Hartlepool is one of the few remaining Labour held “red wall” constituencies in northern England
Despite being a heavy Brexit-supporting area, it voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s party in 2017 and then again in 2019 when many constituencies elected a Conservative MP for the first time.
Critics of Sir Keir say losing Hartlepool would be proof Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the party was not responsible for the historic election defeat in 2019 and would demand a more radical left-wing leader.
“If it’s not working he needs to step aside and let someone else come in who will make the changes required, otherwise we’re going to be consigned to another four or five years of Conservative Government,” one Labour MP told The Times.
Another said: “Keir’s recently been referring to the fact that the next election could well be in two years’ time, not in three years’ time.
“I presume the reason he’s saying that is people will think it’s too close to rock the boat and get a different leader.
“Others may take a different view — that if we’re going to have a new leader we need to get them in as soon as possible.”
A poll from Survation gave the Conservative’s Hartlepool candidate, Jill Mortimer, a 17 point lead of her Labour counterpart.
Just 33 percent of those surveyed were planning to back Labour’s Dr Paul Williams compared to 50 percent planning to vote for Ms Mortimer.
Left-wing commentator Aaron Bastani added: “Labour increased their vote share by 17 percent in 2017, and they won the seat twice under Corbyn.”
Yesterday Sir Keir Starmer said he would take “full responsibility” for the results.
He told BBC Breakfast: “My job as Labour leader, I set out very, very clearly was to take the Labour Party from where it was in December 2019.
“And put it in a position where we can win and will win the next general election. That is a mountain to climb.
“I didn’t think and I don’t think many people realistically thought that that could be done in 12 or 13 months, that was always going to take longer. But these are a very important set of elections.
“Obviously, across the country, there will be different results, but I will take responsibility, whatever the results are.”
A Labour source criticised the anonymous briefings by Labour MPs.
They said: “It is disappointing that some MPs appear to be spending this crucial election week briefing against their own party.
“Keir and Angela Rayner are focused on campaigning alongside Labour members, councillors and mayors across the country as we take on the huge task of rebuilding from the worst Labour defeat since 1935.”