."

Mr Bailey said he had been "written off" by pollsters, journalists and other politicians, adding: "But Londoners didn't write me off." He congratulated Mr Khan but said he hoped the re-elected mayor would not "blame everything on the government". During his tenure as mayor, Mr Khan has had run-ins with the government over coronavirus restrictions and Transport for London's finances.

Labour continues its dominance in the capital, remaining the largest party on the London Assembly. Labour took nine constituency seats and two list seats, with the Conservatives winning the remaining five constituency seats and four list seats. The Greens secured three seats - their joint-highest contingent on the London Assembly. The Liberal Democrats claimed the two other seats.

(BBC credit: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-56997137)

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Queen's Speech 2021: Key points at-a-glance

The Queen has outlined the government's priorities for the year ahead, as she officially reopened Parliament. In a ten-minute speech in the House of Lords, she highlighted 30 laws that ministers intend to pass in the coming year. This includes a number of bills carried over from the previous "session" of Parliament, which ended in April. It also includes a number of bills included in past Queen's Speeches. Here is a summary of the main points.

Infrastructure and 'levelling up'

  • A Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will extend 5G mobile coverage and introduce new safety standards for digital devices
  • A Subsidy Control Bill will set out post-Brexit regulations on how the government can support private companies, now the UK has left the EU's "state aid" regime
  • Another post-Brexit piece of legislation, the Procurement Bill, will replace EU rules on how the government buys services from the private sector
  • Tax breaks for employers based in eight freeports to be set up in England later this year will be included in a National Insurance Contributions Bill
  • A new UK agency to search for ground-breaking scientific discoveries will be established by the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill
  • New powers to build and operate the next stage of the HS2 high-speed rail line are contained in the High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill
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Armed forces

  • Legacy legislation will deal with legacy issues from the Troubles in Northern Ireland, including restrictions on future prosecutions of British soldiers
  • Government support for veterans will be outlined in an Armed Forces Bill, putting the so-called Armed Forces Covenant into law

Borders and security

  • The speech referenced new legislation to overhaul the UK's post-Brexit asylum system and discourage migrants from crossing the English Channel
  • New powers for the police over protests, and new sentences for serious crimes, are in the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
  • A draft Online Safety Bill will contain new requirements on tech giants to tackle harmful and illegal content online
  • A Counter-State Threats Bill will introduce new registration requirements for foreign agents and rules for protecting state secrets
  • The Telecommunications (Security) Bill will place new legal duties on telecoms firms to increase network security, and restrict the use of "high risk" technology
  • A draft Victims Bill will create new rights for the victims of crime, including new standards on support offered to sexual and domestic victims

Constitutional reform

  • A Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill will get rid of the fixed five-year period between general elections and return the power to call early elections to the prime minister
  • Plans to force voters in Great Britain to to prove their identity when they vote at general elections will be introduced in an Electoral Integrity Bill
  • A Judicial Review Bill will set out the government's plans to change how its decisions can be challenged in the courts


  • A long-awaited Planning Bill will introduce changes to the planning system in England, including a controversial zoning system
  • A new system for regulating the safety of high-rise buildings, and inspecting construction sites, will be set out in the Building Safety Bill


  • A Skills and Post-16 Education Bill will introduce a new "flexible loan" system designed to promote wider participation in further education in England
  • A Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will place new legal duties on students' unions and universities in England to ensure free speech on campus
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Environment and animal welfare

  • The Environment Bill, whose passage through Parliament has been repeatedly delayed, will introduce new post-Brexit rules on protecting nature
  • A trio of bills on animal welfare will ban the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter, and bring in mandatory microchipping for cats

What else was referenced in the speech?

The speech set out plans for a consultation on introducing a legal ban on so-called gay conversion therapy in England and Wales. A document accompanying the speech says this will ensure action taken to stamp out the practice does not have "unintended consequences". Ministers have pledged to ensure medical professionals and religious leaders can continue having "open and honest conversations with people".

The speech also said the government would be introducing measures to reduce racial and ethnic disparities. It follows the publication of a government-commissioned race report earlier this year, which was heavily criticised by equality campaigners.

What wasn't in the speech?

The speech said the government would bring forward measures to reform the operation of the social care system in England, but it did not commit the government to introducing a specific bill to overhaul how the sector is funded. Reports suggest that discussions are ongoing within government about the potential cost of changes, which could run into the billions. The lack of a new bill in the speech has been criticised by opposition politicians and care groups.

(Credit to the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-56987630)

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