POLITICAL views in County Durham continue to be polarised after a straw poll as people cast their votes on the morning of ‘Super Thursday’.

Disillusionment in Labour heartlands appears to remain strong, despite the change of leadership at the head of the party.

Several people in Burnopfield said they hoped the local elections would see a shift in power at Durham County Council.

But equally, there is fierce anger at the Government over the perceived mishandling of Brexit and the pandemic, despite the success of the vaccination programme.

Several people casting their votes said they were ignoring the main political parties and would be voting independent because they knew and liked the local candidate.

The Northern Echo:

Laurie Hume

Locally, Durham County Council’s decision to close the DLI Museum in Durham was a sore point for retired soldier Laurie Hume, 62, from Burnopfield.

He said: “I am always vote as part of my democratic right. I have voted Labour previously, but I am going to go for someone new. I am sick of the same old same old.

“I don’t know anything other than a Labour council but they have done nothing.

“I am ex-forces and Labour don’t support the military and this area is steeped in military tradition.

“DLI were one of the famous regiments in the UK. It went back to the Napoleon wars.

“Regarding the closure of the museum, they did not listen to the people in the area.”

The Northern Echo:

Alan Young 

Alan Young, 60, from Burnopfield, who works as a self-employed courier, said he was former Labour man who has switched he allegiances from red to blue.

He said: “This place has been Labour forever. Labour has had plenty of chances and they have done nothing. There is not even a park for the kids. Labour does nowt for the young uns. I hope they lose everything.

“I am a former Labour supporter and I am voting for the Tories. Labour are not for the people any more. They are too left wing and they do nowt for local people. I don’t agree with all of the Tory policies by a long chalk but they are the best of a bad bunch.”

One man who refused to give him name, and did not indicate how he intended to vote, said he was staggered that potential harm from the fallout of Brexit still did not resonate with people.

He said: “This is another Brexit vote in the heartlands. It would confirm that people will tolerate a liar with absolutely zero standards as their Prime Minister.

“It is still about Brexit. I cannot believe that people still do not know what is going to happen when the furlough scheme ends and we start to see the job losses.

“There is the Covid vaccination bounce that is benefitting the Tories but I am frustrated at how this area can turn blue. Where is the anger that over the 150,000 people that have died?

“Labour’s problem is Corbyn was too much of a communist. I like Kier Starmer but he had to move away from Islington. I am not impressed with the people he surrounds himself with, the ballsy women.”

One woman, who gave her name as Christina, said she tended to think politicians are ‘all the same’.

She said: “I still think I should vote because women fought for their right to vote.

“I am going to vote Labour. Mainly because they are not Tories for a start. I think they have a better chance of getting in.

“I think it will be sad if the Tories get in. It has been a farce, especially since Brexit and Cameron just upping and leaving because the vote did not go his way.”

The Northern Echo:

Harry Charlton

Retired radio electrician Harry Charlton said Labour canvassers have been around three times but he had not heard from a Conservative candidate.

He said: “There is not a lot around here that we really need from the council. I am happy with everything as long as the bin gets emptied.”

The Northern Echo:

The polling station in Wheatley Hill 

Across the county, residents of Wheatley Hill, were also keen to make their voices heard.

Keith Lee, 56, of Durham said: “I think people are crazy if they don’t vote for Labour councillors.

“They are the only political party who care about people in the pit villages.

“We miss out on a lot - especially now we have a Tory MP. We need to vote for councillors who actual care about rural villages as it seems like funding and support only goes to the towns and cities but there are people here who need help too. It just always feels like we are being forgotten about and unless people vote that will never change.”

Another voter added: “Yeah it was really surprising when Paul Howell was voted in as our MP so I think today could go either way.

“I’ve voted for Labour councillors for over 60 years and would never change but I think a lot of people have lost faith in the party over recent years.

“We are definitely forgotten about but it’s a great community and I think things will only change if people turn out to vote.

“Lots of people complain but don’t make their voices heard by coming out and voting.”

The Northern Echo:

The Scouts Centre in Bishop Auckland where elections are taking place

As rain pelted down onto the tin roof of The Scout Centre in Bishop Auckland, keen voters rushed in an out of the hall to make their mark on election day.

Voters were eager to have their say on the three local elections, with most crossing the box on all three.

One voter, a terminally ill woman, said that her vote for Conservative couldn’t be more secure.

She said: “I’ve just learnt that I’m terminally ill and it focuses you to think, would I even be able to have these last few months if we hadn’t got the Covid under control?

“I just want to stand up and shout thank you because I got an extra six months that a lot of people haven’t had, and I think he’s (Boris Johnson) done a brilliant job, so that’s why I’m voting Conservative.

The Northern Echo:

“I’ve sat in the middle of the night in pain and not being able to sleep thinking, I’m going to write an email to Boris Johnson. Let Carrie have her house decorated- it’s petty in the scheme of things.

“I’m not against our labour councillors- I think we’ve got some exceptional ones. But when you’re voting, you have to make that choice.

“It comes right from the top and feeds all the way down to us little people on the streets, and that is how I feel about it.

“Start looking at the bigger picture, because life is important. We’ve got a chance, and we’re doing so well in the UK. I’m just amazed and grateful.”