DARLINGTON’S former Conservative MP Michael Fallon made a return to the town today (Thursday, February 26) on a ministerial visit to the North East, describing the seat as “easily winnable” for his party in the forthcoming General Election.

Mr Fallon, MP for Darlington between 1983 and 1992, when he lost his seat to Labour’s Alan Milburn, said the majority held by the town’s sitting Labour MP Jenny Chapman was "only 3,500" – similar to the target he overcame in 1983.

The Defence Minister dropped in to Darlington on a whirlwind tour of the region and met with local Conservative members, including Darlington Borough Council group leader Heather Scott, party chairman Charles Johnson and the Tory parliamentary candidate for Darlington, Peter Cuthbertson.

He also visited Serco International Fire Training Centre at Durham Tees Valley Airport to watch training exercises before speaking at the Institute of Directors dinner in Durham on the importance of the defence industry to the North East.

Mr Fallon said he regularly visited Darlington and kept up with local news and issues.

He added: “I have seen the businesses in this town change.

“New businesses have come in over the last few years and we have seen unemployment drop and new opportunities, thanks to Government funding.

“Darlington is now an easily winnable seat.

"When I won here in 1983 the majority I had to overturn was about the same as it is now. This is one of the least predictable elections for years.”

Mr Cuthbertson said Mr Fallon had become a mentor to him and had encouraged him to stand for election in his home town.

He added: “I’ve been involved with the party since 2002 and started thinking about standing for election three years ago.

“Michael understands and has an interest in the town and he has given me a lot of his time whenever I see him.”