Counting has begun after a day of elections that could have profound implications for the future of the United Kingdom and the Labour Party.
The Conservatives have won the Hartlepool by-election – taking a seat that has been under Labour’s control since it was created in the 1970s.
Jill Mortimer’s victory marks a rare gain for a governing party, but serves as a major blow to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Hartlepool had remained under Labour’s control in 2019, even as other bricks in the “red wall” crumbled – with the Brexit Party splitting the Tory vote.
Dubbed Super Thursday, polls closed at 10pm last night in the largest test of political opinion outside a general election in nearly 50 years.
The future of the Labour Party and the state of the union are two of the main issues at play. The elections will be Sir Keir Starmer’s first major political test since becoming Labour leader a year ago.
The results will give an indication of whether the party is recovering from its heavy defeat in the 2019 general elections.
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP is hoping for an overall majority, which she said she will see as a mandate to hold a second independence referendum, which risks splitting up the United Kingdom.
Voters in Wales were voting for their national representatives in the Senedd, with Mark Drakeford hoping to maintain Labour’s grip – although he could be forced to forge a new coalition to remain as first minister.
In England, people were not only voting in local council elections but also mayoral contests and for police and crime commissioners.
Voters – and politicians – will be kept waiting longer than usual for results due to coronavirus restrictions.
They will trickle in over the weekend and through to Monday, with some potentially not declaring until next Tuesday.
The bumper set of elections has been the result of the coronavirus pandemic delaying contests from 2020.
Holyrood votes will be counted on Friday and Saturday, while Wales’ result should become clear on Friday.
Photo: Canada geese and their goslings by a polling station in London, Britain. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA