Keir Starmer has said he will take “full responsibility” for the result of the Hartlepool by-election, as an opinion poll suggested the Conservatives have a double-digit lead in the constituency.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, the Survation poll for ITV’s Good Morning Britain put the Conservatives on 50% – 17 points ahead of Labour in a seat it has held since it was created in 1974.
Starmer, who has visited the constituency three times in the course of the by-election, said he hoped Labour would not lose another seat in the party’s so-called “red wall”.
However the Labour leader acknowledged the party still had a “mountain to climb” after the devastating defeat under Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 general election if it was to get back to a position where it could regain power.
“I hope we won’t lose Hartlepool. We are fighting for every vote there. I know that every vote has to be earned,” Starmer told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
“I said on the day that I was elected (Labour leader) that it was a mountain to climb. It is, we are climbing it and I’ve got a burning desire to build a better future for our country.
“I don’t think anybody realistically thought that it was possible to turn the Labour Party round from the worst general election result since 1935 to a position to win the next general election within a period of one year.
He added: “It was always going to take longer than that.”
Starmer said he accepted the result would reflect on him. “I take full responsibility for the results, just as I take full responsibility for everything that happens in the Labour Party under my leadership” he said.
And he defended his choice to provide “constructive opposition” to Boris Johnson during the pandemic.
“I did that because I thought that was in the national interest, and I still think that’s in the national interest,” he said.