Will Middlesbrough stay loyal to Labour in by-election?

Middlesbrough's Transporter Bridge Labour MPs have represented Middlesbrough since 1974

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Like many parts of the North East, Middlesbrough has remained loyal to Labour through thick and thin.

Since the current parliamentary seat was reinstated in 1974, Labour has won every election with some degree of comfort.

They're certainly the strong favourites to win again in the by-election on 29 November.

But that does not mean there aren't issues for Labour to face up to in the town.

Massive majority

A study of recent voting figures makes worrying reading for the party.

In 1997, Labour won 70% of votes in the town, piling up a massive 25,000 majority.

The decline since then has been marked, and in 2010, that vote had fallen to 45% and the majority to 8,700.

That's the lowest Labour majority in 40 years, thinner even than Labour's horror election of 1983. In all 17,000 voters have drifted away from Labour in 13 years.

Sir Stuart Bell Middlesbrough's late MP Sir Stuart Bell faced criticism in his final years

Some of that may mirror national trends, but the party has also been accused of complacency.

The by-election has been caused by the death of sitting MP Sir Stuart Bell.

Although plenty of people have paid tribute to his work in the town, it's fair to say he copped a fair bit of flak in his final years.

At one point, some were even asking if he was Britain's laziest MP.

Sir Stuart strongly denied that accusation, but I understand it has been an issue that has come up on the doorsteps.

'Something different'

And the opposition parties are keen to capitalise on those sentiments.

The Liberal Democrat candidate George Selmer believes the town has fallen out of love with Labour.

He said: "Most of the people I speak to on the doorstep are crying out for something different.

"They are not sure what that is because I feel what the town has actually lacked is a credible challenger who will hold the Labour party to account. Now I'm offering that in this election."

Conservative Ben Houchen is also picking up on hostility to Labour.

Ray Mallon Middlesbrough's mayor Ray Mallon has blamed the coalition for £11 million of cuts

He said: "The primary question I'm asking is what has Labour done for Middlesbrough because in my opinion there has been little or no investment in the area.

"They turn up at the election, and then disappear for five years, then turn up again and think they can win. I am here to say that does not have to be the case. Middlesbrough can do better."

There is a problem though for both the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

Middlesbrough has been hit hard by spending cuts. The council is currently consulting on 111 cuts worth £11m affecting everything from libraries to the town centre CCTV system.

The town's mayor Ray Mallon has blamed the coalition parties - and Labour says there are plenty of voters who agree.

There is another threat though - newer challengers like UKIP and the BNP.

UKIP candidate Richard Elvin said: "The North East has always been such a strong Labour area that for political reasons people can't bring themselves to vote Conservative.

"But a lot of people are beginning to realise that UKIP represents the interests of the ordinary working person better than New Labour."

And the BNP's Peter Foreman said: "There's nothing in parliament that's going to fight on behalf of these people. They do not care, all they care about is big business, not building factories and making stuff again."

Safe territory

Labour is facing plenty of hostile fire then. But the party believes the impact of coalition policies on Middlesbrough are a bigger issue for voters.

Middlesbrough by-election candidates Some of the by-election candidates prepare for a debate but who'll be the next MP?

When I joined their candidate Andy McDonald he was knocking on doors.

As he was canvassing the street in Middlesbrough where he was born, it was probably safe territory.

But one woman told him that even if he hanged the people of the estate, she'd always vote Labour.

And it does seem likely that Middlesbrough will return another Labour MP next week.

But Andy McDonald says he is not taking that for granted.

He said: "What I am telling people on the doorstep is that I'm absolutely committed to open an office in Middlesbrough, I will have surgeries, and I will be totally accessible.

"An MP and a party should work hard to serve the people who elect them and I will never take that for granted.

"But the message I am getting from people is that they are suffering under this Tory-led government."

Low turnout

There is one other danger for Labour though - the potential for low turnout.

X Factor poster in Middlesbrough shopping centre The campaign for an X Factor contender seems to have a higher profile than the by-election

Middlesbrough's turnout has hovered around the 50% mark at the last two general elections.

With turnout dipping as low as 18% in recent by-elections, the likelihood is that it'll also be low in Middlesbrough.

There are plenty of distractions at this time of year - and actually the most prominent campaign in the town seems to be for its X Factor hopeful James Arthur.

Even if Labour wins in the town, it will have to work hard to convince people that an MP can make a difference to their lives.

The full list of candidates standing in Middlesbrough is:

Richard Elvin, UKIP

Peter Foreman, BNP

Mark Heslehurst, Independent

Ben Houchen, Conservative

Imdad Hussain, The Peace Party

John Malcolm, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Andy McDonald, Labour

George Selmer, Liberal Democrat

Richard Moss, Political editor, North East & Cumbria Article written by Richard Moss Richard Moss Political editor, North East & Cumbria

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  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Lots of comment but where is the basic facts of the election result?

    The article should have published the full results, ie votes by candidate, lost deposits, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    There should be some kind of qualification to vote.It could be property or record of employment.People who have been on benefits for a long time should not be allowed to vote;they haven't earned that right.Giving welfare dependents the chance to vote for a Party that represents their interests at the expense of hard working people only brings the Town down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Why isn;'t Tory Boy the movie star John Walsh running?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Whilst some cuts are inevitable they should be made by a government which isnt out of touch with the vast majority of working people. I hope Andy McDonald gets in as he deserves the chance to fight for the people of Middlesbrough and ensure that their rights are not taken away by the current ConDem government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    these people will always vote labour.this party will pay for the life these people want and say its our fault ...all welfare should be payed in thr foam of stamps

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    From the article...

    'But one woman told him that even if he hanged the people of the estate, she'd always vote Labour.'

    How profoundly depressing. Even after Labour destroyed the economy there were still 28% of voters with the same mentality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Labour's days are over. Time for a proper opposition party in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I would urge the people of Middlesbrough to get out and vote in their droves, as it is their only chance, for the next two and a half years, to tell the Labour Party exactly what they think about its opportunistic lies, its lack of policies, and its fiscal ineptitude. About time someone did. Labour is the North's grim ark past. Leave it behind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Too many people vote Labour because their father did and his father did - without even realising that the Labour Party today is a former shadow of the party their forefathers voted for.

    What did ten years of Blair do for Middlesbrough?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    No13 magnificent.
    'No obligation .. MP to attend Hof C'
    Are you aware that since the Bullingdon Louts seized the Tory party machine our backbenches are infested with 'investment bankers'.
    Seeing the empty benches is it reasonable to assume they are working in the 'City', lining their own pockets and betraying their constituents?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    You have to ask yourself why Middlesbrough is deemed a safe Labour seat.

    Presumably because the electorate has seen what misery the Conservatives brought upon the town. Year in, year out.

    Spivs are not suffered gladly.

    An offside protest vote is possible.
    But only if the media, 4th estate, start meddling.
    And of course it is votes that count.
    How many will actually vote?
    Protest vote, stay in??

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    #1 actually there is no legal obligation for an MP to have an office in the constituency, hold surgeries, employ staff or even respond to case work though of course many do.

    Also there is no obligation for an MP to even attend the House of Commons, vote, sit on committees or even ask questions.

    Of course these days any MP who didn't do case work would not be an MP for more than one Parliament,

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Everyone in this are votes Labour, but I can sense that many folks are growing tired of Labour now, I hope this shows in the next election. Problem is when spin doctors make up things like "pasty tax" for hot food tax, many folk in this area tend to vote Labour, there is not enough education about politics and therefore people are not making informed decisions when voting. Mallon days are numbered

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I live in Middlesbrough, and I can tell you the council in this area are useless, there is corruption within both the police and council. Even our Mayor has 14 disciplinary charges against him while he was a high ranking police officer, which these days you can simply resign and thats the end of it. These were related to corruption also. It is NOT the coalition that made the cuts, it was Mallon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I would urge the people of Middlesbrough to get out and vote in their droves, as it is their only chance, for the next two and a half years, to tell David Cameron and Nick Clegg what they think of the government, the chance to reduce or increase the governments majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    erm ,yes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The Con-dems haven't a hope in Middlesbrough, neither do UKIP or the BNP. The only credible challengers are George Galloway's Respect Party and they're not even contesting the seat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Northern Echo Feb 2010. "Labour's been in power since 1997 and in 2010 there are record levels of unemployment in Teesside and the North-East. Middlesbourgh's unemployment is 7.6% and Labour's Middlehaven ward has 15% - highest in Teeside."
    Labour take NE votes for granted, Tories know they won't get elected. Result as above, but they will still elect a Labour MP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    "Will Middlesbrough stay loyal to Labour in by-election?"
    Why not ask a harder question like;
    Is the pope a catholic?

    Come on BBC how can we have a HYS on this when we all know what the result will be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Like in most northern areas you will have those that say.
    My dad voted Labour, his dad voted Labour, and his dad so it's good enough for me.

    Sad that some people can't use the brains they were born with.


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