Sir Keir Starmer has promised to take responsibility if Labour does badly in Thursday’s elections.
The Labour leader said he “carries the can” for whatever the results are for his party in local, mayoral, police and crime commissioner, Scottish and Welsh elections – as well as the Hartlepool by-election.
Speaking on the campaign trail in Birmingham on Wednesday, he said: “I take full responsibility for everything the Labour Party does, including the elections whatever they are tomorrow.
“And for me it’s very important – it’s the same approach I took when I was director of public prosecutions running the Crown Prosecution Service for five years, which is when things go right, the leader takes the plaudits; when they don’t go right, the leader carries the can and takes responsibility.
“And that’s what I will do with these elections, as I will do in everything that the Labour Party does.
“I’m conscious, the whole party is conscious, that this is but a step on the road to the next general election.
“My job is to ensure that we get from where we were in December 2019 to a position to win the next general election. I’m utterly determined to do that.”
The latest opinion polls suggest Labour is heading for a potentially humiliating defeat in Hartlepool, where Labour has never lost, and is set to come third behind the SNP and Tories in Scotland.
A shock poll published this week put the Conservatives on a massive 50% – 17 points ahead of Labour in a town represented by the party since 1964.
And The Guardian is reporting that internal data based on the canvassing of more than 10,000 people in the constituency suggests only 40% of Labour’s previous supporters pledged to vote for the party in the by-election.
Sir Keir, asked whether there would be a strategy change if Labour does not do well on Thursday, said: “I am very clear that the strategy is to get from where we were in 2019, to winning the next general election.
“That is the sole focus of what I’m doing, what my leadership is doing. It’s going to take time.
“We’re making progress, that is good – but I never thought it was going to happen in a year.
“We’ve got further work to do whatever the results tomorrow.”
The elections are being dubbed “Super Thursday” as there will be two years’ worth of polls taking place after the pandemic delayed several elections by 12 months.
Boris Johnson admitted it is “a very tough set of elections…we’ll be fighting for absolutely every vote”.
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said it had been a “weird campaign” due to COVID restrictions but thinks his party “can make progress and go forward”.
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