Labour has lost the crucial Hartlepool byelection after a Conservative onslaught saw Boris Johnson’s party win the seat for the first time in 62 years.
It was declared at 7.05am that Tory candidate Jill Mortimer had defeated Labour candidate Dr Paul Williams by 6,940 votes.
The win for the Tories leaves Labour's leader Keir Starmer facing huge questions over the future direction of his party. It is only the second time in nearly 40 years that a governing party has taken a seat from the opposition.
Across England there are indications that voters are deserting the party for the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and in some cases the Green party. Counting in Wales gets underway on Friday morning and you can follow live updates here.
Labour appeared to concede defeat in Hartlepool shortly before 3am on Friday. Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon, who ran the party’s byelection campaign, said: “It’s pretty clear from the way that the ballots are landing that we are not close to winning this despite our best endeavours.”
McMahon said Labour had “held our own” and ran a “good campaign with integrity and a very positive vision for Hartlepool” but that it was for Hartlepudlians to choose “which vision they want to get behind”.
The byelection was a key test of Labour’s appeal to its traditional heartlands, just over a year after Starmer became leader with a pledge to rebuild the “red wall”.
However Labour struggled to combat a deep disillusionment with the party in Hartlepool, a constituency it has held since 1964, and a historic shift in allegiances towards a Conservative party once considered toxic in north-east England.
Jill Mortimer, the newly elected Conservative MP for Hartlepool, called her by-election victory a "truly historic result".
In her victory speech, she said: "I am incredibly proud of the campaign my team and I have run in Hartlepool - it is based on local issues of real concern to the community here, and I would like to thank all of the people of this great town who have responded so positively to it.
"I'm also immensely proud to be the first Conservative MP in Hartlepool for 57 years. Not only that, I am the first woman ever to be elected as MP for this town.
"It is a truly historic result and a momentous day. Labour have taken people in Hartlepool for granted for too long.
"I heard this time and time again on the doorstep and people have had enough and now, through this result, the people have spoken and have made it clear it is time for change."