Tuesday, May 10, 2016
A strong hold in Dunston Hill and Whickham East
In Gateshead, Dunston Hill and Whickham East has, in recent years, been the most closely fought ward in local elections. We used to hold all 3 seats in the ward but we lost in 2010 and 2011 to Labour by relatively significant majorities. In 2012, our remaining Councillor, Peter Maughan, retained his seat. In 2014 and 2015, Labour clung on. Last year, their majority was just 23, despite the general election turnout. Their candidate, Chris McHugh, replaced a Labour Councillor who no one really noticed had retired from the council.
Last week Peter retained his seat with a majority of 432 and 49% of the vote. It was something of a knockout blow for Labour despite their high hopes of victory and their first place last year. After the verification on Thursday evening, they knew they had lost. Their faces said it all. They also got sight of helpful information they gleaned from us as they quickly glanced over Lib Dem shoulders to look at our calculations.
So where now for Labour in the ward? Up next is Labour Councillor Allison Thompson who will face the voters in May 2018. Her profile in the recent election campaign in the ward was barely noticeable. In Labour's first election leaflet, she got only 3 passing mentions: in the contact details, the ward surgery details, and the imprint. There were no articles about her, unlike her ward colleague Chris who had a big right up about the speech he had given at council on workers rights, "collective action and solidarity" (whatever that is). And whilst Chris is the golden boy of the class war left, Allison did not even merit a photo in the leaflet.
Had Labour forgotten about her? Were they holding her at arms length? Had she forgotten about them? Was she deliberately avoiding the Labour campaign? Who knows? But don't bother trying to check her Twitter account for clues. She has changed the settings so that all her posts are private. Allison is, after all, something of a loose canon on social media. Her attack on our candidate on a local residents' Facebook page last year for not living in the ward was something of a spectacular own goal. Putting aside (as she clearly did) that she lived in my ward for some time while being a Dunston Hill councillor, she claimed that living a mile away from a ward (as Kevin our candidate in 2015 did) was “far enough away not to know what’s going on in the ward." She then went on to say “It’s been highlighted how councillors should live in their wards and I agree with that.”
So the fact Labour's candidate this May lived over a mile from the ward has left an awful lot of egg on her face. Nevertheless, in an attempt to keep up Allison's profile in the ward, we included her comments in one of our election Focuses. She is a useful asset for us!