A County Durham councillor hoping to become an MP has offered Labour’s candidate a free guided tour of the area after controversy over his selection. 

Craig Martin, a councillor at Durham County Council and Liberal Democrat candidate for North Durham, has dusted off his A-to-Z map of County Durham and has invited Luke Akehurst to travel around the constituency with him. 

Mr Akehurst, from Oxford, was announced as Labour’s candidate after former MP Kevan Jones said he would not seek re-election. However, the party has been accused of “disrespecting” residents for selecting a candidate from outside the area

Now, the Liberal Democrats have joined local Green Party members to voice their disapproval of the decision. 

Craig Martin, Liberal Democrat candidate for North Durham, has dusted off his map of County DurhamCraig Martin, Liberal Democrat candidate for North Durham, has dusted off his map of County Durham (Image: Craig Martin)

"While residents will be surprised that the Labour Party couldn't trust any of the local councillors in North Durham to be our MP, I don't want to draw too much attention to the fact Luke Akehurst is from Oxford and has been parachuted into North Durham as a last-minute stitch-up by Labour bosses in London," said Craig, councillor for North Lodge near Chester-le-Street. 

He added: “I'm delighted that part of our success in boosting visitor numbers and our tourist economy means that visitors like Luke Akehurst are keen to see our county.

"I realise he's more familiar with North Oxford than North Durham, but I will do everything possible to ensure he'll enjoy his holiday here. A Lib Dem councillor for North Oxford has started advertising my guided tours to any other Oxford residents who fancy one.”

The North Durham constituency is expanding with the addition of Lanchester from the North West Durham seat, which will be abolished.

Mr Martin added: "I am very keen to show Luke some of the local heritage and explain the issues concerning residents, as I appreciate he won't have a clue about this part of the world."

"I am sure he will enjoy seeing Ankers House, Beamish Museum, and the Causey Arch. 

"I will be happy to take Luke out for lunch to try pease pudding, as I think everyone should give pease pudding a chance."

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Speaking as he launched his campaign to become Labour MP for North Durham, Mr Akehurst said: “I want to make North Durham the centre of my political life, in fact, the centre of my whole life. Communities like Stanley, Chester-le-Street, and the villages here desperately need a Labour Party that is common sense and can win elections. 

“I am absolutely passionate about making sure people in Chester-le-Street, Stanley, and the villages in the constituency have an optimistic future, have the best lives for their kids, and aren’t faced with difficult choices but have the best life they possibly can.”