NORTH West Durham parliamentary candidate Laura Pidcock launched her campaign to keep her seat at next month’s general election at a rally in Consett.

The Labour candidate, who this week has been tipped as a possible successor to Tom Watson as the party’s deputy leader, used the opportunity to outline policies on workers’ rights, a programme of nationalisation and making university education free.

She was joined by Labour chairman Ian Lavery, who is seeking re-election in his Wansbeck constituency, TUC regional secretary Beth Farhat, teacher and activist Holly Rigby, and Liam Young.

About 200 people gathered at St Patrick’s church hall in the town centre for the launch event. 

Ms Pidcock, who was first elected in 2017 and is the Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights outlined Labour’s policy’s on a raft of domestic issues, including extending maternity pay, job insecurity, tackling low pay and in-work poverty and zero hour contracts.

Telling her supporters to ignore the “negativity”, she instead encouraged them to be positive about the campaign.

She said: “This is our opportunity. Every single problem I have set out has a solution. The Labour party has a solution.”

Speaking to the Northern Echo, she added she had been “surprised” that Brexit was not people’s number one issue on the doorstep.

She said: “It’s undoubted that Brexit will be a feature but it’s one feature of many. 

“I understand the next Labour government has to tackle in-work poverty. To say that’s somehow secondary to Brexit I find so disingenuous.

The Northern Echo:

“Brexit is an issue. We’ve said we will get a new renegotiated deal on Brexit in the first three months and that will go to the people to either vote leave again or vote remain and the Labour party will implement that decision of the people.

“And then we talk about every other domestic policy.”

She added: “At every door I knock on they aren’t talking about Brexit first. That shocked even me. I felt I knew what people cared about and I thought it would come up more to be honest.”

Reiterating comments made earlier in the week, Ms Pidcock said the deputy leadership position should not be an issue for the campaign.

She was one of a number of women who have been tipped for the job, with other contenders including Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Business Secretary, Dawn Butler, Angela Rayner and Jess Phillips.

She said: “I’m completely focussed on this general election. I’m so focussed and motivated. All the conversations about internal Labour party affairs can wait.”