Labour had been defending a narrow 3,595-vote majority in a town it has held since Harold Wilson was in Downing Street nearly 60 years ago. The byelection was called after Mike Hill, the MP since 2017, stood down over sexual harassment allegations, which he denies.
Williams, a local GP and former MP for neighbouring Stockton South, has sought to convince Hartlepudlians to give Labour another chance, arguing that the party is under new leadership both locally and nationally. He told the Guardian last month that its challenge was to convince people to trust Labour.
They can do one of two things. They can double down on their arrogance and hubris, insist that the problem is with the voters, and not them, and ditch Starmer to swing even further to the left.
Or...they can offer the voters policies that they want. Policies they can't get from the Conservatives.
What's it to be?