In the second part of a series looking at the Labour Party’s General Election performance, Tony Kearney speaks to the new MP for North-West Durham, Laura Pidcock

A WEEK after her election victory, Laura Pidcock’s Consett office remains strewn with the paraphernalia of a hard-fought campaign: wooden stakes, a megaphone, assorted posters and Labour leaflets.

The newly-elected MP for North-West Durham has spent seven hectic days in London, whisked away to Westminster the day after the election to begin the process of setting up an office in the capital, searching for accommodation and absorbing Parliamentary regulations and procedure.

Just 14 years ago, she was working in McDonald’s: on Thursday the 29-year-old made her affirmation in the chamber of the House of Commons.

“It’s a ridiculous place,” she says. “Obviously it’s steeped in history and ritual and it is to be admired for that, but it is really opulent: it’s the poshest community centre I have ever been in.

“Sitting in the chamber was like an out-of-body experience. As you walk down the corridor you pass Boris Johnson or Theresa May.

“It is really detached from the society it is supposed to represent. I couldn’t wait to get back home.”

IT is something the Northumberland-born MP is going to have to get used to. Selected to replace the retiring Pat Glass at short notice for the snap election, Ms Pidcock won the seat with a majority of just under 8,800.

A supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and education worker with Show Racism The Red Card, she began the campaign with polls predicting a landslide for Theresa May and some analysts even suggesting she was in danger of losing the Labour stronghold for the first time in the seat’s history.

The evidence on the doorstep, she says, contradicted what the pollsters were saying from the off, but dates Labour’s surge to the publication of the manifestos.

Nevertheless, she was, like the rest of the country, taken aback by the surprise election night exit poll which revealed the country was heading for a hung parliament.

She left her campaign office with her partner just before 10pm. “We decided not to look at the polls: it had been an intense few weeks and we wanted just ten minutes to be oblivious to it all, but we got in the car and couldn’t resist putting the radio on. When the poll came through we began whooping and cheering and I said: ‘You are going to have to pull over because we’re going to crash. This can’t possibly be right’.

“We did know there was a feeling on the doors that things had changed, particularly when the manifestos came out. There is a limit to how many people you can talk to during a campaign, but we knew that if what we were hearing on the doorstep was being replicated across the constituency we were doing alright.

“I have campaigned in quite a few elections and for the first time ever I was hearing Tory voters who were going straight across to Labour.

“I distinctly remember feeling something is going on here. There was a feeling we were a starkly different political party and there was a distinct choice”.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, she found the party’s leadership was not the electoral liability the political pundits predicted it to be.

“They know he won’t lie to them and that’s a massive change,” she says. “Even if someone is a Tory, they know Jeremy Corbyn is an honest guy, which helped. But we also had a fantastic manifesto which offered something to everyone, while the Tories were complacent.

“It feels energetic in our party. There is hope”.

BORN in the former pit village of New Hartley in Northumberland and raised in nearby Seaton Delaval, her parents were Labour activists and she joined the party as a teenager. “I was brought up on anti-apartheid and anti-Poll Tax campaigns. I remember vividly being at a protest in my buggy,” she says. “The Labour Party was the only party for working class people”.

After volunteer work with an HIV/Aids project in both Birmingham and Nigeria, she went to Manchester Metropolitan University to study politics.

On graduation, she became a mental health support worker in Manchester, before coming home to study a masters at Northumbria University and work for Show Racism the Red Card, including designing education courses to help de-radicalise young people under the influence of the far right.

At the age of 25, she was elected to Northumberland County Council and became a regional representative on Labour’s National Policy Forum.

At the time Mrs May called the snap election, she had just been offered a new post with the TUC, which she turned down to fight for the North-West Durham seat.

THEIR revival may have deprived Theresa May of her majority, but ultimately Labour remains out of office. Nevertheless, Ms Pidcock believes the momentum achieved during the campaign will continue and propel the party back to government within the year.

She also believes that, after the divisions which marked the early months of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, there is a post-election unity in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

“There is always going to be tensions within political parties, but we are all completely determined to make sure our communities are not damaged by this Tory and DUP coalition.

“I have spoken to some people who said they were wrong about Jeremy Corbyn. Certainly, the atmosphere has changed and I genuinely believe there is a unity.

“The atmosphere at the PLP was unbelievable, Jeremy got a standing ovation. It was like a love-in”.

She adds: “What Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour MPs represent is what the people are saying.

“People aren’t going to get less angry and that’s what sustains our movement. I am a working class person and I am angry about what is happening.

“Have you ever seen a Tory on a protest? No, because their lives are alright. That anger and that energy will be sustained for as long as there is injustice.

“This government won’t last for five years: I give them four months, a maximum of eight months.

“We won’t give them a second to breathe in Parliament. Nothing that harms our communities will go unchallenged."