This was a week of thousands of elections, from local councils to regional mayors and national parliaments.

But there were two in particular that really mattered because they spoke to the future of our country over the next decade, and what they told us was that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government looks to remain in power for at least two terms and we are facing in the next two years an almighty battle for the future of our Union.

The first was the by-election in Hartlepool.

Elections 2021: Follow the latest results and reaction

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Hartlepool turns blue for first time

I was up in the North East coastal constituency this week to witness the moment this six-decade long Labour stronghold turned Tory.

The local party activists arranged for an enormous inflatable Boris Johnson to be erected outside the count in the town centre and by early afternoon the real life Mr Johnson was at the marina to celebrate the win.

A media scrum, a few selfies with members of the public and a couple of lads laughing and shouting: “Bozzer, the big Bozman is here!”

More on Boris Johnson

This is typical of a Boris Johnson walkabout.

It might seem trite but it is also true: Mr Johnson is both marmite and Heineken.

Loved or hated, he has an innate ability to provoke emotions in people, and in places like Hartlepool connect to voters in a way that other Tory leaders – Theresa May tried and failed to tap into the crumbling red wall trend in 2017 – can’t.

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Seeing double: PM meets inflatable self

His opponents may not understand it or be confounded by it, but nevertheless it is true.

When I chatted to people about him, they’d say he seemed fun, someone you’d want to have a drink with, a normal, relatable politician.

They know about the criticisms – the messy private life, the flat, the handling of the second lockdown – but they forgive him it.

Whether that will always be the case is an entirely different debate.

But what I also picked up in Hartlepool was that his success, catalysed by Brexit, was as much about Labour’s failures as the Conservatives’ success.

Up here, Mr Johnson was massively bolstered by local Tory Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen’s huge personal following.

“He’s the only one who’s ever done anything for us,” is how a cab driver in Darlington put it to me.

A freeport, a revived local airport, people in the North East region see a new band of Tory MPs and a Conservative mayor bringing investment into the region, and that has built momentum going into the Hartlepool by-election.

The calculation for plenty of voters here is that nothing really improved for decades voting Labour, so why not give the Conservatives a chance.

Despite being in government for over a decade, the cuts to local services, the courts and the A&E in Darlington are being blamed on Labour, not the Tories, because here the Conservatives are selling themselves as the party of change and investment.

One Labour MP out canvassing in Hartlepool had a simple assessment: “People here see neighbouring seats with a new 2019 Tory MP getting handed out sweeties and they want that for their area too.”

It is nothing short of an existential crisis for Labour (especially when you add in Scotland which we’ll come back to in a bit).

What Hartlepool showed us is that the demographic shift in voting that burst open in the 2019 Brexit election was not just a blip.

The Conservatives are consolidating, cementing their foothold across the “red wall”.

And for Labour, it won’t be enough to reconnect to their old voters; its fate depends on whether the Conservatives let down those that first “lent” votes in 2019 and have decided to stick with the horse they picked.

It could take years to unwind, if it unwinds at all.

Add in Scotland, where Labour hold just one out of 59 Westminster seats, and trying to find a path back to No 10 looks utterly impossible in the current landscape.

An esteemed politics professor messaged me on Friday as the result came in with this: “Maybe this was the day the Labour Party died.

“Once Labour indulged in anti-Englishness in the party, and it begins with Tony Blair, then they set in motion turning England over to the Tories and when they do it at the same time as losing Scotland to the SNP, its suicidal.”

But if Hartlepool revealed to us why Mr Johnson is already eyeing a general election victory in 2024 (and even beyond?), Holyrood revealed why he too faces profound difficulties.

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People of Scotland ‘have right to an Indyref2’

What the Scottish elections settled is that constitutional issues will be very unsettled during Mr Johnson’s term in office.

He may have won Tory England, but part of the price he has paid in doing so has been to put the matter of Scottish independence back on the table, with the SNP winning Holyrood – just one seat short of an outright majority and with the political momentum to push through legislation in Scotland for a second independence referendum.

It leaves Mr Johnson with his own existential threat.

How does he bind the Union together, not via legal force, but by consent?

Crushing Labour, building an English voter base for years in office, it would all pale into insignificance if his legacy as prime minister was presiding over the break-up of the United Kingdom.

The threat is real, but not immediate.

There’ll be no attempt to hold an independence referendum in the coming year.

As it stands it’s unlikely there’ll be one as promised by the SNP by the end of 2024, given that Mr Johnson won’t allow one and can, if he has to, revert to the courts to rob any planned Scottish poll of its legitimacy.

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Gove refuses to say if govt would back Indyref2

But it is not enough just to stall, Mr Johnson has to beat Nicola Sturgeon and the nationalists (much more on how he’ll try to do that here .

And just as Labour’s rebuilding of the red wall is partly out of their control, so is Mr Johnson’s ability to stop the march of the SNP.

He has to hope that as Brexit and the COVID pandemic moves into the rear view mirror, he and his government becomes a little less toxic in Scotland and Ms Sturgeon’s soaring satisfaction ratings come back down to earth.

He has to hope that support for independence plateaus.

Two results then both with profound reverberations for our politics and our country.

Mr Johnson this week was served up a both defining victory and, the threat at least, of an unconscionable loss.