LABOUR leaders have accused the Government of abandoning the north.

Vice chairman Michael Dugher told the party’s regional conference in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, on Saturday that David Cameron ‘is giving up on the north’ with unemployment up in the North-East and North-West and people an average of £1,600 worse off a year.

Attacking the Conservatives’ 'One Nation' mantle, Mr Dugher said: “Rather than building one nation he is a divide and rule prime minister.”

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He said Mr Cameron has shown ‘complete ambivalence’ to the region and ‘when it comes to the north, Tories have written it off economically but given up politically’.

Mr Dugher said more than 5,000 young people in the North-East would benefit from Labour’s manifesto pledge to guarantee work for all under 25s who have been jobless for a year, by taxing bankers’ bonuses.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the conference that north councils had been hit by austerity measures much harder than wealthy councils in the south.

“That isn’t ‘we’re in this together’,” she said.

Adding: “I pay tribute to Labour councils, councillors and police leaders doing a tough job, facing huge cuts but working hard to protect services for communities we want to defend.”

She said the Conservatives had ‘ditched the social chapter’ and told delegates ‘it is time to get people back to work, build more affordable homes, stop the exploitation of zero hours contracts and time to get rid of the nasty and deeply unfair bedroom tax’.

The conference gave retiring North-East MEP Stephen Hughes a chance to bid farewell to Labour colleagues.

He said in 30 years representing the region in Europe he had made 3,500 flights - the equivalent of seven and-a-half months at 36,000ft - and his time working overseas equated to living in France for four years and in Brussels for 11.

He said: “It has been a tremendous honour and privilege to represent this great region for all of those years but I won’t miss the travel, it is the one downside and is getting harder.

“Believe it not I’d like to visit Brussels for pleasure.

“My parents stayed in my apartment six of seven summers and would ask if I knew certain museums and I had to say no, I’ve never got to know the city.”

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson was delighted his constituency hosted the event, at the Xcel Centre on Aycliffe Business Park, Newton Aycliffe.

He said: “It is usually in the big conurbations like Newcastle and Sunderland, but this shows how important Newton Aycliffe is to the Labour family.”