EUROPEAN Research Group deputy chairman Mark Francois, who was in the region yesterday to throw his weight behind the Tory candidate for Houghton and Sunderland South, said he found it was 'even stevens' on the doors in the traditionally Labour constituency.

Lending his support to Tory candidate Christopher Howarth, Mr Francois said: “We have just been in the rain for the best part of an hour so I'm officially a Wet tory tonight, which I am not normally accused of.

“It was was quite a mixture on the doors in the Sandhill ward, which I am told is traditionally a Labour area. We were coming out even stevens, which we were pretty pleased about."

He added: "Unfortunately quite a lot of people said they weren’t voting at all, which is a bit disappointing. So I am just sensing that in that one ward you are not looking at a very high turnout.

"But among those who did say they were going to vote we were about neck and neck. Realistically I would say Chris would have a fighting chance."

Mr Francois said the Brexit Party would be the unknown element.

"If they were take a number of Labour votes, it is perfectly possible that Chris would come through the middle."