The Shadow Chancellor described the route to Downing Street in a general election as "through the North East" during a visit to Darlington.

Rachel Reeves, while visiting Cummins with Labour's Darlington candidate Lola McEvoy, repeated Labour's call for an early general election in May.

She also described what a "mountain" the Labour party has to climb if it hopes to get a majority at the next election after the crushing defeat of 2019.

Ms Reeves highlighted that many of the seats Labour has to recapture are in the North East, including Darlington, Redcar, Stockton South (to become Stockton West) and Blyth.

She said: "We are going into this election from a very low place – 2019 was our worst general election since 1935.

"I’m under no illusions about the size of the mountain that we have got to climb.

"That includes so many seats up here in the North East – Darlington, Redcar, Stockton South and Blyth.

"The road to Downing Street goes through the North East of England.

"We are working really, really hard. Obviously, we have the mayoral elections later this year, we are fighting hard for Chris McEwan and also Kim McGuinness to get them elected.

"Then we will have the general election which we hope comes on May 2.

"I think most people want a general election as quickly as possible.

"If Rishi Sunak bottles it then we will have to wait until later this year.

"But at some point this year people are going to have a choice."

Ms Reeves was pleased with a "truly remarkable" by-election result in Wellingborough overnight, which means the Conservative Government has endured more by-election losses than any administration since the 1960s.

She said: "I’m always a light sleeper, I woke up at 3.30am to see the Kingswood result and then it wasn’t until I woke up properly in the morning that I saw the Wellingborough result.

"In Wellingborough it was the second biggest swing in the post-war era.

"It was really truly remarkable.

"They had an 18,000 majority and it was one of their safest seats that has now fallen to Labour."

The Shadow Chancellor had read the report on child poverty in the North East that was published by the North East Child Poverty Commission (NECP) this morning (February 16).

It revealed that one third of all babies, children and young people in the North East of England are living in poverty.

She said: "I saw the report today. My sister-in-law is a teacher in the North East, I see some of the challenges that exist in terms of tackling child poverty.

"It is deeply concerning and a terrible indictment of this Conservative government.

"14 years and we have so many children who don’t get a decent start in life.

"It’s what motivated me originally to join the Labour party - the commitment the last Labour Government had to education and giving all children from whatever background to give them a good start in life.

"I just feel that has gone backwards these last 14 years.

"We have got kids in larger class sizes, we have kids going to school hungry, we have got concrete in schools that is collapsing and we have just got to do better than this."

She outlines three of Labour's policies which will start to address the problem. 

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