Durham is a solidly Labour country and, despite their current drop in support, this isn't going to change very soon. They hold all six Parliamentary seats in the newly former unitary authority of Durham as well as the one seat in Darlington (a separate unitary authority). Only one of these seats is under serious threat. Labour also won 67 of the 126 seats on the council in the 2008 elections. Their main opponents at local and Parliamentary level are the Liberal Democrats who form the second largest group with 27 councillors. (nb. Hartlepool and Stockton will be discussed in a later post)
Durham, City of
Easington has been held by Labour since its creation in 1950 and has been represented by only three MPs since. John Cummings was first elected in 1987 but he is standing down at this election. This seat is the second safest in the country and Grahame Morris is the lucky Labour candidate who, quite frankly, can't lose; Labour Hold.
Roberta Blackman-Woods is the unfortunate Labour MP with the massive target on her back. Her City of Durham seat is well within the reach of the Liberal Democrats who will be desperate to take it off her hands. She is finishing her first term in a seat Labour have held since World War II but she has a tough task to hold it this year. Her Lib Dem challenger is the same Carol Woods who has reduced Labour's majority in this seat from 40% to just 7.4% in two elections. Also, many of the Lib Dem's councillors were elected from wards in this constituency. But accusations of a smear campaign by the Lib Dems may help Blackman-Woods in her bid for re-election. I don't think this will be enough to negate the regional Lab>LD swing though, but this could be very close. I'm going for a historic Lib Dem Gain.
North Durham has been Labour's since the seat's its creation in 1983. Kevan Jones is seeking his third term in Parliament and with such a large majority it's difficult to see him losing; Labour Hold.
Since its creation in 1950 the North West Durham seat has held by Labour. Hillary Armstrong has been the MP here since 1987 but the former Chief Whip is standing down at the age of 65. This leaves Pat Glass with job of defending this very safe seat for Labour. She should do it with ease; Labour Hold.
Bishop Auckland is another seat Labour have comfortably held since World War II. Helen Goodman is seeking re-election after her first term in Parliament but she hasn't made things easy for herself. Goodman was implicated in the Telegraph over her expenses, which included renting a holiday cottage in her constituency (in Euros) and trying to make a claim for a hotel she stayed in before she was elected. Fortunately for her she has a big majority and a split opposition. It's not clear who out of the Conservative candidate Barbra Harrison or the Lib Dem Mark Wilkes, both Durham councillors, is best place to challenge her. Should be a Labour Hold.
Darlington has a unitary authority of its own which covers the Darlington Parliamentary constituency and parts or Sedgefield. The council is currently controlled by Labour, although they lost 5 seats in the 2007 elections. They have also lost their MP, Alan Milburn, who won this seat off the Conservative incumbent in 1992. The former Health Secretary cited his family as the main reason for standing down, which echoed his decision to resign as a minister in 2003. Councillor Jenny Chapman will be Labour's candidate defending Milburn's big majority. Although their may have been a significant personal vote for Milburn, I don't think the Conservative candidate Edward Legard will be able to make this competitive; Labour Hold.
It would be a symbolic moment for New Labour if Tony Blair's old seat Sedgefield fell next week. Unfortunately for the other parties this is very unlikely to happen. Phil Wilson comfortable held this in the by-election triggered when Blair left to become an envoy to the Middle East. He'll comfortable hold again at the General Election; Labour Hold.