The Green Party candidate for a County Durham constituency has told residents he will be the voice for local people amid controversy over Labour’s selection. 

Sunny Moon-Schott, candidate for North Durham, was supported by former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett as he launched his campaign in Chester-le-Street. 

Baroness Bennett accused the Labour Party of “disrespecting” residents for selecting a candidate from outside the area. Last week, the party revealed Luke Akehurst as its candidate for the County Durham seat after former MP Kevan Jones said he would not seek re-election. 

In a direct appeal to people in North Durham, which includes Chester-le-Street and Stanley, Baroness Bennett declared: “We have a candidate who lives in the area, is a parish councillor, and as an MP would be a representative for the area.”

The Green Party says it hopes to capitalise on apparent local dissatisfaction with Akehurst’s selection as a Labour candidate. 

“The Tories are toast and Lib Dems are nowhere here,” added Baroness Bennett. “Labour has chosen someone who lives in Oxfordshire, has been a Hackney councillor, has previously stood in Essex and Hampshire, and is parachuting in with no links to here. Can people think they will be represented in Westminster? 

“We’re offering a genuine local representative for North Durham in Westminster. The alternative is not having a voice.”

Sunny Moon-Schott, a parish councillor in Shincliffe, vowed to listen to residents’ concerns. 

He said: “People deserve to have the opportunity to have more of an impact on the decisions that affect their lives. The only way to involve people is to ask them and it’s the most important part of maintaining a healthy democracy. 

“I can’t speak for everyone’s needs and wants but I will talk to people and find ways to support them.”

The number of elected Green councillors in the North East increased at May’s local elections and the party says that success can be replicated at July’s general election. 

Baroness Bennett said: “There’s a huge dissatisfaction with Labour in what they’re offering and the Tories are toast. People are saying ‘We want something different’. 

“There’s a huge desire for a different kind of politics, an utter dissatisfaction with the mainstream. 

“Labour has disrespected the people of North Durham. We have seen evidence they are angry and upset and are looking for an alternative. The Green Party is the fast, rising force in British politics.”

Speaking after his selection, Luke Akehurst, Labour’s candidate for North Durham said: “It is truly an honour to be selected to stand for the Labour Party in North Durham. I’d like to pay tribute and give my thanks to Kevan Jones, who has been an inspiration to so many of us in his over two decades in Parliament.

“This election is the chance to deliver change for people across North Durham. Keir Starmer has changed the Labour Party and I am proud to have played a part in making those changes, now we have a plan to change our communities and our country.”

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The general election will take place on Thursday, July 4. 

North Durham candidates announced so far: 

Independent - David Lindsay

SDP - Tom Chittenden

Reform UK - Andrew Husband

Green - Sunny Moon-Schott

Conservative - TBA

Liberal Democrats - Craig Martin 

Labour - Luke Akehurst