The seat has switched from red to blue for the first time since the constituency was created. Jill Mortimer, the Tory candidate, was elected with 15,529 votes to Labour’s 8,589 votes.
Ms Mortimer said it was “a tough contest, but one that has been fought with dignity and respect”.
For a government in office at a byelection that is not a tough contest. Actually, at a GE that wouldn’t be considered tough although we’d probably expect turnout to be higher then.
It’s also a startling commentary on Ukip’s election strategy. The aim was, as you might recall, not to gain office but to leave the EU. Hartlepool was one of the most Ukip constituencies in the country. Rock solid Labour and yet very Ukip. The dual point being made was that sure, Brexit might make some Tories split away and damage Conservative hopes in the south. But oop north it was possible to damage Labour hopes the same way. That is, either major party – and who, really, cared which? – could gain electorally by picking up the Ukip policy of Brexit.
Which is exactly what has happened. Those who didn’t want it but accepted it once it happened have and are gaining seats as opposed to those still grumbling and hoping to reverse it. Ukip got what it wanted, Brexit. And as it sank in that this is what was happening that’s why the referendum took place.
Sure, it would have been much more fun to have won at Westminster and herded Mandelson, Hutton and MacShane into the auto da fe but the Ukip brand of politics was about the result, not the exercise of power.