Labour has announced its candidate for the Hartlepool by-election.

Dr Paul Williams will attempt to hold on to the longstanding Labour seat in the upcoming contest.

Dr Williams was MP for Stockton South from 2017 until 2019, losing his seat as Boris Johnson won the general election by a landslide.

The by-election contest has been sparked by the resignation of Mike Hill, who quit amid allegations of sexual harassment.

In September 2019, Mr Hill was suspended by Labour after allegations he sexually harassed a woman.

But, a month later, the 57-year-old revealed he had been reinstated to the party and said he “completely rejected” the allegations.

A final hearing of an employment tribunal concerning Mr Hill is scheduled for 10 May.

Mr Hill retained the Hartlepool seat two years ago with a majority of more than 3,500 votes – meaning the constituency was one of the few “Red Wall” strongholds that Labour managed to hold on to.

Dr Williams, a supporter of a second EU referendum before losing his seat, will be standing in a constituency in which almost 70% of voters backed Brexit.

Labour said he has been “working on the front line” during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing patients at Hartlepool’s One Life Centres and working in the Urgent Care Centre at Hartlepool hospital.

Dr Williams said it was an “honour” to be selected as the candidate for the “brilliant town”.

“The Tories have let Hartlepool down,” he said.

“Over the past decade of being in power they’ve taken from Hartlepool, taken police off the streets and taken services from our local hospital.

“The Tories on Teesside are focused on Stockton and Middlesbrough and Hartlepool gets the crumbs from the table, if we get anything at all.

“We don’t want people to have to go out of the town to get good jobs or go to hospital or to the shops.

“We want jobs and services right here in Hartlepool for local people. That’s what I’ll be fighting for as Hartlepool’s MP.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Paul has already been keeping local people safe as a doctor during the COVID crisis – he will be a powerful voice for the town as its next MP.

“I can’t wait to campaign alongside him.”

A spokesman for Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party described Dr Williams as the “standout choice”, but some reports have suggested he was the only candidate put forward.

Amanda Milling, Tory party co-chairman, said Labour had selected a “failed former MP who has already been rejected by the people of the North East”.

“At the EU referendum in 2016, Hartlepool voted 69.6% to Leave. Paul Williams wanted to remain in the EU and worked to frustrate Brexit,” she added.

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“He lost his seat in 2019 because he did not respect the views of the people he represented.

“Only the Conservatives got Brexit done and will deliver on the people’s priorities in Hartlepool.”

The by-election will be an electoral test of the PM’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his “levelling up” agenda for parts of northern England.

But it will also provide an early assessment of Sir Keir’s hopes of recovering from his party’s poor showing at the last election.

(c) Sky News 2021: Dr Paul Williams announced as Labour’s candidate for Hartlepool by-election after resignation of Mike Hill

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