Durham County Council elections: Stronghold of Labor faces biggest challenge in over 100 years
The fortress of LABOR in Durham County Council will face one of its biggest challenges for more than a century when voters go to the polls this week.
The 2019 general election saw the collapse of the party’s “ red wall ” in traditional hearts in the north, especially the northeast, with a wave of new Tory candidates ousting incumbent MPs.
In County Durham, Tony Blair’s former constituency of Sedgefield was taken from Phil Wilson by Paul Howell, left-wing brandon Laura Pidcock lost North-West Durham to Richard Holden while at Bishop Auckland Dehenna Davison replaced Helen Goodman.
Many people had never voted Conservative before, but for many the election was determined by the polarizing Brexit issues and the far-left agenda pursued by the Labor Party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
At a victory rally after the Sedgefield Cricket Club election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to ‘repay the confidence of the locals’ who ‘lent’ him their vote by leveling the disparity economic between regions.
The Conservative Party is now hoping to replicate the election success of 18 months ago by replacing longtime Labor Party advisers with Conservative candidates, something unthinkable in many neighborhoods just a few years ago.
But now the question of how Britain will leave the UK has been resolved and the Labor Party is under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer.
Labor currently holds 68 of 126 seats, so a loss of just five seats would see them lose their majority.
The leader of the Conservative group in county council, Richard Bell, who hopes to retain his seat at Barnard Castle West, said: “There is no doubt that winning North West Durham, Sedgefield and Bishop Auckland in the general election has given us a blow. inch.
“People are more willing now to come and help. The challenge remains, however, in getting people to go to council elections, and although the signs are that postal voting is high, the job now is to persuade people to vote in person.
“Our main messages were well received: Stop wasting manpower – we opposed the new County Hall from the start; reduce municipal taxes; make local planning committees; fix our roads and improve investments for jobs in the county.
“It feels like Derwentside and the Dales are getting nothing but crumbs from the DCC table. We want to treat all areas fairly in County Durham.
“The government has given Bishop Auckland £ 19.9million as part of the Future High Streets fund, and we will work to get more government support.
“And there is a feeling that it is not healthy for democracy to have Labor in power for over 100 years in County Hall.
“We are running a vigorous campaign like never before.” We have great candidates. There really is an opportunity to make a difference this week. ”
Meanwhile, despite the successful deployment of the Covid vaccine, Boris Johnson is coming under fire for his handling of the pandemic and the Conservative Party is again mired in allegations of corruption and harassment.
Former Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman is one of the South County’s best-known candidates.
She said: “As an MP I have learned that a lot of things – like the local environment, neighborhoods and housing are more under the control of the Council.
“Labor Durham now employs 100 litter collectors, has already filled 10,000 potholes this year and is giving £ 600,000 to each local community so that local groups and people can decide on local priorities.
“Labor Durham will build 500 new social housing units, but planning decisions must respect local perspectives, protect green spaces and be used to regenerate dilapidated urban and village centers. We are investing in 3 new leisure centers and new school buildings.
“We are proud of Labor Durham’s work during Covid.
“We have helped and supported 75,000 people and when the Conservative government failed we intervened with free school meals for the children.
“Durham has been faster in securing £ 163million in business support than other councils across the UK and we’ve put together a £ 5million stimulus fund.
“We’re creating 30,000 good jobs across the county in manufacturing (like Sumitomo in Jade), high tech (like Netpark), finance (like Atom) and small business support.
“In order for new jobs to be allocated to the local population, we are training 9,000 people.
“We even kept the housing tax increases below Tory Darlington, Northumberland and North Yorkshire.
“When I started the phone canvassing in January, people were pretty depressed, it was winter, they were locked up.
“But about a fortnight ago I noticed a real change, people were engaging and questioning the issues they were concerned about – caring for their family, life and work after their leave. , the areas of concern to them.
“They were like ‘who do I think will really take care of me and my community?’ and I think the Labor Party has a track record of achievement with local issues.
“The government shot itself in the foot.
“I think there are people who lent their vote to the Tories in 2019 making a direct comeback, I think Labor voters who stayed at home because they were demoralized now have more confidence in the leadership and our ability to tackle local issues and I think some of the people who supported the Conservatives now feel uncertain and could stay home. ”
But it’s far from a two-horse race in Durham County Council with other parties, including the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, fielding candidates in all 63 wards, as well as many independents.
Independent candidate for Ferryhill, the city’s current mayor, Joe Makepeace, said: “The majority of workers are at risk because they have failed to deliver enough despite about 100 years in power.
“Local councilors need to work with central government to make things happen and independents will work with the people they need to make things happen.
“Even when a Labor Prime Minister lived in Trimdon, the region did not see the benefits.
“Times are changing, a lot of people no longer like or relate to the socialist brand and see that the Labor Party will not let anyone else in, structures and committees are all focused on control, but the advisers independents are not tied to votes. do what they think is best for their region and its people. ”
Durham County Council, a unitary authority since 2009, is currently made up of 68 Labor Councilors, 15 Liberal Democrat Councilors, 12 Independent Councilors, ten Conservative Councilors, seven Independent Councilors from Derwentside, four Councilors Spennymoor Independent People Before Politics three Councilors from the Northeastern Party, six other advisers and a union and cooperative advisor.
Voters in County Durham will also determine the future of 13 city councils and 91 parish councils.