ON the day the general election was announced, Darlington was declared winnable for the Tories.

Since then, a parade of Conservative big-hitters have visited the town, with an appearance from Prime Minster Theresa May doing nothing to dispel Tory candidate Peter Cuthbertson’s belief that Darlington is there for the taking.

Currently a serving Westminster councillor, Mr Cuthbertson is favourite to win in a town that has remained solidly Labour since 1992, when Alan Milburn took the seat from Michael Fallon, who had held Darlington for the Conservatives since 1983.

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Labour’s Jenny Chapman has been MP since 2010 but, unlike much of the North-East, Darlington’s political leanings have not always been predictable and Ms Chapman now finds herself standing in a town where the air could turn blue.

A recent visit to the town from prominent MP Kier Starmer suggested Labour are also taking Cllr Cuthbertson’s threat to the party’s seat seriously.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Peter Cuthbertson, Conservative Party

Cllr Cuthbertson, who lost to Ms Chapman in the 2015 general election, is confident he can wrest Darlington - which has been the focus of international attention in the run up to voting day - from the incumbent MP.

As he joined fellow candidates in briefly outlining his intentions for the town, he said his doorstep campaigning had revealed a “warmth” toward Theresa May and a move away from Labour.

He said: “This time round, I have been blown away by people telling me they usually vote differently but will be voting Conservative.”

Darlington’s remaining candidates are Liberal Democrat councillor Anne-Marie Curry, veteran environmental campaigner Matthew Snedker for The Green Party and Army veteran and Buddhist Kevin Brack for UKIP.

Ms Chapman, Cllr Curry and Mr Snedker believe the election of a Tory MP could have negative consequences for Darlington, which is led by a cash-strapped Labour council already affected by the Conservative Party’s on-going austerity measures.

A £12.5m programme of council budget cuts has dominated political discourse in the town since 2015, while the potential downgrading of services at Darlington Memorial Hospital – including the possible closure of its A&E department – has been fiercely opposed by campaigners including Jenny Chapman.

Cuts to library services have proved particularly contentious, sparking a long-running campaign to save the closure-threatened Crown Street Library.

If elected, Cllr Cuthbertson says he will continue backing the campaign to save the library while working with Richmond’s Tory candidate Rishi Sunak to protect hospital services and “banging the drum” to attract more businesses to Darlington.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Jenny Chapman, Labour Party

Ms Chapman, who leads the Save Our Services campaign, will carry on fighting to protect health services, while also focusing on education and employment and ensuring the Crown Street building stays in public use.

During her time as MP, she successfully campaigned to save the local breast cancer clinic from closure and played a vital role in securing Department for Education jobs in Darlington.

Ms Chapman said: “What Darlington needs is a fighter for the town who does not just do their party leader’s bidding – I can be that person.”

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Anne-Marie Curry, Liberal Democrats

Cllr Curry has served on Darlington Borough Council since 2008 and hopes to continue being a voice for the town’s residents.

Vocal in the battle to save Crown Street, Cllr Curry has also petitioned for a bus station to be built in Darlington and hopes to continue both campaigns if elected.

She said: “I will continue to listen to the people of Darlington on the issues that matter to them most.”

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Matthew Snedker, Green Party

The Green Party’s Matthew Snedker is well known as an activist and campaigner on environmental and social justice issues who says he will “work to restore an NHS that is publicly owned, publicly run and publicly commissioned.”

He aims to improve housing and transport while focusing on the role of renewable energy in transforming the local economy.

Mr Snedker said: “The well paid and secure jobs from these industries will bring greater prosperity to the borough.”

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Kevin Brack, UKIP

UKIP’s Kevin Brack has pledged to “tackle disproportionately high pay for the chief executives of Darlington council” while giving veterans housing priority.