Tories eye chance to ‘bury New Labour’ as support surges in the North East

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Tories eye chance to ‘bury New Labour’ as support surges in the North East

Post by Guest on Sun May 21, 2017 8:45 am

They call it the chance to “bury New Labour”. Sedgefield and Hartlepool, the former seats of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, lie about a dozen miles apart in County Durham. It was from here, the epicentre of the party’s North East stronghold, that the pair plotted the modernisation that swept Labour to power in 1997.

Other power-brokers around their cabinet table had seats nearby - Alan Milburn in Darlington; David Miliband in South Shields. For the Tories, the constituencies have been effectively off the political map for generations. So certain were they to stay red that it was barely worth putting in a challenge. Until now.

“I was dubious when I saw the first few media reports,” says Dehenna Davison, the 23-year-old fighting Mr Blair’s old seat for the Conservatives.

“But it’s so frequent. You talk to someone who says their parents voted Labour, they voted Labour, but they can’t bring themselves to do it today.”

Something remarkable is happening in the North East. Two years ago at the election Labour picked up 26 of 29 seats on offer, much in line with recent decades. The party romped home with a 22-point lead over the Conservative. Look at the polls now and that lead has all but evaporated. A YouGov survey this week had Tory support jumping from 25 to 40 per cent in the region. Labour is now ahead by just two points.

The tidal wave has not gone unnoticed in Tory HQ. Cabinet ministers are being despatched almost daily to push “Team Theresa" in the region, while the Prime Minister herself picked Tynemouth, a town near Newcastle, for a speech savaging Labour for “deserting” the working classes. For Ms Davison, a computer game salesman breaking from her political degree to fight for Parliament, it is leadership and Britain's EU withdrawal that are fuelling the surge.

“Usually people will get on to either Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May or Brexit. They are probably the most frequent things that come up,” she says.


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