This article originally appeared in The Times on 6th May 2021
The voters in Hartlepool will soon pass judgment on the Boris Johnson era. In the months that have passed since the Conservative Party hammered away at Labour’s Red Wall there has been much talk of a “new normal”. In the first contest of the pandemic age we are about to discover whether politics really has changed.
By-elections held at the exact moment when a country, and a political party, are at a crossroads are extremely rare. The battle of Warrington in July 1981 was one such moment, as the world’s media descended on the northwest to gain a sense of what the new politics of the Thatcher era would be like.
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