The Conservatives are more than 10 points ahead in most polls which many seats in the region are in the melting pot, with the unquantifiable Brexit Party stoking the fire. Chris Lloyd runs an eye over the local battles

Bishop Auckland

Helen Goodman, who has been MP since 2005, is defending a majority of just 502. Bishop is the Conservatives’ 12th target seat in the country, needing only a swing of 0.58 per cent. If Boris Johnson is to win an overall majority, he has to win this seat which voted 61 per cent to leave the EU.

The Conservative candidate, Dehenna Davison, is well dug in. She stood in Sedgefield in 2017, and her colourful backstory – her father was killed, as she told BBC2’s Newsnight this week, and her husband is 35 years older than she is – gains her column inches.

But there is no history of voting Conservative in Bishop – it has never had a Tory MP since it was created in 1885.

The seat, which includes rural Teesdale as well as the industrial towns of Spennymoor and Shildon, was so close in 2017 because there was no Ukip candidate – it was a straight Labour/Conservative showdown. But this time, there is a Brexit Party candidate, Nick Brown. The seat could be decided by how many Labour leavers he steals from Ms Goodman or how many Brexit hardliners he wins over from Ms Davison.

Stockton South

This time-honoured marginal is again in the eye of the electoral storm. Dr Paul Williams wrested the flip-flopping seat from James Wharton in 2017 by 888 votes due to his grassroots campaigning. It is now the Tories’ 19th target seat from Labour, so really it is a must-win for Mr Johnson.

The Conservative candidate is local councillor Matthew Vickers, but again a Brexit Party candidate, John Prescott, could complicate the picture.


Jenny Chapman didn’t have a victory speech prepared in 2017 because she was so uncertain, but in the end she increased her majority by 122 votes to 3,280. However, now Darlington is the Tories 47th target seat, and the party is on a roll after its gain of the borough council in May. The Tories held a leadership hustings – Johnson versus Hunt – at the Hippodrome as a statement of intent and its candidate, Peter Gibson, has been working hard.

Darlington voted 58 per cent to leave, but Ms Chapman, as a Brexit spokesman for the party, has stuck to her remain guns.


The town once elected a football mascot monkey as its mayor when it tired of Labour – will it now elect an ex-football club chairman as its MP. Hartlepool voted 69.5 per cent to leave, and it was noticeable that MP Mike Hill – almost as soon as he had had the party whip restored after misconduct allegations were dropped – was one of the first 19 Labour MPs to vote against the Labour line and support Mr Johnson’s deal.

In this most Brexity of towns, which is home of one of the two North-East Brexit Party MEPs and where the council is run by the Brexit Party, the party is fielding Ken Hodcroft, probably its most high profile candidate in the region, in a bid to make a dent on Mr Hill’s 7,650 majority.

Middlesbrough, where the increasingly high profile Andy McDonald defends a 13,873 majority, also once chose an independent mayor in the shape of policeman Ray Mallon when it tired of Labour. The seat is Labour’s 38th safest, but in May, the borough elected another independent mayor, Andy Preston, and his deputy, Antony High, may be Mr McDonald’s closest challenger.

City of Durham

Roberta Blackman-Woods has a whopping 12,000 majority, but after 14 years she is standing down. A week ago, Labour selected Gateshead councillor Mary Foy to replace her from an all-woman shortlist in a process that was not entirely smooth.

The city was the only part of County Durham to vote to remain in the EU, by 57 per cent. Historically, the LibDems have run Labour close, with Nick Clegg so hopeful in 2010 that he visited on polling day. If the LibDems’ unambiguous remain message is going to chime anywhere in the region, it will be with Durham’s large university population. For a second election, the party’s candidate is county councillor Amanda Hopgood.

Durham North West

Even in these hugely uncertain times, there are constituencies where nothing much will change. For Labour that includes Durham North, Easington, probably Stockton North and indeed Redcar, although the seaside resort’s 68 per cent leave vote makes it a little more unpredictable. Similarly, in North Yorkshire if the Conservatives’ tight grip on Richmond, Ripon or Thirsk slips the sky will fall in. Durham North West is in the same vein, where Laura Pidcock has a 8,792 majority. The interest here could be Ms Pidcock herself. First elected in 2017, the 32-year-old new mum became a shadow minister within a year and has become increasingly influential with leader Jeremy Corbyn. A true firebrand, she is just fourth favourite to succeed Mr Corbyn at 12-1 with some bookies.


Because of the Blair connection, this seat always comes under the microscope – it voted 59 per cent to leave, and Nigel Farage chose to hold a blockbuster rally in the constituency in the summer. Phil Wilson’s majority is 6,000 – it is the Tories’ 91st target seat – and he has made his desire for a second referendum extremely well known.

Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland

Simon Clarke, a member of the Brexiteer European Research Group, holds this traditional marginal with a 1,000 majority, and his unequivocal approach to Brexit should chime with the 65 per cent who voted to leave. But this is Labour’s 25th target seat – if Mr Corbyn is to win a majority, he needs to win here – and in Middlesbrough-born solicitor Lauren Dingsdale, the party has chosen an energetic candidate.