Not a single Liberal Democrat candidate will be standing at next month’s local elections in South Tyneside.
The Lib Dems’ no-show at the ballot box, the first in a generation, comes amid fears by one of its former representatives that its brand is now “toxic on the doorstep”.
Until just a few years ago, the party’s candidates at Parliamentary elections in the borough were the natural opposition to Labour.
In South Shields at the 2005 general election, Lib Dem Stephen Psallidas finished second to then-Labour MP David Miliband with almost 6,000 votes, 19.7 per cent of the total cast.
In local elections around the same time, the party, led by Nick Clegg since 2007, could usually guarantee a handful of seats, particularly in the Hebburn North ward.
At one time, it held all three seats for Hebburn North.
However, since the 2010 general election, the party’s fortunes have declined dramatically in the borough.
At the 2013 Parliamentary by-election in South Shields, its candidate, Hugh Annand, lost his deposit, receiving just 352 votes, just 1.4 per cent of the vote, and only narrowly avoiding the ignominy of being defeated by the Raving Monster Loony Party’s contender.
Now, not a single Lib Dem is to contest the local elections in South Tyneside on Thursday, May 7.
The party’s absence from the political scene in South Tyneside comes as no surprise to Joe Abbott, formerly a Lib Dem councillor for Hebburn North.
He said: “It’s something of a shame, but I’m not surprised no-one is standing from the party.
“The reality is that the Lib Dem brand is toxic on the doorstep.
“It all dates back to the party getting into bed with the Tories.”
Mr Abbott is standing as an independent in Hebburn North next month.
He was the Lib Dems’ last councillor in South Tyneside until he quit the party in disgust over its decision to form a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives in 2010 and back his austerity measures.
He stood as an independent at 2012’s elections but lost out to Labour’s Mary Butler.
Meanwhile, the far-right British National Party (BNP) is not putting forward any candidates at May’s Local Elections either.
The party has targeted several ward seats in the borough over recent years, but it isn’t throwing its hat into the ring this time round.
At 2012’s local elections, it contested eight of the 18 South Tyneside Council ward seats up for grabs.
Source – Shields Gazette, 15 Apr 2015
A defector from Labour to the Greens in South Tyneside is to challenge the man who took his job at May’s Local Elections.
Matthew Giles, 24, was formerly the youth officer for Jarrow Constituency Labour Party, but he lost a ballot last September to Adam Ellison, who has now taken over the role.
Now Mr Giles has left Labour and will stand for the Green Party against Mr Ellison in Hebburn North on Thursday, May 7.
The recording studio sound engineer, of Mill Crescent, Hebburn, joined the Labour Party four years ago but believes his anti-war and anti-austerity views have in recent months put him at odds with the local party.
Despite his departure from Labour, he has pledged to “run a positive campaign with no sniping”.
“I don’t think my views fitted with the party. I was offered the chance to be a Labour candidate in Westerhope, in Newcastle, but I wanted to represent the place where I lived, but I couldn’t get considered by the party locally.
“I felt I was being prevented from going further because of my views and my refusal to toe the line.”
Since joining the Greens at the end of last year, Mr Giles said he had found the party “a perfect fit”.
“It’s been an incredibly positive experience, and the people involved with the party locally are really enthusiastic.
“On the doorstep we have heard from people wanting to vote Green but have been unable to because of a lack of candidates. They end up voting Labour as the lesser of two evils.
“I’m planning to run a positive campaign, with no sniping. We’re under no illusions we are going to win everywhere but it’s about building up our base and giving people the chance to vote Green in every ward.”
Meanwhile, in his role with the Tyneside branch of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Mr Giles is helping organise a rally in Newcastle on Saturday against Pegida, the anti-Muslim organisation.
It is to be attended by campaigning comedian Russell Brand and controversial MP George Galloway.
Wilf Flynn, secretary of Jarrow Constituency Labour Party, said he felt Mr Giles was “jumping onto the Green bandwagon”.
“I can’t accept that Matthew wasn’t given a chance with the Labour Party, he was on our Local Government Panel and he could have stood against Adam when he beat Ian Harkus in Labour North.
“I find it strange that Matthew is not standing in the ward where he lives – Hebburn South.
“Perhaps he didn’t feel he could take on Eddie McAtominey.
“He was our youth officer and then lost the next time on a ballot to Adam. Matthew knows his own mind but I feel he’s jumped on the Green bandwagon.
“I don’t have a crystal ball but I don’t foresee a wedge of Green MPs after the next election – but every vote taken away from Labour will make it more likely that Cameron gets a majority.
“I know Matthew wouldn’t want that.”
> I do dislike this constant emotional blackmail – if you don’t vote for us its a vote for the Tories – that Labour seem to be constantly indulging in.
The fact is, quite a few people who did vote Labour did so simply because there was no viable left wing alternative, and they wouldn’t touch Ukip with a bargepole.
The Greens have evidently filled that vacuum and now provide an alternative for those who see Labour as virtually identical to the Tories – Matthew Giles’ comments about his anti-war and anti-austerity views not fitting in are probably quite widespread among the new Green supporters.
Source – Shields Gazette, 24 Feb 2015