BACK at the 1992 General Election, Labour’s Hilary Armstrong comfortably held North-West Durham with a majority of just under 14,000 ahead of the novice Conservative candidate.

At that election, Labour took 57.8 per cent share of the vote, well ahead of a debutante Tory named Theresa May, fighting her first Parliamentary seat, and an equally inexperienced Lib Dem named Tim Farron.

The defeated candidates went on to bigger things, but Labour’s grip on the constituency where they made their General Election debuts remains unchanged.

In 2015, Labour held North-West Durham by a margin of just over 10,000 votes on a 46.9 per cent share of the vote, ahead of the Conservatives in second place and Ukip in third.

While it remains unlikely that Labour will lose the seat, it is no longer unthinkable.

North West Durham is a sprawling and diverse constituency, based around the former steel town of Consett and market town of Crook, along with other settlements including Willington, Tow Law, Lanchester and Stanhope and swathes of countryside reaching deep into Weardale.

They include former mining villages and farming communities, relatively affluent commuter estates and relatively deprived housing estates, with a corresponding variety of concerns.

At last year’s referendum, there was a 56 per cent vote for Brexit and last month’s council elections saw independent candidates gaining a couple of seats from Labour in Crook, having previously won a sizeable representation in Consett and Weardale.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Laura Pidcock, Labour Party

Fighting the seat for Labour this time is Laura Pidcock, a 29-year-old anti-racism campaigner and former councillor from Cramlington, who was selected for the snap General Election at short notice following the retirement of Pat Glass.

She says the party’s message is going down well on the doorstep: with older voters concerned over Conservative plans to abandon the triple lock protection for pensions and universal Winter Fuel Allowance; concerns over future education funding cuts which, she claims, will cost Consett’s newly-opened academy school around £720,000 a year, and the insecurities faced by low-paid workers.

Ms Pidcock said: “The campaign was going well to begin with, but there was a real sea change when the manifestos came out.

“There has been a massive amount of positivity on the doorstep around ours and there is a stark contrast between the Conservative offer and Labour’s offer - voters see the Tory manifesto as completely inept and un-costed.”

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Sally-Ann Hart, Conservative Party

If Labour is to lose its long-held grip on North-West Durham, the most likely challenger appears to be the Conservatives, who came second last time with 23.4 per cent of the vote.

Candidate Sally-Ann Hart, a Sussex councillor originally from Riding Mill in Northumberland, said voters in the constituency were fed up with being ignored and that she would push for more investment and job opportunities in the region, through the Northern Powerhouse.

But she said the issue which kept coming up was Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.

She said: “I have spoken to so many people on the doorstep, decent, hard-working family-orientated traditional Labour voters who just can’t vote for a left wing person promoting policies which they feel are just not sustainable.

“He does not represent the majority of the Labour Party.

“I genuinely believe we’re going to win here. I think people are ready for change.”

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Owen Temple, Liberal Democrats

Lib Dem candidate Owen Temple, a high-profile councillor from Consett, is standing in the constituency for the third time.

In 2010, he came second and cut the Labour majority to a record low of 7,600, only to see his vote evaporate at the post-Coalition election in 2015 when the party trailed in fourth.

This time around, he says he is confident of an improved result, picking up votes from those who sided with Remain in the referendum and Labour voters disillusioned with the current leadership.

He said: “I meet it on the doorstep all the time: Labour supporters either love Jeremy Corbyn or loathe him.

“Labour voters are having a very difficult time: they have fallen out of love with the Labour Party, but they aren’t ready to vote Conservative”.

The Northern Echo:


Ukip came a solid third in 2015 with 17 per cent of the vote and will hope to maintain the momentum from the constituency’s decisive Leave vote in the referendum.

Candidate Alan Breeze said: “Our overriding concern at this point is to ensure that we are not as a nation sold short in the Brexit negotiations, because it is very clear that the major parties just cannot be trusted to deliver the exit from the EU that the majority of North West Durham voted for."

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Dominic Horsman, Green Party

Realistically, the Green Party’s first objective will be to save their deposit, having won 3.7 per cent of the vote at the last election.

Candidate Dominic Horsman, a transgender university academic standing for the first time, says last month’s vote for independent candidates in the local elections is evidence of a desire for change.

He said: “The big issue on the doorstep is a real desire for a functioning local democracy.

“The chorus that comes up is 30 years of broken promises, you can see the desire for people to take charge of their own lives and own decision-making.”

Northern Echo political commentator Chris Lloyd says...

AT the start of the campaign a long four weeks ago, with the Tories soaring 20 points ahead in the polls, Labour was genuinely concerned that Durham North West could be one of the most sensational seats – number 118 on the Tory target list – to fall.

But four weeks is a long time in politics, and the Tory lead has dipped. Theresa May has appeared lukewarm on TV whereas Jeremy Corbyn has not quite looked like the ogre that some in the media had made out.

All this is important in Durham North West where Labour MP Pat Glass has stood down. She rather messily resigned from Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet as shadow education secretary, but her successor, Laura Pidcock, a fiery speaker with a broad north Newcastle accent, is from the Corbyn wing of the party. It was noticeable yesterday that he hopped from Middlesbrough South to Consett, avoiding the softer seats in south Durham, as if he were picking the most loyal candidates.

Only an immense Tory landslide will win the seat where Theresa May cut her teeth in 1992. That might have been on the cards four weeks ago, but it is unlikely now.

In 2015...

Electorate: 69,187
Turnout: 61.33%

Pat Glass (Lab) 20,074
Charlotte Haitham-Taylor (Con) 10,018
Bruce Reid (UKIP) 7,265
Owen Temple (Lib Dem) 3,894
Mark Shilock (Green) 1,567

Labour majority: 10,056