General Election 2019: Bishop Auckland set to be important barometer

By David Rhodes
Political Correspondent, BBC North East and Cumbria

Image source, TOM BANKS
Image caption,
The constituency is a mixture of post-industrial towns and agricultural communities

Bishop Auckland, a constituency in County Durham, is found in part of the country known as the "land of the Prince Bishops".

Medieval knights used to fight over this part of northern England and in 2019 the constituency will be hotly contested.

It is a barometer for the rest of the north-east of England.

Like the wider region, it voted decisively for Brexit in 2016 and has historically been a Labour stronghold in general elections.

Labour has held Bishop Auckland since 1918 - apart from four years in the 1930s.

But heading into this election the incumbent MP, Helen Goodman, holds a majority of just 502 votes.

The constituency itself is a mixture of post-industrial towns and agricultural communities.

Towns such as Bishop Auckland and Shildon were places once synonymous with coal mines and the railway industry.

Today these areas fall very much into the category of so-called "left-behind towns".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Bowes Museum is in the market town of Barnard Castle

Heavy industry, which once employed thousands of local people, has disappeared. However, the UK's last TV manufacturer, Cello, can still be found in the town of Bishop Auckland.

Unemployment in these areas is high by national standards and their high streets are littered with empty shops.

These towns were once rock solid Labour bastions, but as in other parts of the country, Brexit has cut across party lines.

The Conservative candidate Dehenna Davison hopes to win over once-Labour voters and pick up votes in areas other than the traditional Conservative stronghold of Barnard Castle - a prosperous market town in the south of the constituency.

The Liberal Democrats and Brexit Party will hope to turn this constituency battle into a multi-party fight with their positions on Brexit.

But it is vital for Labour to hold on if they have hopes of forming the next government.

For the Conservatives, winning a seat like Bishop Auckland could signal that the party is on course to win a majority in the House of Commons, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson says is vital for delivering Brexit.

The candidates standing for Bishop Auckland so far are:

  • Nick Brown - Brexit Party
  • Dehenna Davison - Conservatives
  • Ray Georgeson - Liberal Democrats
  • Helen Goodman - Labour

The BBC News website will have a full list of candidates when nominations close on Thursday 14 November.

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