Pity the poor people of Hartlepool. Next week's parliamentary by election has seen an army of activists pouring in to the Red Wall seat, with Labour desperate to cling on to a seat that last went blue in the days of Supermac. CCHQ have been playing down chances of a Tory gain but one Labour insider has told Steerpike their party's internal polling is 'dire' – a situation not helped by 'MILF-gate' or a farrago over St George's cross flags.
Now though Labour are embroiled in another taxing row after deputy leader Angela Rayner launched an attack on the Conservative Hartlepool candidate, Jill Mortimer. Following reports that Mortimer spent a decade living away from the constituency, including time in the Cayman Islands, Rayner took it upon herself to fire off a two page letter to Tory chairwoman Amanda Milling asking why 'Mortimer spent time living in a tax haven where her former husband worked as a banker'. She – naturally – tweeted out the correspondence, dated with the wrong year, claiming: 'Why do people do business in the Cayman Islands? To avoid paying tax' adding 'this kind of thinking is a million miles away from how most people their lives... the Conservative Party believes that private interests should trump the public interest at every turn.'
Unfortunately for Rayner, it appears her opposition research team had not done their homework. Mortimer's ex-husband was actually a barrister, not a banker, even being appointed an OBE in 2014 for his work by the Queen. Within hours Milling had fired off her own – public – reply, noting that Mortimer had moved to the Cayman Islands for her former partner's job as the head of banking supervision at the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority. A separate appointment to the head of Gibraltar's financial services regulator was a move signed off by none other than a then Labour Foreign Secretary – a somewhat awkward attack line for Rayner to take.
Mr S hopes the former education spokeswoman brushes up on her facts the next time she launches an ill judged attack.