THE Stockton South constituency is notoriously fickle. It has swung back and forth between Labour and Conservative for three decades after first being held by the SDP after the seat was formed in 1983.

And during the last Parliamentary term it was unique in the North-East as it was the only seat in the region to be held by a Conservative, James Wharton.

Before 2010 Labour MP Dari Taylor had enjoyed healthy majorities since 1997, and even when she lost, it was by only 300 votes to Mr Wharton.

But in 2015 Mr Wharton secured his position with a majority of more than 5,000 over Labour, and was rewarded with a junior minister position in David Cameron’s government.

The constituency takes in what some would call the “leafier” parts of Stockton, including Elm Tree, Bishopsgarth, Hartburn, and Fairfield. It also encompasses the rapidly growing towns of Ingleby Barwick, Yarm and Eaglescliffe, as well as Thornaby.

Thousands of homes are being built in Yarm and Ingleby Barwick and these high-value homes could bolster the Conservative vote in the constituency in years to come.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: James Wharton, Conservative Party

Conservative candidate Mr Wharton, a former corporate law solicitor, is a former pupil of independent Yarm School and was chairman of the Stockton Conservative Party aged 18.

During his time as MP he backed a campaign for a free school in Ingleby Barwick and also backed a campaign to stop the relocation of Ian Ramsey School in Stockton.

He was against building a new “super hospital” at Wynyard to replace the University Hospitals of North Tees and Hartlepool.

Despite being branded a “clown” by Steve Gibson in 2015 over his lack of action on the Redcar steelworks closure, the Middlesbrough FC chairman has since had a change of heart and supported Mr Wharton in sending out a letter saying he supported him in this election.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Paul Williams, Labour Party

His main rival for the seat is Labour candidate, GP and father-of-two Paul Williams, who worked in the children’s ward and in accident and emergency at North Tees during his training.

Between 2002 and 2006 he ran an NHS service for refugees in Stockton and after that for four years he worked in Uganda, treating patients with HIV and malnutrition as well as helping to rapidly grow the hospital.

He led the local Clinical Commissioning Group in Stockton and is now a GP at Woodbridge practice in Thornaby and Ingleby Barwick, after setting up and now leading a federation of all 34 GP practices.

Dr Williams says he is a strong believer in education, and as the first person from his East Anglian comprehensive school to study medicine, wants everyone from any background to have the same opportunities as him. He feels strongly about the NHS and is concerned about proposals to change North Tees Hospital.

“I want to make sure that the people of Stockton South and their interests are represented properly,” he said.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: David Outterside, UKIP

Ukip’s candidate in 2010 came in third place, ahead of the Liberal Democrats, and this time round Paul Nuttall’s representative in Stockton South is David Outterside, a barrister originally from the Stockton area, who prosecutes and defends serious violent and sexual offences, and also deals with large fraud and dishonesty cases. He describes himself as a “patriot” who supports not only Brexit but also an English Parliament. He is against Britain being involved in foreign wars.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Drew Dunning, Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat candidate Drew Durning, who is originally from St Albans but now lives in Teesside, was a marketing director for several large hospitality businesses and then managing director of an advertising agency before setting up his own online organic business.

He first stood for Parliament in 2015 and campaigned for the Remain campaign, now saying he supports remainers and those Brexiteers who did not want an “extreme version” of Brexit. He says he is committed to green issues.

Mr Dunning said he was concerned that changes to healthcare were being used just to make cuts rather than efficiencies, and said the Lib Dems 1p on tax would raise an extra £28m for health and social care in the Stockton area.

He said his party would invest £29m more in schools and colleges in Stockton over the next parliament, including protecting funding-per-pupil, and that he was against a “damaging” hard Brexit and wants the UK to remain in the single market and customs union.

The Northern Echo:

CANDIDATE: Jo Fitzgerald, Green Party

Green Party candidate Jo Fitzgerald is a self-employed business and accounting consultant, a single parent who is an active Green Party campaigner in the region. She said she had been politically motivated since the Greenham Common peace camp, which campaigned against cruise missiles being based there. She said: “The Green Party is the only party I have been a member of and this is primarily due to its complete commitment to protecting and conserving our environmental living standards, our air quality, and our ability to co-exist harmoniously on the planet.”

Northern Echo political commentator Chris Lloyd says...

PERHAPS the only interesting thing to say about Stockton South is, for the first time in decades, it is not that interesting.

In past elections, it was the top seat for local interest as all three major parties had a chance – in 1987, the Tories, the SDP/Liberal alliance and Labour were within 2,000 votes of each other.

That was because it straddles the Tees where the great tectonic plates of Conservative North Yorkshire and Labour County Durham rub up against one another.

In 2010, the Conservatives’ James Wharton stole the seat from Labour by just 332 – the 19th smallest majority in the country.

In 2015, it should have been tight. The Conservatives nationally only increased their share of the vote by 0.8 per cent, but Mr Wharton, who has a uniquely vigorous style of campaigning, increased his by 7.8 per cent.

His espousal of an EU referendum shot the local Ukip fox and it now places him nicely to scoop up the remaining ‘kippers, especially as the political geography has shifted in his favour.

He appears to be facing the strongest array of candidates anywhere in the area, which is quite interesting.