I THINK many will have shared my disbelief and exasperation over recent weeks watching the race to be our next Prime Minister. The cast of calamitous continuity Conservative candidates have seemed fixated on who can best perform a convincing Thatcherite impersonation – all the while the serious challenges facing our communities from the NHS to the cost of living appear an afterthought.

Any sane person must be left thinking: “What planet are they on?”

Sadly, here on Planet Earth, the reality of one such challenge is becoming all too clear. Damning new figures released by the End Poverty Coalition show 38 per cent of children in the North East are now growing up in poverty, meaning our region has overtaken London to have the highest rate of child poverty anywhere in the UK.

The figures illustrate a disgraceful image of Tory Britain in 2022. For all the grand promises on levelling up, under their watch our children are being left behind. In an average classroom of 30, 11 pupils will be below the poverty line, perhaps too hungry to concentrate.

Too cold to be comfortable while at home.

Deprived of the security and opportunity necessary to succeed like their classmates.

That is why in 2010 the last Labour Government enshrined in law the goal of eradicating the scourge of child poverty in the UK by 2020, having already had the drive and ambition to lift one million children out of poverty since being elected 13 years earlier. Educational and health outcomes were improved, and life chances expanded.

Simply missing this target would have been a tragic failure, but that the Conservatives chose to abolish this goal completely in 2016 should be a source of national shame. On their watch the mission to eradicate child poverty has not just stalled, it has gone sharply into reverse, rising in our region from 26 per cent to 38 per cent.

These statistics are not just a stain on the record of the party in government for 12 years. They represent thousands of individual tragedies, heart-breaking cases of human potential left unfulfilled.

But the reality is that most children growing up in poverty are not in workless households. Rather their parents are in jobs that are poorly paid, lacking security, with sky high household and childcare costs eating away at what they do earn.

As prices spiral and Tory leadership candidates bicker about bathrooms, the wages of working people are stagnating. These figures will likely worsen over the coming months. That’s why my Labour Party colleagues and I cannot waiver from highlighting the struggles of ordinary people while the Government engages in internal civil war.

The Labour Party must always strive to make the British people better off. To ensure that when our economy grows so too do ordinary pay packets, not just the dividends of the few. Fuelling national prosperity must create shared security and build firm economic foundations for the next generation to succeed. Sadly, today, for too many of our region’s children, the future is uncertain.

Nelson Mandela said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Can the next Prime Minister truly look the next generation in the eye and say they have done all they can for them when the economy they have built is failing so many?