As part of a series of features examining the Labour Party's General Election performance, Flossie Mainwaring-Taylor talks to Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, a sceptic of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership

SINCE the General Election on June 8, the Labour Party has been basking in the glory of what has in some quarters been billed as a 'victory'.

Despite not winning enough seats to offer a realistic chance of challenging the Conservatives in the formation of a new government, party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been enjoying rave reviews, and praise from even some of his toughest critics.

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But Phil Wilson insists there is still a lot of work to do. He has made no efforts to mince his words about Mr Corbyn in the past, and during his election campaign the Sedgefield MP sent out handwritten letters informing potential voters he was “no supporter of Jeremy Corbyn”, stating he was “for Labour not for Corbyn”.

The long-serving Labour MP says he is “more than prepared” to accept Mr Corbyn led a campaign that “galvanised” young people, first time voters and students.

However, he maintains the leader remained divisive on the doorstep.

“If you look at the two campaigns, ours was the best," he says. "Jeremy Corbyn has campaigned for 30 odd years so he’s bound to be good at it.

“There was one part of the community that was energised by him but there was another part of the community which wasn’t energised by him and I think that’s the paradox in all this.”

Mr Wilson, who once worked under the wing of Tony Blair, insists that other significant factors were at play in the party’s performance this month.

The politician attributes their gains to local campaigns, their anti-austerity stance, what he described as the “revenge of the Remainers” and “failings” of the Conservatives.

Mr Wilson himself was a vocal Remain campaigner but voted to trigger Article 50 and has since said he wants the best deal out of Brexit for the North-East.

“I think the fatal mistake Theresa May made was to call a General Election when she said three or four times that there would not be an early election,” he adds. “I think she did it out of arrogance, it became all about her and she was left wanting because she’s not a campaigner.

“You had Theresa May, who voted to remain, all of a sudden for this hard Brexit - how can you flip like that?”

However, Mr Wilson, who has represented Sedgefield since Mr Blair’s resignation in 2007, believes the Labour Party still has its work cut out if it is to win the additional 60 or so seats to secure a majority at the next election.

“I don’t think it’s going to work if we just think it’s one more heave,” he says. “I hope we’re still prepared to be practical about it and enjoy the moment.

“But we didn’t win and we shouldn’t run away with the idea that we won. The Tories didn’t and we didn’t.”

In County Durham five of the six seats had a swing to the Tories - with the lowest (1.6 per cent) in Sedgefield.

And while the youth appear to have been captivated by Mr Corbyn, Mr Wilson believes the traditional white, working class voter is having a “difficult” time getting on board with the party.

“If we are seeing a swing to the Tories in Labour heartland seats such as those in County Durham then there’s an issue,” he says. “That’s the problem we have to address.”

As the Labour Party moves on from the General Election, the Tories continue to conduct talks with the DUP in a bid to form a government.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Wilson has his reservations about the possible coalition, its impact on getting legislation passed and the impending Brexit process.

He believes there should be a managed immigration system, to allow the likes of much-needed nurses to enter to work, while he is calling for free movement to be redefined, to enable to the rules as they are now to be implemented.

“It’s going to be very difficult for the next few years,” he adds. “I think the government should reach out to other parties.

“We need to get some sort of consensus before we go forward. It’s in the national interest.”

In the meantime the MP hopes to continue his work on the Defence Select Committee, should he be re-elected, and has pledged his continued support to his constituents.

Born and brought up in the area, and now living in Heighington, Mr Wilson says: “The priority has always been Sedgefield. That underpins it all. The foundation is looking after your constituency. I’ve still got loads to do and loads that I want to do.”

Mr Wilson won 22,202 votes on June 8, with the Conservatives coming in second with 16,143. It is the fourth consecutive election Mr Wilson has won in a seat which has been in the hands of Labour since 1935.