North-East Labour MPs shrug off fears of UKIP surge at general election

Labour MPs in the North-East have shrugged off predictions of a UKIP surge at next year’s general election – insisting their seats are not at serious risk.

The party’s MPs spoke of their confidence despite Labour’s disastrous performance in the Rochester and Strood by-election, where UKIP scored a stunning success.

> But wasn’t the turnout only 50.6% ?  Not so stunning, when the majority of the electorate (those who didn’t vote and those who voted otherwise) did not vote for UKIP.

Of course, the UKIP winner was actually a rat leaving the Tory ship, defending the seat he won under their flag. He got 16,867 votes (42.1%).

At the last election, standing as a Tory, he got 23,604 vote (49.2%). the turnout then was 64.9%. Not such a ringing endorsement of UKIP after all.

On the other hand, the Green Party overtook the Lib Dems and scored their  best result since the 2010 General Election – but the media are so in love with UKIP that they ignored that.

And they denied they were drawing up new strategies to combat the phenomenon of a party once famously ridiculed, by David Cameron, as a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.

Nigel Farage’s party is widely acknowledged to have broadened its appeal beyond being an anti-EU pressure group and can claim to have more working class backing than Labour.

Researchers have suggested some North-East constituencies – Hartlepool, Bishop Auckland, South Shields and Middlesbrough – may be vulnerable to a UKIP surge.

And, at last May’s European elections, the fast-rising party topped the vote in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar and Cleveland.

UKIP has refused to release its target seats in the North-East and Yorkshire, but is widely believed to have identified Hartlepool as its most likely success.

However, Iain Wright, the town’s Labour MP, said: “I think UKIP shout about it, but it’s all talk. I speak to voters all the time and they really don’t mention them.”

 Mr Wright insisted his constituents’ anger was directed at the Government, saying: “The more frequent call is ‘for God’s sake get rid of this lot’.”

That was echoed by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald, who said: “The response I get on the doorstep is overwhelmingly supportive of Labour policies to tackle inequalities head on.”

And Durham North West MP Pat Glass pointed to three county council by-elections in her constituency since last May 2014, all of which Labour had won “convincingly”.

She added: “My view is that, whilst UKIP will take some votes in the North-East, they will not come close to winning any seats.”

Helen Goodman, the Bishop Auckland MP, acknowledged growing concern about the level of immigration, but argued her voters were being won round to Labour’s solutions.

 She predicted: “I certainly don’t think I’m going to lose my seat to UKIP.”

At the 2010 general election, UKIP won only a tiny share of the vote in, for example, Hartlepool (seven per cent) and Bishop Auckland (2.7 per cent) – giving it a mountain to climb.

Indeed, Jonathan Arnott, UKIP’s North-East Euro-MP stopped short of predicting sensational gains for his party in the region next May.

Instead, he said: “At the European elections in May, UKIP won in Redcar and Cleveland, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton.

“UKIP are the only viable challengers to Labour across the North-East and we are expecting a two horse race come next May.”

Source –  Northern Echo, 22 Nov 2014

> Why do the media seem so intent on boosting UKIP ? I’m reminded of this year’s Sunderland City Council elections, in which UKIP’s performance was described in the national media as astounding.

So astounding, in fact, that they won 0 seats.

In fact, across Tyne & Wear as a whole, they suffered a 50% loss (losing one of their two local council seats – they might have lost both, but the other wasn’t up for election this time around). Yet on this evidence we’re told that they’re going to sweep to victory.

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