WHILE we wait with bated breath for the European election results and for Theresa May to fall, it is worth casting an eye over the smouldering wreckage of the Labour Party in the Tees Valley.

It went into the local elections a fortnight ago running all five councils but now has outright control of none – Stockton is the only council where Labour clings to power as it is running a minority administration.

Labour lost 46 seats along the valley, with Independents the biggest winners, although many of the Independents, like Middlesbrough’s new directly elected mayor, were once in the Labour fold. Redcar & Cleveland council is now to be run by an Independent and Liberal Democrat coalition, while Hartlepool council is hard for an outsider to fathom: it is to be run by an Independent Union and Conservative and Veterans And People’s Party coalition which has elected the former Labour council leader, who now represents the Socialist Labour Party, to its cabinet.

This makes the shenanigans in Darlington look simple: there were fewer Independent candidates in the town and so the Tories benefited from the swing away from Labour and now run a minority administration.

Labour may, with justification, argue this was a vote against incumbency, due to the public’s disillusionment with the Brexit process, rather than a vote against the party. The Tories couldn’t lose anything in the Tees Valley because they didn’t hold anything and just over the river in Richmondshire where they did hold the council, they lost it to a rainbow coalition.

But this overlooks a trend of the last 20 years where if a viable alternative to Labour emerges, be it an independent policeman or man-in-a-monkey-suit or an independently-minded Conservative mayor, this generation is prepared to vote for it in a way previous generations were not.

SO many column inches and television minutes have been filled this week with people debating the significance of the milkshake in modern political debate and whether the attack on Nigel Farage marked some form of new low.

It doesn’t. Egging a pompous politician – while obviously not to be encouraged – has always gone on. In 1865, Joseph Whitwell Pease was standing to become the South Durham MP and a hustings was held in Darlington – I imagine on the balcony of what is now the old town hall in the covered market complex. The platform was pelted with eggs, soot and fish and Joseph’s five-year-old son Jack, standing beside him in his best light blue suit, was smacked in the face by a flying herring.

The poor boy burst into tears.

Being battered by a fish would have finished lesser men, but Jack rose, like a salmon, to captain Durham County Cricket Club, to become Darlington’s youngest ever mayor, to be the only Pease to reach the Cabinet and, in 1922, to be appointed the first chairman of the new British Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr Farage should man up. There’s no point crying over spilt milkshake.

AT the Belly Giggles comedy club at the weekend, which was part of the Darlington Festival of Arts, a prize was awarded for the worst joke.

It went to Darlington4Culture volunteer Jan Connor: What did Cinderella say when her photos did not arrive on time?

Someday my prints will come!

Her prize was a custard pie in the face, rather than a white milkshake on an expensive dark suit.