UKIP’s first MEP for the region has talked of his party’s ambition to shatter the dominance of long-standing Labour strongholds.
Former maths teacher Jonathan Arnott, who lives in Guisborough, Teesside, said Ukip is now challenging for power in areas across the North East which have traditionally voted Labour for half a century because Labour had lost touch with the working class.
Jonathan said: “At the recent European elections in Redcar, Ukip secured 11,087 votes, compared to Labour’s 8,548. In Stockton, Ukip got 13,862 votes, with Labour on 12,579. And in Middlesbrough, a long-standing Labour stronghold, UKIP gained 8,695 votes, with Labour on 8,429.
“We’ve got to build on those results so that we’re not just seen for our views on the European Union and immigration. Our no tax on the minimum wage policy is going down well in working class areas.
“At the moment, we’re gaining a lot of support in Blyth, Northumberland. Many of our supporters in these areas say they feel abandoned by Labour.”
During the May European elections Labour topped the North East poll with 221,988 votes and Ukip got 177,660.
The Conservative vote dropped by around 10,000 to 107,733 and under the European voting system the result was enough for Martin Callanan, leader of the Conservatives in Europe and a 15-year veteran on the parliament, to lose his seat.
Labour took two of the North East’s three European parliament seats, with one going to UKIP.
But that gain has not been matched elsewhere in the region, with UKIP not holding a single parliamentary seat and only having a handful of councillors.
> And in Tyne & Wear, lets not forget, they lost 50% of their councillors and now have just one.
It is not widely thought that UKIP will be actively targeting sitting North East MPs as it is more likely to concentrate its efforts on other parts of the country.
Mr Arnott said that Prime Minister David Cameron’s failure to block Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming the next president of the European Commission has left the prime minister “outnumbered, humiliated and utterly isolated.”
He said “The whole process is a sham, in so many ways. Whether you got Schultz or Juncker doesn’t matter anyway, virtually no-one in the UK has heard of either of them.
> But perhaps that’s down to the kind of coverage the EU gets in the British media ?
And Britain is not Europe – just a small part of it. The EU’s not just for our benefit.
“The Prime Minister went to war over the appointment of the next commission president but it was a war that he was clearly going to lose.
“There is an increasingly bad relationship between Britain’s leaders and the leaders of many other European countries.”
> Which UKIP would make even worse…
Source – Newcastle Journal, 07 July 2014
Conservatives in Northumberland are demanding an inquiry into how polling cards for last week’s Euro elections were not sent to voters in a county town.
The Tories are angry that cards were not sent to around 400 people in the Kirkhill ward of Morpeth, and also at High Stanners in the town, ahead of last Thursday’s European elections.
They claim they were contacted by people who wrongly believed they could not vote without the cards.
The Tories have claimed the turnout in the ward was just 19% – although the council dispute this figure.
They also say the party has strong support in the area and claim the failure to send out cards could have been crucial given that Tory MEP Martin Callanan lost his seat by 2,500 votes.
> Although 400 missed votes – even assuming that all the people would (a) have voted at all, and (b) would have voted Conservative if they did vote, still doesn’t add up to 2500 votes. Callanan would have lost anyway.
Dave Herne of Morpeth Conservatives, who was the county council candidate for the ward in 2013, said: “The reports that polling cards were not issued are very concerning.
“People in Kirkhill who always vote in elections will have been waiting for the cards wrongly, but not unreasonably assuming that a card is necessary to vote.
“The Conservative team heard from a number of people who thought they could not vote on the day and from the looks of it about 400 or so people may not have exercised their right as a result, perhaps more. We are very keen to understand how and why this happened.
“The Conservative party lost a seat in the European Elections by just 2,500 votes.
“Kirkhill has a history of voting Conservative and with increasing levels of support and the votes lost there would have made the result closer that much is certain.
“I will be writing to Northumberland County Council and taking advice from the Electoral Commission if necessary to help understand what has happened, and where else it happened in Northumberland.
“I would hate to think that the North East has been deprived of a fantastic MEP like Martin Callanan through errors by Northumberland County Council.”
> I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the removal Callanan has actually made the North East just a little bit less deprived.
County councillor for Morpeth North David Bawn added: “I am becoming increasingly alarmed regarding this issue, we know that areas of Morpeth did not receive polling cards prior to the European elections last week, and consequently turnout in those areas was much lower than we would expect.
“Normally Morpeth has a relatively high turnout in elections, but this time the turnout across Morpeth was much lower than the North East region average which is unprecedented, therefore it is clear that this error may have affected the result of what was a very close race in Northumberland.
“This is unacceptable, we need an urgent investigation to establish the extent and the cause of this problem to ensure that it does not happen again.”
A county council spokesman said: “We have been made aware that some electors in the Morpeth area, generally streets between Spelvit Bridge and the River Wansbeck, may not have received poll cards ahead of the European Elections on May 22. These cards were issued to all electors and this is a Royal Mail issue.
“However electors do not need a poll card to vote and as long and as they are registered and eligible they could go along to their polling station at Morpeth Storey Park Community Centre and vote as normal.
“Not all electors in this area were affected and no other polling districts had this issue.”
The council said the turnout at Morpeth Storey Park Community Centre was in fact around 22% in person, not including postal votes – “very similar to everywhere else for a European election.”
Royal Mail spokeswoman Jennifer Bird said: ”Royal Mail has delivered all the poll cards for the Morpeth area that it received from another mail operator working for the council. We take the delivery of polling cards very seriously.
“If further evidence can be provided, we would be happy to investigate the matter further.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 28 May 2014
The full results for the North East:
•Labour Party – 221,988
•UKIP – 177,660
•Conservatives – 107,733
•Liberal Democrats – 36,093
•Green Party – 31,605
•An Independence from Europe – 13,934
•BNP – 10,360
•English Democrats – 9,279
Labour won 2 seats, UKIP finally win something – 1 seat.
Conservatives and Lib Dems both lose 1 seat.
Tory Martin Callanan lost his seat. Callanan, who was also chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, was the only MEP standing for reelection in the region, Labour’s Stephen Hughes and the Lib Dems’ Fiona Hall had both decided to stand down – in Ms Hall’s case probably a very wise decision – The Lib Dem vote collapsed from 103,644 in 2009 to just 31,605.
Newly-elected Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling said: “It is a fantastic night for Labour.
“We have knocked the leader of the Tories out of the European Parliament – an extremely corrosive politician who has upset a lot of people.”
Her new colleague Paul Brannen claimed it was a “major victory for Labour” as they had not just seen off Mr Callanan but “defeated the Liberal Democrats resoundingly”.
Ukip were the big spenders heading into the North East elections, with the party the only of the main four to spend money on billboard advertising in the region. Electoral Commission records also show their winner Jonathan Arnott contributing more than £8,000 of his own funds to the campaign… a sum which no doubt he will now proceed to enthusiastically recoup in expenses.
Turnout for the European elections was 31%, with Middlesbrough’s 24% the lowest and Gateshead’s 35% the highest.