A LABOUR grandee has put his party's loss in Hartlepool down to Jeremy Corbyn, not Brexit, as voters elected its first ever Conservative MP. 

Lord Peter Mandelson, former MP for the area, said the party's previous leader was still "casting a dark cloud".

HeraldScotland:

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mandelson said nobody had mentioned Brexit on the doorstep.

He explained: "Believe it or not, not on one door that I knocked did a single voter mention Brexit to me.

“The one thing they did raise with me however is Jeremy Corbyn – he is still casting a very dark cloud over Labour.

"Labour voters are not letting this off lightly, he still gets them going on the doorstep."

He told of feedback from one voter, saying: "One person said to me ‘Sort yourselves out, sort yourselves out. You picked the wrong brother and you ended up with Corbyn so that’s goodbye to you. When you’ve sorted yourselves out, we’ll look at you again’.

“That is what the Labour Party has got to do."

Labour's loss in Hartlepool has dealt a huge blow to the party, which has held the seat ever since the constituency was created in 1974.

Leader Keir Starmer has said he will take responsibility for the loss, with many blaming it on the selection of anti-Brexit, pro-Remain candidate Dr Paul Williams, in an area that overwhelmingly supported leaving the EU.

Lord Mandelson disputed this analysis, however, and said: "The reasons for the defeat… if I really had to boil them down to two things I would say they were two Cs – Covid and Corbyn.

“With a bit of Brexit, previous Brexit Party voters backing the man, Boris Johnson, who delivered them Brexit, and also promises of a large dollop of Tory Government money thrown in for good measure.

“All this as a whole turned out to be too heady a cocktail for Labour’s campaign to take on." 

John McDonnell, Labour's former shadow Chancellor and ally of Jeremy Corbyn, blamed the loss on the party's "policy-less" campaign. 

He said Labour should not send in a candidate "almost naked" to fight an election again, adding: "We must never again send our candidates into an election campaign almost naked, without a policy programme, without a clear view on what sort of society you want to create.

“That’s the sort of thing that we need now.”

He also said Keir Starmer should be "given his chance", and explained: "I’m not going to be one of those people treating [him] the way they treated Jeremy – always challenging him, coups and all the rest.

"Keir now needs to sit down and think through what happened in this campaign, and what I’ve been saying to him is you need to demonstrate to people the sort of society you want to create, the policy programme that will achieve that society, and you need to get back to that real grassroots campaign."