Toxic by-election candidate sees MPs decline to be seen supporting
Labour MPs have refused to campaign in Hartlepool for the party’s by-election candidate Paul Williams.
Williams, former Labour MP for Stockton South, has had a bumpy ride after a demeaning tweet about older women made headlines and an email showing Keir Starmer’s office participated in ‘stitching up’ his selection leaked to the public domain. He also faces issues in Hartlepool, which voted overwhelmingly to leave in the 2016 referendum, for his avidly anti-Brexit politics. And those chickens appear to have come home to roost.
Labour sources say that at least two Labour MPs have refused the party’s demand to campaign in Hartlepool for Williams, in a by-election that is seen as a tough test of Keir Starmer’s insipid leadership over the last year – and of his primary role in forcing Labour to u-turn on its commitment under Jeremy Corbyn to see the referendum result through to completion.
The refusals form a bleak commentary on the party’s prospects in what was, until the Brexit sabotage in the run-up to the 2019 general election, a habitual Labour seat. The constituency returned a Labour MP in that election only because the Brexit party did not stand down in Hartlepool, splitting the pro-Brexit vote as anger at Labour’s failure to fulfil its promise wrecked the party’s standing in its working-class ‘heartland’ seats.
With Williams also under the cloud of an anti-democratic, ‘shortlist of one’ selection, the refusal of MPs to campaign for him is a blow that the badly-led party can ill afford.
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