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(Bloomberg) – The town of Hartlepool in northeast England is the kind of place a Tory prime minister would normally struggle to find support.
One of the UK’s most disadvantaged areas, the blue collar port saw its steel industry collapse in the 1970s and 1980s and the unemployment rate remains among the highest in the country. Politically, he has supported the Labor Party in every British election for almost half a century. But then came Brexit.
Hartlepool is holding a vote on May 6 which will be a critical test for Prime Minister Boris Johnson after his landslide victory in 2019 paved the way for Britain’s exit from the European Union after years of feuds.
This will be a key indicator of whether Johnson’s initial popularity survived a pandemic that has left Britain with the worst death toll in Europe, and whether Brexit supporters still adhere to his pledge to ‘level’ l ‘economy. And now there’s also the question of the damage caused by a recent Johnson leadership scandal that engulfed his government. It has endured a relentless barrage of negative headlines, even from generally favorable newspapers.
The Conservatives are bookmakers’ favorites to win the election for the city’s next parliamentarian. The Survation and Ipsos MORI polls also put the party in the lead. This is mainly because the votes of the now defunct Brexit party in the last election are expected to be transferred to Johnson in a center of Labor north where a Tory victory would have been unthinkable a few years ago. The city supported leaving the EU 70%.