By the time you read this you may know if the Tories triumphed in the Hartlepool by-election — or if, in the end, the party was too badly wounded by all that business about who paid for whose wallpaper. Boris Johnson visited the town more times than he visited Scotland in the campaign, so he certainly sensed victory. But who can predict elections nowadays? One thing, alas, is all but certain: I will have lost. I decided to stand as an independent candidate at the last minute, motivated by how much I loathe the apparatchiks at both main parties’ London HQs — disconnected, mediocre and disdainful. Just look at their candidates. Labour chose slick Paul Williams, booted out by his constituents in Stockton South for flouting their wishes in the Brexit referendum. A natural choice for Hartlepool where 70 per cent voted Leave. The Conservatives picked Jill Mortimer from prosperous North Yorkshire. In her mid-fifties, she’s a ‘trainee barrister’ who has never held a proper job. Perfect for a ‘bring much-needed jobs to Hartlepool’ campaign. What chance that Hartlepool rejects them both, and elects me? Almost none. I can at least aim for a noble defeat.
West Hartlepool was founded by my great-great-great-uncle Ralph Ward Jackson (no hyphen, that came later). If you describe him as the founder of Hartlepool, the inhabitants of the ancient Headland get understandably upset. There was a fishing village there from the 7th century, and St Hilda built a church on her way from Lindisfarne to Whitby. My namesake (for ease, let’s call him Senior) was a rogueish Victorian entrepreneur. He was passionate, perhaps to a fault: in 1861 he was fined for assaulting the vicar of Greatham after an argument over public rights of way.