A Labour candidate in the region has broken ranks by pledging to vote against the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent.
Party leader Ed Miliband has insisted he would retain the submarine-based weapons system, because Britain faces an “uncertain and unstable world”.
And he has rejected demands from the Scottish Nationalists who say it is not the best way “to spend £100bn” – the possible total cost of replacing the deterrent.
But Grahame Morris, in Easington, is among around 50 Labour candidates who have made clear their opposition in statements on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament website.
Mr Morris wrote:
“Replacing Trident will undermine the UK’s moral authority when seeking to restrict nuclear proliferation by other countries.
“We must adapt to meet the new security challenges of the 21st Century, such as climate change, pandemics, organised crime, cyber warfare and terrorism.
“In a time of austerity, when the Government are making damaging cuts to our armed forces, we cannot justify spending in excess of £100bn on a new Trident system that will do nothing to improve the security or defence of the UK.”
The stance puts Mr Morris strongly at odds with Kevan Jones, the North Durham candidate and defence spokesman, who recently said of Trident :
“It is party policy, it has gone through rigorous policy review, it was endorsed at conference last year, and that is the policy.
“We’re in favour of a minimum credible nuclear deterrent based on a continuous-at-sea deterrent.”
The Conservatives have been criticised by senior military figures for making Trident an election issue, after the Defence Secretary suggested Mr Miliband was ready to “stab the UK in the back”, to get into No.10.
The victory means Gerry Keating, returns to Newcastle City Council two years after not standing in Blakelaw following 26 years as a councillor.
The by-election took place on Thursday due to the resignation of Peter Andras in July, who took up a teaching post at Keele University.
Cllr Keating, who registered 711 votes, said he had expected second place Labour candidate Peter Smith (320 votes) to run him closer but said communal bins plans from the authority’s Labour leadership helped his cause.
The former Royal Grammar School teacher explained: “There was a real swing in my favour over the last two weeks, which meant it went from being a two-horse race to a comfortable hold.
“It is difficult to be sure what exactly happened and how Labour managed to lose out on many of the votes it was expected to get, but I think it partly came down to the Labour council’s plans for communal bins which is not popular in Jesmond, as well as us being much better organised.
“What is clear is that West Jesmond does not want a Labour candidate.”
Labour’s cabinet is pushing for the scheme – in which wheelie bins six times bigger than normal ones are placed in back alleys behind properties and shared by residents instead of having individual ones – to enter wards neighbouring South Jesmond following a pilot scheme in early 2013.
Cllr Keating added: “I will bring a lot of experience to the role, and can ferret around in the nooks and crannies of local government.
“I have been out of the council for a couple of years but have been rejuvenated by the break and am up for it. When I became aware a seat was available in the ward where I live, I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity.”
The Lib Dem, who admitted he benefitted from the absence of students during Thursday’s ballot, said improvements to transport, particularly Acorn Road, was a priority, alongside the communal bin issue.
The by-election reflected a swing of 13.6 per cent from Labour to the Lib Dems since May when the latter party won by only 32 votes.
Conservative Duncan Crute received 117 votes,
UKIP’s Daniel Thompson scored 112 and
Shehla Naqvi of the Green Party took 94.
The current composition of Newcastle City Council is Labour 52, Lib Dem 24 and Independent 2.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Aug 2014