Prime Minister Boris Johnson would normally struggle to find support in a place like Hartlepool, in the North-East of England. Labour has held the town since 1964, with majorities in five figures as recently as 2001 when New Labour Peter Mandelson was MP. However, on June 23, 2016, Britons voted to leave the European Union and things changed.
On May 6 Hartlepool will hold a by-election for a new MP, and polls from Survation and Ipsos MORI have put the Conservatives in front.
That is mainly as votes from the now defunct Brexit Party at the last election are expected to transfer to Mr Johnson in a Labour northern heartland where a Tory win would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
The town backed leaving the EU by a thumping 70 percent.
The vote will be a critical test for Mr Johnson after his landslide victory in 2019 paved the way to take Britain out of the European Union after years of wrangling.
It will also present a significant litmus test of whether Keir Starmer’s strategy for winning back Labour’s former “Red Wall” is working.
After three general election defeats in a row, Labour is faced with a profound choice which will be thrown into strong relief by the Hartlepool ballot.
As anticipation for the election grows, a speech by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has resurfaced, in which she explained why Labour was extremely successful in the early Noughties.
Speaking at a dinner for the Bromley Conservative association, the Iron Lady brilliantly summed up what was wrong with Labour, which at the time was led by former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
She said: “It is not so much that they’ve taken over our positions, but rather that they have managed to shroud the whole political battlefield in an impenetrable fog.
“One of Dickens’ greatest novels begins by describing: ‘Fog everywhere. Fog up the river. Fog down the river. Fog on the Essex marshes. Fog on the Kentish heights.’
“Actually, in Essex and here in Kent we dispersed some of the fog, and our Conservative message shone through.
“But in most of Britain politics was as blurred as that scene from Bleak House. So New Labour were able to be all things to all men.”
JUST IN: David Frost issued brutal Brexit warning as ‘a lot more to be done’
Baroness Thatcher added: “To please one group they pledged to raise spending – to please another they pledged to keep down taxes.
“To please one group they promised more for the NHS and state education – but to please another they offered a wider role for the private sector.
“To please one group they hog-tied the police with political correctness – to please another they promised crackdowns and tougher sentencing.
“Today’s Labour Party has, in fact, no discernible principles at all. It is rootless, empty and artificial. Its focus groups focused and its spin doctors spun – but its only real purpose was to leave the electorate in a daze.
“It is no surprise that Labour had as their election slogan ‘Ambitions for Britain’.
Queen opened up about responsibilities of being head of state [REVEALED]
Bercow spent £31k of taxpayers’ cash on apartment renovation [INSIGHT]
Kate Hoey branded Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal ‘betrayal’ of UK [ANALYSIS]
“Well they were at least half right – they were ambitious, but not exactly for Britain.”
Mrs Thatcher is Britain’s greatest post-war Prime Minister, according to a major poll released in 2019.
The YouGov survey found that 21 percent of voters put the former Tory leader in the top spot, just ahead of Sir Winston Churchill on 19 percent.
They are both well ahead of Tony Blair, who is in third place with just 6 percent support.
However, despite coming out on top, the poll of 1,630 people also found that nearly half the country – 47 percent – believe Lady Thatcher left a more unequal society when she left 10 Downing Street after 11 years.
Overall, 44 percent of Brits believe she was a good or great Prime Minister, compared to 29 percent who think she was a poor or terrible one.