LABOUR takes seat in former Durham coalfield. It shouldn’t be news. For decades it was the natural order of things.

But then came that toxic mix of Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson and the red wall of Labour seats crumbled. History was made: seats that had never returned a Tory since they were created 140 years ago went blue; Labour lost control of Durham County Council for the first time in 100 years.

George Smith’s win in West Auckland is the second time in six weeks that Labour have reclaimed a seat from the Tories – this one is in the former red wall seat of Bishop Auckland, whereas the other one was in Ferryhill in the Sedgefield constituency which was another notable Conservative gain in 2019.


These two swallows don’t make a summer, but they could be the start of a trend: a poll yesterday suggested Labour would win 810 seats across the country in May as it appeared Boris Johnson had been airbrushed from Conservative campaign literature. Whereas three years ago, he was an immense electoral asset, now he has turned toxic.

Great details will be read into how the British people vote in May, but at the moment, the only electorate that matters is the 359 Conservative MPs who alone can decide the leader of their party.

They did so well in 2019 partly because Labour was out of touch but if they write off these reverses as mid-term blues, they will be missing the mood of the nation which has swung against Mr Johnson – and more partygate fines before polling day will create an extremely painful outcome for the Tories.