From the New York Times news section
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent troubles didn’t seem to bother voters in Hartlepool, a struggling town in the northeast of England.
By Stephen Castle
May 7, 2021
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain scored a striking political victory on Friday when his Conservative Party snatched a bellwether parliamentary seat from the opposition Labour Party, which had held it since the constituency’s creation in the 1970s.
In a by-election in Hartlepool, in northeastern England, the Conservative candidate, Jill Mortimer, scored a convincing victory, capturing nearly twice as many votes as her Labour rival and consolidating Mr. Johnson’s earlier successes in winning over voters in working-class areas that had traditionally sided mainly with Labour.
Better still for the prime minister, the vote on Thursday came despite days of publicity over claims that he had broken electoral rules over the financing of an expensive refurbishment of his apartment.
#10 Downing Street really isn’t as lavish as the White House, and Prime Ministers are expected to pay for expenses for party business. E.g., in The Crown, Mrs. Thatcher is regularly shown personally frying up some kedgeree in her small kitchen for Conservative Party boffins when they stay late, after the servants have gone home, to discuss party rather than government business.
That appeared to have counted for little with voters in Hartlepool, an economically struggling coastal town, when the results were announced Friday morning after an overnight count.
Instead, voters may have been focused more on the gradual relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions in Britain after a successful vaccination program for which Mr. Johnson has been able to claim credit.
Bibi didn’t seem to benefit too much politically from Israel leading the world in vaccinations.
Though not unexpected, the outcome was a crushing defeat for Labour, underscoring the extent to which Mr. Johnson is rewriting Britain’s electoral map and dealing a blow to Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader. Mr. Starmer took over from Jeremy Corbyn last year after Labour’s rout in the December 2019 general election, its worst performance in more than 80 years.
That landslide election victory for the Conservatives in 2019 followed the crisis over Britain’s exit from the European Union, and Mr. Johnson scored well in many traditional working-class communities with his appeal to voters to give him the power to “get Brexit done.”
Though Britain has now completed its European Union withdrawal and the issue is fading somewhat, the new Conservative victory suggests that Mr. Johnson remains popular in areas — like Hartlepool — that voted for Brexit in a 2016 referendum.