WELCOME to Super Thursday, the biggest electoral day outside a general election that this country has seen.

Forty-eight million people are about to express their first opinions on the handling of the pandemic, on life post-Brexit, on levelling up, on Boris Johnson, on Keir Starmer, on Ben Houchen and on a myriad of local issues as well as the future of the United Kingdom.

And the North-East is very much in the spotlight.

Today, there is one Parliamentary by-election – in Hartlepool – which neither of the two main parties can afford to lose.

There are 183 seats in Scottish and Welsh assemblies up for election which could precipitate the break-up of the UK, and there are 4,500 seats on 143 English councils being fought over – with Durham County Council one to watch if the Tory tsunami of 2019 continues.

There are 39 Police and Crime Commissioners which, although no one is really bothered about, could prove pivotal to the future of Cleveland Police, and there are 15 regional mayors with the Tees Valley battleground more talked about than even that in London.

The elections use different voting methods and the full results won’t be known until Saturday evening. There are so many permutations that probably the only winners are going to be the spinners who will be sent out to claim victory for their parties.


A BLUE tide washed along the Tees Valley and through County Durham in 2019 as Labour put in its worst Parliamentary performance since 1935. But Hartlepool remained red, largely because the Brexit Party split the vote and stymied the Tories. The result will show whether that tide is still coming in or whether Mr Starmer has done enough to stem the flow. Surely Mr Starmer cannot afford to lose, and the Tories will be deeply disappointed if they do not win.

On only five occasions since 1926 has a sitting Government won a by-election and, curiously, the first of those victories was in Sunderland South in 1953 where the winner for the Conservatives was a Paul Williams – the name of today’s Labour candidate in Hartlepool. Read what you like into that.


As the old tribal loyalties of British politics break down, it is expected that Labour will do well in metropolitan places like London (Sadiq Khan) and Manchester (Andy Burnham) – but what about the Tees Valley? Ben Houchen won in 2017 for the Conservatives by a narrow margin and triggered the Tory tsunami of 2019. He’s never been far from the headlines since, and is now in a two horse race with Labour’s Jessie Joe Jacobs. Polls put him ahead, and there could be a “double tick” effect: yes to Mr Johnson in Hartlepool and yes to Mr Houchen as mayor.

The other really interesting race is in the West Midlands (Birmingham and Coventry) where the Tories also have a slender majority in traditional Labour territory. Labour has selected Liam Byrne, a well known and likeable figure, to fight the incumbent Andy Street. If there is a Labour comeback, it will be seen in the mayoral results in the West Midlands and the Tees Valley.


The Tories did well in these elections in 2017 so they should now be expected to lose seats, but the talk is of Labour in difficulty in traditional places like Hull, Bury, Bolton and Rotherham – and even Durham, where it has had complete control since 1925. Durham is not just a heartland but a bastion or a bulwark. But, in 2019, the county elected three Conservative MPs and three Labour MPs, and it cast 102,211 votes for the Tories and 104,940 votes for Labour. With plenty of independents standing – including one who is a former Labour council leader – the votes will have to be carefully counted rather than weighed, as it was said happened in the past.


A complete sideshow.

The role of Commissioner has not caught the public imagination in the way that metro mayors have been successful, and so in North Yorkshire, where there is little else up for grabs, the only question is whether the turnout will reach the dizzying heights of last time’s 22.5 per cent.

But which new broom will the people of Cleveland elect to sweep their police stable clean, given that Labour has had charge since the post was created in 2012?

And Durham is even tighter than the county council elections as the police area also covers the newly Conservative Darlington. Suddenly, there are marginal battles all over the region.


Beyond the North-East, an outright nationalist victory, by the SNP and Alex Salmond’s Alba party, seems highly likely, but will it be big enough to force through a second independence referendum?

All round, Super Thursday is going to through up some supersize questions for all the party leaders.