Tories hope for ‘Super Thursday hat-trick’ as Boris issues final election rallying cry
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Tory MPs and activists were last night increasingly confident of scoring key triumphs in crunch polls in Hartlepool, on Teesside and in the West Midlands. They were hopeful of a “vaccine bounce” in the swathe of elections following the success of the Government’s roll out of more than 50 million Covid jabs.
Their confidence follows a string of opinion polls suggesting their party will clinch a stunning parliamentary by-election triumph by ousting Labour in previously rock-solid “Red Wall” heartland territory in Hartlepool.
It comes as Mr Johnson has insisted the Tories are dedicated to the “people’s priorities” in a plea for support ahead of today’s “Super Thursday” local elections around the country.
The Prime Minister hit the campaign trail in Stourbridge in the West Midlands to back his party’s push for votes in the council and mayoral polls.
And in an eve-of-vote message ahead of polling stations opening at 7am today, He said: “This Conservative Government continues to focus on the people’s priorities, a world-leading vaccine rollout and building back better from the pandemic, with plans for huge new investments and jobs across the country.
“And it’s your local Conservative candidates that are delivering things like more police on the streets, with over 8,000 new officers already recruited, fixing potholes and recycling your rubbish.
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“It’s Conservative mayors who are bringing new investment and local jobs to their areas.
“A new freeport and green jobs are on their way to Teesside and new trams, Metro lines and station upgrades to the West Midlands. More has been delivered by Conservatives in four years than complacent Labour politicians have delivered in decades.
“Keir Starmer and Labour are focused on playing political games while we get on with delivering for people across the country.
“Today, vote for Conservative candidates who will focus on putting your priorities first.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Andy Street, his counterpart in the West Midlands, are also tipped to win second terms in the jobs they won against the odds four years ago.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was braced for renewed civil war in his party, admitting he could “carry the can” for a drubbing in the polls for councils, devolved assemblies, mayoralties and the Hartlepool seat.
Despite the buoyant mood among some Tories, the Prime Minister was cautious while out on the campaign trail yesterday.
Asked whether his party would pull off a “hat-trick” of poll victories, the Prime Minister said: “Obviously with those, I think Andy Street has done an outstanding job in the West Midlands, I think Ben Houchen is a fantastic mayor in Teesside and obviously we are fighting for every vote in Hartlepool.
“But these are tough contests and Hartlepool in particular you’d have to say, that hasn’t been a Conservative seat since its inception – 46 years ago or whatever it was.
“So I think that will be a very tough fight but I hope everybody gets out to vote.”
One Tory MP out canvassing yesterday said: “The mood is very positive on the doorsteps. I think we’re going to do well.”
But Tory chiefs were continuing to downplay expectations last night. One party source described the feeling among the Tory high command as “nervous”, adding: “These are a tough set of elections for us.”
Campaigning in Stourbridge yesterday with the West Midlands Mayor, Mr Johnson claimed his party was facing a “tough” battle for votes despite a recent opinion poll showing a 17-point Tory lead over Labour.
Questioned on the campaign trail, the Prime Minister said: “It’s a very tough set of elections.
“I think when we stood last time for many of these council seats we were at a particularly high watermark, and we’ll be fighting for absolutely every vote.
“I would urge everybody in the country, get out and vote tomorrow, these are a very important set of elections.
“The choice I think is clear – between Labour opposition who seem absolutely determined to play political games and Government which is getting on with our agenda, getting on with people’s priorities – for instance with the roll-out of the vaccine.
“I think we’ve done 50 million jabs now in this country and one in four adults have had two jabs, but we’ve got local councillors up and down the country who are absolutely devoted to doing the best for their electorate in terms of better services for lower taxes – that’s what they’re doing.”
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Labour chiefs were concerned the polls will show their party has made little progress since the 2019 landslide general election defeat.
Sir Keir yesterday admitted he could be a leader that “carries the can” for a fresh electoral setback.
Speaking to broadcasters on the campaign trail in Birmingham last night, the Labour leader said: “I take full responsibility for everything the Labour Party does, including the elections whatever they are tomorrow.
“And for me it’s very important – it’s the same approach I took when I was director of public prosecutions running the Crown Prosecution Service for five years, which is when things go right, the leader takes the plaudits; when they don’t go right, the leader carries the can and takes responsibility.
“And that’s what I will do with these elections, as I will do in everything that the Labour Party does.
“I’m conscious, the whole party is conscious, that this is but a step on the road to the next general election.
“My job is to ensure that we get from where we were in December 2019 to a position to win the next general election. I’m utterly determined to do that.”
Asked whether there might be a change in strategy if there is a poor showing in the elections, Sir Keir told broadcasters: “I am very clear that the strategy is to get from where we were in 2019, to winning the next general election.
“That is the sole focus of what I’m doing, what my leadership is doing.
“It’s going to take time. We’re making progress, that is good – but I never thought it was going to happen in a year.
“We’ve got further work to do whatever the results tomorrow.”
Recent opinion polls have suggested Labour is in danger of losing Hartlepool and ceding control of a number of councils across its former “Red Wall” traditional heartlands in the Midlands and North of England.
YouGov polling published last week suggested the Tories could take over as the largest party in Bolton and Dudley.
With the coronavirus pandemic delaying a host of elections by 12 months, it means there will be two years’ worth of polls taking place across the country today.
Voters will have their say on the make-up of English councils, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Senedd, and decide who holds power in city halls, with a number of areas choosing regional mayors.
Hartlepool will also elect a new MP as Labour looks to keep a seat that has been red since its inception in the 1970s.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said the party’s usual style of campaigning had been hampered by coronavirus restrictions.
While campaigning in Surbiton, south-west London, he said: “We think we can make progress and go forward, and we hope we can make gains from both Conservatives and Labour in the north and south.
“The reality is it’s been a weird campaign and that’s why it’s so difficult to say anything more than that.
“Normally, Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for months and months and months, talking to people on the doorstep.
“That’s how Liberal Democrats are – we’re grassroots campaigners, people know if they vote for a Liberal Democrat candidate they get an active local politician that gets things done, that cares about the environment.
“Our only challenge is we’ve not been able to talk to people in the normal way that we have in the past.”
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