LABOUR grandee Peter Mandelson has said that his party's election defeat in Hartlepool was about Jeremy Corbyn, despite the party having won that seat twice under his leadership.

Mandelson, who served as the MP for Hartlepool from 1992 to 2004, said he had not heard any voters “mention Brexit” but many had cited Corbyn.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the former Labour business secretary said his party’s historic defeat was down to “two Cs – Covid and Corbyn”.

It is the first time that Labour has lost the Westminster seat since it was created in 1974 and only the third time a sitting government has won a by-election against the opposition since 1982.

In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour won 52.5% of the vote in the Hartlepool constituency.

READ MORE: Tories win Hartlepool Westminster by-election with huge majority

In 2019’s General Election, Labour’s candidate won with 37.7% of the vote. However, the Tories and the Brexit party took 28.9% and 25.8% of the vote respectively.

The Brexit party did not run in yesterday’s by-election, which the Tory candidate won with 51.9% of the vote. However, the Labour party also lost vote share, with their Remain-supporting Paul Williams gaining just 28.7% of the votes.

Many have blamed the Brexit party’s exit and the shift of those voters to the Tories as the reason why Labour lost the by-election. However, Mandelson disputes that view.

The Labour peer said: "The reasons for the defeat… if I really had to boil them down to two things I would say they were two Cs – Covid and Corbyn.

“With a bit of Brexit, previous Brexit party voters backing the man, Boris Johnson, who delivered them Brexit, and also promises of a large dollop of Tory Government money thrown in for good measure.

“All this as a whole turned out to be too heady a cocktail for Labour’s campaign to take on."

He went on: "Believe it or not, not on one door that I knocked did a single voter mention Brexit to me.

“The one thing they did raise with me however is Jeremy Corbyn (below) – he is still casting a very dark cloud over Labour.

The National: Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking in Peterborough

"Labour voters are not letting this off lightly, he still gets them going on the doorstep.

"One person said to me ‘Sort yourselves out, sort yourselves out. You picked the wrong brother and you ended up with Corbyn so that’s goodbye to you. When you’ve sorted yourselves out, we’ll look at you again’.

“That is what the Labour Party has got to do."

Labour has described the Hartlepool loss as “absolutely shattering”.

However, Scottish Labour sources told the Herald it was "absolutely not" a reflection of how the vote could go in Scotland, adding: "Anas [Sarwar] has been received positively on every doorstep, and I hope that will show in the results. 

"I'm quietly confident." 

READ MORE: Scottish election: When will seats be declared and how will it work

John McDonnell, Labour's former shadow Chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, blamed the English by-election loss on the party's "policy-less" campaign.

He told the BBC: "You cannot go into an election without any policy programme, without explaining what sort of society you want - you can't send candidates out there naked with the policies to advocate."

McDonnell (below) said a shadow cabinet reshuffle would be a mistake and that an "attempt to blame others" for decisions taken by the Leader's office would be foolhardy.

The National: Shadow chancellor John McDonnell arrives at the Hilton Brighton Metropole, prior to the start of the annual Labour party conference at the Brighton Centre. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 26, 2015. See PA story POLITICS Labour. P

He also said Keir Starmer should be "given his chance", and explained: "I’m not going to be one of those people treating [him] the way they treated Jeremy – always challenging him, coups and all the rest.

"Keir now needs to sit down and think through what happened in this campaign, and what I’ve been saying to him is you need to demonstrate to people the sort of society you want to create, the policy programme that will achieve that society, and you need to get back to that real grassroots campaign."

The University of Birmingham's Dr Matt Cole said:“The result in Hartlepool, echoed in council contests across England, shows that whilst the Conservatives are benefitting from a temporary ‘vaccine bounce’ Labour still has a long-term problem connecting with and mobilising its target voters.

"The result is that the ‘red wall’ has a fresh coat of blue paint.”