Tory co-chair Amanda Milling said she was “pretty astonished” by Labour’s choice of candidate for the by-election. The party has picked former MP Dr Paul Williams, who lost his Stockton South seat in the 2019 general election when the so-called “red wall” crumbled to Boris Johnson.
Ms Milling said Labour’s choice was “completely at odds with what Hartlepool voted for” after the town backed Brexit by 69.6 percent in the 2016 referendum.
She told Express.co.uk: “I am pretty astonished by Paul Williams as a candidate for Labour.
“First of all the voters of Stockton South rejected him in 2019, then he hopped onto being the Cleveland police and crime commissioner candidate, now he’s the candidate for Hartlepool.
“When he was an MP he voted 46 times against Brexit. He was an arch-Remainer who wanted a second referendum. That is completely at odds with what Hartlepool voted for.”
Ms Milling accused Labour of taking Hartlepool for granted over the years, adding that it was “time for change” with their candidate Jill Mortimer.
She said: “For Jill and for us, it is about change for the people of Hartlepool.
“They have been really taken for granted by Labour all this time they have held the seat.
“We are going with this really positive message in terms of it’s time for change.
READ MORE: Keir Starmer set for defeat in Hartlepool as Labour ‘can’t deliver’
The by-election marks the first test of Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour leadership.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, a Survation poll for ITV’s Good Morning Britain put the Conservatives on 50 percent – 17 points ahead of Labour.
Ms Milling said: “The only poll that really matters is the one on Thursday. We have also got to be realistic about this seat.
“It has been a Labour seat for 57 years and we didn’t win it in 2019.
“It is actually quite a tough challenge for us but we’re giving it a really good shot, we’re campaigning hard.”
The Prime Minister said the Tories face a “tough fight” to win the by-election as he visited Hartlepool on Monday.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir, who has visited the constituency three times in the course of the by-election, admitted on Tuesday Labour has a “mountain to climb” following Jeremy Corbyn’s general election disaster.
Defeat in Hartlepool – which Labour held with a majority of 3,595 in 2019 – would be a huge blow to Sir Keir’s leadership.