Saturday, 1 May 2010

A Look @: Tyne & Wear (Part II)

I've split the metropolitan county of Tyne & Wear in two. This one will focus on Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and North Tyneside and you can find Sunderland and South Tyneside here. Labour won all 13 seats in this metropolitan area in 2005 by the Boundary Commission saw fit to remove a constituency resulting in a complete restructuring of the Parliamentary Boundaries. The confusion has been compounded due to the fact 6 MPs are standing down and a 7th is 'moving' seat. The Liberal Democrats will be looking to make a breakthrough at Parliamentary level in this area but the Conservatives are also eying a gain whilst Labour are down.

Gateshead is a Labour stronghold and they currently run the council with 41 of the 66 seats. The Liberal Democrats hold 24 of the remaining seats with the Liberal party providing other councillor. The 2008 local elections were actually pretty uneventful with only one seat changing hands. Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a different matter though. The Liberal Democrats have been in control of this since 2004 and hold 49 of the 78 seats, with Labour holding the rest. In 2005 the Lib Dems managed 10%+ swings in all three Newcastle seats and they'll be hoping for some big gains on the back of these foundations. Finally, North Tyneside was pulled out of No Overall Control by the Conservatives in 2008 as they won 31 of the 60 seats. They'll be hoping this translates into a Parliamentary gain next week.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed




David Anderson




LD Gain






LAB Hold

Newcastle-u-Tyne E

Nick Brown




LD Gain

Newcastle-u-Tyne C

Jim Cousins




LAB Hold

Newcastle-u-Tyne N

Doug Henderson




LD Gain

Tyneside North

Stephen Byers




LAB Hold


Alan Campbell




CON Gain


Blaydon has been held by Labour since World War II and so they'll be desperately hoping David Anderson hangs on against the advancing Lib Dems. Things look quite positive for Labour here though as Anderson was wasn't implicated in the expenses scandal and should enjoy a first term incumbency boost. However, the Lib Dems won 6 of the 10 wards in this constituency at the 2008 elections and so they appear to be on the up. The comparative performances by the two parties' leaders in the debates may have an affect here as Neil Bradbury attempts to win a historic gain for his party. It's on a knife edge, but the Labour vote in the North East appears to be crumbling. Certain to be close, but I'm swaying towards a Lib Dem gain.

The newly formed Gateshead seat is notionally held by Labour MP Susan Hodgeson but she has followed parts of her old Gateshead East and Washington West constituency into the new Washington and Sunderland West seat. This was because she lost her re-selection battle here with the Tynebridge MP David Celland, whose old seat covered the western wards of this new constituency. The loss of the Tynebridge seat is really the result of the knock on effects stemming from the break up of the Sunderland constituencies. Bizarrely, after securing the candidacy for this very safe seat Celland then announced his decision to stand down in January, resulting in a very late selection. Councillor Ian Mearns won the honour of defending this large majority and he'll cruise to victory next week; Labour Hold.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne is where it really gets interesting in this part of the world. The three seats in this council area could all end up in the hands of the Lib Dems or all stay with Labour. Newcastle-upon-Tyne East has undergone a major boundary change, which adds layers of difficultly to predicting it! It's the only of the three to have its notional incumbent standing. Nick Brown, the Labour Chief Whip, has represented this constituency since 1983, although it was called Newcastle-upon-Tyne East & Wallsend for the last 13 years. The 50% boundary change, which has seen the seat 'move' westward, has reduced the notional majority by around 500 votes. And the 10.5% swing is certainly within the surging Lib Dems reach. They have selected Councillor Wendy Taylor to contest this and she'll be buoyed by the fact her party hold 18 of the 27 council seats in this constituency. If this falls I think it could be the closest we get to a 'Portillo' moment next Thursday. If the Lib Dem's regional swing in the North East holds up I think Brown will be a worried man on Thursday. The £19,000 he claimed on food without receipts won't help his cause either. It'll be tight, but I'm going for a 'surprise' Lib Dem Gain.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central is certainly Labour's best chance of a hold in this city even though their MP since 1987, Jim Cousins, is standing down to spend more time with his family. The boundary commission have been very kind to Labour here having almost doubled their notional majority. Three wards have been added from the old Tyneside seat and three others have been pushed into the new Newcastle East seat. This will help their candidate Chinyelu Onwurah hold off the Lib Dem challenge from Cllr Gareth Kane, who contested Sunderland South in 2005. Labour hold twice as many council seats as the Lib Dems in this constituency and I think they'll have enough to win; Labour Hold.

Before the Clegg bounce Newcastle-upon-Tyne North represented the Lib Dem's best chance of a gain in Newcastle. Doug Henderson had represented this seat for Labour since 1987 but he felt it was time for a 'younger person with more energy' to take over. He should have been more careful with what he wished for as the 40-something Lib Dem candidate Ron Beadle has a great chance of taking this. If Beadle's party have been sensible they should have been focussing on this for a while as they currently hold 23 of the 27 council seats in the constituency. Catherine McKinnell has a tough task on her hands to hold this for Labour. It's easily within reach considering the regional swing for the Lib Dems and with the council base they have I think they'll get this; Lib Dem Gain.

There's better news for Labour in North Tyneside, even
if it's just that Stephen Byers is standing down. Byers never exactly covered himself in glory as a Minister, but in the last year he's managed some impressive low points. He was firstly implicated in the expenses scandal for claiming for a flat owned by his partner. But it's the Cash for Influence scandal earlier this year that has really embarrassed his party. Footage of Byers claiming to be a 'Cab for Hire' was played endlessly on the news cycle making voters, and I imagine Labour party activists, cringe with horror. But, such is the way with FPTP, this seat is unlikely to change hands, despite Byers' best efforts. Councillor Mary Glindon will defend a five figure majority against split opposition. Realistically, both the Conservative candidate Gagan Mohindra and the Lib Dem candidate Cllr David Ord are too far away to mount a serious challenge; Labour Hold.

Tynemouth is very much in the sights of the Conservatives who could certainly do with a foothold in the North. Although the Labour MP Alan Campbell was unscathed by the expenses scandal, a swing of 6% looks very reachable for the Tories. They have former Councillor Wendy Morton contesting her second general election after her unsuccessful attempt in Newcastle Central in 2005. This time she has a very good chance of a seat in Parliament, and the fact her party hold 24 of the 30 council seats in this constituency can only help. Cameron needs this for his coveted majority and I think he'll get it. Well, this seat anyway! Tory Gain.

1 comment:

  1. Great round up Tom, thanks. I'm in Newcastle East and am gunning for a Wendy Taylor victory. BROWN OUT, VOTE WENDY!