UKIP’s deputy leader has confirmed the party is targeting Northumberland’s Blyth Valley seat.
Nigel Farage’s second-in-command, Paul Nuttall MEP, was in the coastal constituency for the second time in a matter of weeks and said the seat – which is widely regarded as safe Labour territory – is a target for Ukip, while neighbouring Wansbeck was also “of great interest”.
Sitting Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell’s majority has dropped to 6,668 in 2010 from 17,736 in 2001.
The 71-year-old – who is for having a referendum on membership of the European Union – said Ukip was running an “ageist” campaign.
He added this election will be the last time he stands but he was nonetheless confident of a Labour victory.
It comes three months after Ukip opened its North East headquarters off Blyth high street, just a stone’s throw away from Mr Campbell’s office.
“Demographically, it is perfect for Ukip if you look at the people who came over to us at the recent election,” said Paul Nuttall, who is an MEP in the North West.
“We are investing in the constituency and building for the future.
“We are going to put in a very good performance – but it isn’t just about the short-term political gain, this is a long-term target seat.
“With Hartlepool, Blyth sticks out and we did very well in the South Shields by-election too, remember.”
Ukip has remained tight-lipped about its target seats but the MEP could not deny Blyth is now ranked among them.
He could not cite any polling data which says Blyth voters are shunning Labour but confirmed the party will be throwing resources at the campaign there.
“The reports that we hear are very positive, as are the ones we get from Wansbeck,” said Mr Nuttall.
“I’m not going to deny that we are parking our tanks on Labour’s lawn in Blyth. Barry Elliott is a great candidate and he has a good team around him.”
“Ukip has nothing to offer Blyth. We do not have a problem with immigration at all.
“Ukip has talked about being a target for a while. In the North East for them, it is Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, South Shields and us.
“I don’t know why they are targeting me. We are canvassing every day, I was out knocking on doors this morning. I hear that they tell people that I’m too old and that I should retire.
“I have a few years left in me yet. People don’t like ageism. Ageism is just as bad as racism.
“If they can manage to turn over my 6,668 majority then I haven’t done my job for the people of Blyth.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015
George Osborne has confirmed that there will be further massive cuts in the benefits budget, but refuses to say where they will fall, leaving working age claimants the likely target for the worst excesses.
In his budget speech yesterday Osborne confirmed there will be a further cut of £12bn in benefits spending, but gave no further details. Given that pensioners are largely protected, that leaves unemployed, sick and disabled claimants as the only realistic target for big savings.
This morning Osborne told the Today programme:
‘I’m proposing the same pace of cuts as over the last five years.”
“We’ve saved £21 billion in this Parliament and we need £12bn in the next. People can judge me by my track record”.
We know that there are plans to reduce the household benefit cap further and to stop housing benefit for some under 25 year olds. But these measures will be nowhere near enough to meet the proposed level of savings.
This is especially so when you consider that, with out-of-control rents, the housing benefit bill is set to continue to expand.
It certainly is possible to judge Osborne and his fellow ministers by their track record.
Over the last five years we have seen the introduction of the bedroom tax, the replacement of DLA with PIP, the time limiting of ESA, massive increases in sanctions and the destruction of the social fund, to name but a few.
None of these measures were in the Conservative party manifesto. And none of them, it seems, have come close to being harsh enough in Osborne’s view.
Where is there left now to make cuts in the benefits budgets? Where do you think the axe will fall?
Source – Benefits & Work, 19 Mar 2015
The Conservatives appeared to write off their chances in a swathe of North-East constituencies, in a leak on the party’s own website.
Eight seats in the region are described as “non target” for the May general election, suggesting little effort will be put into trying to win them.
Unsurprisingly, the eight include some ultra-safe Labour seats where the Tories are miles behind, including North Durham (12,076 votes), North West Durham (9,773) and Sedgefield (8,696).
In others, the Conservatives were in third place in 2010, so face an even bigger mountain to climb in May, in City of Durham (14,350 votes behind) and Redcar (13,165).
However, the list also includes Darlington, where Labour’s Jenny Chapman finished just 3,388 votes ahead of her Conservative opponent five years ago.
Furthermore, Darlington was a Tory seat until it was lost by Michael Fallon – now the Defence Secretary – at the 1992 general election.
Ms Chapman said: “I am surprised. They need to change their attitude, because this is the kind of high-handed assumption that drives voters away from politics.”
But Peter Cuthbertson, the Conservative candidate in Darlington, said: “I think there’s every chance of victory – I’m picking up enthusiasm for change in Darlington.
“I have seen this list, but I have not had any communication with my party about it, so I don’t know whether it is true.”
Asked what help he was receiving from Conservatives headquarters, Mr Cuthbertson said: “It’s down to local people to muscle their own resources. I’ve got no expectation that they will campaign for me.”
Stockton North is also on the list, although Labour’s majority is only 6,676, as is York Central (6,451), where sitting Labour MP Hugh Bayley is standing down.
Other constituencies are described as “non target” because they have big Tory majorities, including Richmond (23,336) and Thirsk and Malton (11,281).
The blunder occurred when a staff member at Conservative HQ uploaded the photographs of hundreds of Tory candidates, of which 112 were categorised as “non target”.
The mistake was later corrected, but not before the list was recorded by a freelance journalist, who published the information.
Source – Northern Echo, 12 Feb 2015