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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Ones to watch: Which North East seats could be the stories of General Election night?

The North East is set to be a key battleground at this general election.

There are a number of seats across our region that will be of major interest once the votes are counted on 4 July and will offer a clear indication of how the night will pan out across the UK.

Current polls give the Labour Party a substantial lead over the Conservatives and Sir Keir Starmer will expect to reclaim a number of ‘red wall’ seats that were lost in 2019.

But there are an increasing number of eyes turning to a couple of Tory strongholds which it has been suggested could also turn red.

Here we take a look at some of the potential stories to watch out for on election day.

Hexham

Tories’ Guy Opperman. Image: Wikipedia

A safe Conservative seat for a century, could Hexham really be about to turn red for the first time ever? If the polls are to be believed, Labour’s Joe Morris could be about to unseat the Tories’ Guy Opperman.

Labour has never won in Hexham before and the seat has been Conservative since the general election of 1924, with Mr Opperman having served as its MP since 2010 and winning a majority of 10,549 in 2019. But the Tories’ major deficit in the national polls and a boundary change that has brought the Labour ward of Callerton and Throckley into the constituency could spell trouble for the former pensions minister.

However, the fact that there is no Reform candidate standing in Hexham – due to a national pact with the Social Democratic Party – could offer a boost for Mr Opperman’s hopes of hanging onto his seat.

Candidates: William Clouston (Social Democratic Party), Nick Cott (Liberal Democrat), Nick Morphet (Green), Joe Morris (Labour), Guy Opperman (Conservative), Chris Whaley (Independent).

North Northumberland

Foreign office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan. Image: Wikipedia

Foreign office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan is perhaps the highest ranking Conservative in our region and won a majority of nearly 15,000 when she was re-elected in 2019. But some polls are predicting that her position could be under-threat, in what is an enlarged seat that adds the town of Morpeth to a constituency that will now be known as North Northumberland rather than Berwick.

Labour candidate David Smith has been put as neck and neck with Ms Trevelyan by pollsters Yougov, while well-known independent Georgina Hill is hoping to put herself into the running.  As has so often been the case over many years, the question of whether the next government will commit to dualling the A1 in Northumberland has once again become a hot topic – with the Tories having pledged to do so two days after Rishi Sunak called the election.

Candidates: Katherine Hales (Reform), Georgina Hill (Independent), Michael Joyce (Independent), Andrew Martin (Social Democratic Party), Jan Rosen (Green), David Smith (Labour), Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative), Natalie Younes (Liberal Democrat).

Incumbent Dehenna Davison . Image: Wikipedia

Bishop Auckland

This is one of the ‘red wall’ seats that Labour lost in 2019 and is hoping to claim back from the Tories.

Incumbent Dehenna Davison is standing down and has announced she is planning to move to Brazil, so the Conservative candidate in the seat this year is Jane MacBean – a councillor in Buckinghamshire.

Union activist Sam Rushworth is the man chosen by Labour to try and win back what the party sees as a key seat, which would mean overturning a 7,962 majority.

Candidates: Rhys Burriss (Reform), Helen Cross (Liberal Democrat), Sarah Hannan (Green), Jane MacBean (Conservative), Rachel Maughan (Transform Party), Sam Rushworth (Labour).

Tony Blair. Image: Wikipedia

Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor

Boris Johnson was in Sedgefield in December 2019 as the then prime minister celebrated a symbolic victory in the seat previously held by Tony Blair, as the Tories made a number of eye-catching gains in the North East.

That seat has been redrawn and renamed as Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor this year and is among the top targets that Labour wants to win back.

Conservative incumbent Paul Howell, who won a 4,513 majority at the last election, is up against Labour’s Alan Strickland this time in a constituency where the future of the Hitachi train factory has been a source of much debate.

Candidates: Brian Agar (Transform Party), Anne-Marie Curry (Liberal Democrat), John Grant (Reform), Paul Howell (Conservative), Jack Hughes (Green), Alan Strickland (Labour), Minhajul Suhon (Workers Party).

Tories Ian Levy. Image: Wikipedia

Cramlington and Killingworth

Ian Levy’s win for the Conservatives in Blyth Valley was one of the big shocks of 2019, on a demoralising night for Labour in the North East.

Major boundary changes have seen that seat, which had long been a Labour stronghold, abolished.

Mr Levy is standing in the new Cramlington and Killingworth seat, while his wife Maureen is contesting the neighbouring Blyth and Ashington.

Emma Foody, assistant general secretary of the Co-operative Party, is the Labour candidate hoping to unseat Mr Levy in a constituency that stretches across the boundaries of Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle.

Candidates: Thom Campion (Liberal Democrat), Gordon Fletcher (Reform), Emma Foody (Labour), Dawn Furness (Independent), Ian Jones (Green), Scott Lee (Independent), Ian Levy (Conservative), Matthew Wilkinson (Social Democratic Party).

MP Kevan Jones. Image: Wikipedia

North Durham

A safe Labour seat since its creation in 1983, the decision by long-serving MP Kevan Jones to stand down has turned North Durham into a seat with an intense spotlight on it.

That is because of the Labour Party’s decision to impose Luke Aykhurst as its candidate, a move that has proved hugely controversial in some circles due to his vocal support for Israel and opposition to Labour’s left.

Police were called to Mr Aykhurst’s campaign launch in Chester-le-Street, which was picked by pro-Palestine activists, while he has also been mocked by Lib Dem opponent Craig Martin – who offered a free guided tour of the area, saying the Labour candidate was “more familiar with North Oxford than North Durham”.

Candidates: Luke Akehurst (Labour), Chris Bradburn (Workers Party), George Carter (Conservative), Tom Chittenden (Social Democratic Party), Andrew Husband (Reform), Stephen Lindsay (Independent), Craig Martin (Liberal Democrat), Sunny Moon-Schott (Green).

Labour’s Ian Lavery. Image: Wikipedia

Blyth and Ashington

A new seat made up of the majority of the existing Wansbeck seat and some of the Blyth Valley constituency, this race will see Labour’s Ian Lavery up against Conservative Maureen Levy – the wife of outgoing Blyth Valley MP Ian Levy.

While this seat is seen as a safe one for Labour to claim, there is another reason it could attract attention on election night.

This is being tipped as being potentially the first result in the country to be declared. Newcastle’s vote counters have been quickest at the last two general elections, but council officials on Tyneside are briefing that they will be notably slower to declare in 2024.

That could mean that Sunderland, which declared the first result at every election from 1992 to 2015, faces competition from the counting team in Northumberland – where top election administrator Bill Crawford is known to be based this year.

Candidates: Ian Lavery (Labour), Maureen Levy (Conservative), Steve Leyland (Green), Mark Peart (Reform), Stephen Psallidas (Liberal Democrat).

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