The Labour Party insists it has changed and will stand up for working people in a direct appeal to County Durham voters who turned against the party in 2019. 

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves visited Bishop Auckland on Wednesday to outline Labour’s plan to support the North East and recoup votes at July’s general election. 

On a visit to engineering firm Teescraft, Ms Reeves vowed to maintain the levelling up agenda, first introduced by the Conservatives, by investing in County Durham communities.

She said: “We understand why voters left Labour and we have now changed, so it’s back in the service of working people including those in Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor.” 

The Northern Echo: Rachel Reeves met staff at Teescraft alongside Sam Rushworth, Labour's candidate for Bishop Auckland, and North East mayor Kim McGuinnessRachel Reeves met staff at Teescraft alongside Sam Rushworth, Labour's candidate for Bishop Auckland, and North East mayor Kim McGuinness (Image: The Northern Echo)

Labour suffered catastrophic loses at the 2019 election, as record numbers of former ‘red wall’ constituencies in the North East were won by the Conservative Party including in Bishop Auckland, Sedgefield and North West Durham. 

But Labour argued County Durham is now worse off because of Tory decisions. 


Ms Reeves said: “We will bring stability back to our economy after the last 14 years of chaos and decline. That will ensure families and businesses can plan for the future with confidence, so they know what their mortgage bill is going to be, and that energy bills and food prices are not going to go through the roof again.”

While Bishop Auckland is one of the few areas in the North East to have benefited from levelling up funding, Ms Reeves vowed to expand its remit across the region. She spoke of a “massive opportunity” for green investment to revitalise former industrial areas and reinvigorate coastal communities. 

“Levelling up is about good jobs and paying decent wages in areas of the country that have been forgotten and left behind for too long,” she said, 

“When Rishi Sunak stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party he boasted that he had taken money out of northern towns and put it into Tunbridge Wells. Just last weekend he diverted funding from the levelling up budget to his teenage dad’s army conscription scheme. This is not a prime minister and government that is serious about levelling up.”

Keeping the Hitachi factory open in Newton Aycliffe is also a fundamental part of Labour’s levelling up ambitions, Ms Reeves added. 

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“We have committed to doing everything in our power to keep the Hitachi factory open.

“We want to keep those good jobs paying decent wages and supporting families. I was very struck by a conversation I had with one of the workers there, he said: ‘I thought when I got this job it would be a job for life.’

“We want future generations to be able to work there, and I’m determined that the factory and its jobs will continue.”