We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge ahead of us

Thank you to each and every one of you who voted in last Thursday’s local government and Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

It is important that we have representatives of all parties and I would also like to offer my thanks to everyone who stood for election.

Thank you also to everyone who took to the streets, knocked on doors and delivered leaflets in support of the Labour Party. 

The election of so many fantastic Labour councillors across South Tyneside and the Gateshead area covered by the Jarrow Parliamentary constituency brings me enormous pride.

South Tyneside and Gateshead Councils both remain under Labour control and the majority of the results are a public vote of confidence in our candidates, our councillors and our councils who are performing near miracles to deliver top class services in the face of vicious Tory austerity funding cuts.

Those candidates and councillors in those wards across South Tyneside and Gateshead have worked tirelessly for local residents for some time, and I am delighted to see people in these areas putting their trust in the local Labour Party and rejecting the hate-fuelled politics peddled by some across our borough.

I have every confidence that those brilliant Labour councillors you picked will serve our area well.  I love this area, and as a former North East councillor and, of course, as the MP for the Jarrow constituency I truly believe they will serve our community well.

Bede, Fellgate & Hedworth, Boldon Colliery, Hebburn North & South, Monkton, and Wardley & Leam Lane boasted impressive Labour victories.

Across South Tyneside, despite tireless and passionate campaigns in the Cleadon and East Boldon and Primrose Wards, the results didn’t go Labour’s way and in Gateshead, in Pelaw and Heworth, Labour were unable to win for Labour on this occasion.    

It was particularly pleasing to see Audrey Huntley, who has served the Fellgate, Hedworth and Calf Close community well with great dedication and enthusiasm, be returned as a Councillor with a whopping 600 plus majority.

And I was also delighted for Margaret Peacock who overcame a tough challenge from Independent Candidate Shaun Sadler to retain her seat in the Bede Ward.

Overall, it is hard to argue that Labour had some disappointing results on elections night right across the country last week.

In the likes of Hartlepool, Durham, and in Sunderland, for example, and in Dudley in the West Midlands, we failed to inspire the electorate with what we had to offer them.

In my view, that is the issue – we need to set out our vision to the electorate and win people’s hearts and minds.  People need to know what Labour stands for and that it is the party that stands up and speaks out for working class communities, like ours.

Further afield in places such as Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, we did see some excellent results – with Andy Burnham receiving over 70% of the vote and Tracy Brabin becoming the first ever female Metro Mayor in the UK. These campaigns were based upon a clear strategy with voters knowing exactly what they were voting for. The same can be applied to Labour’s performance in Wales – Mark Drakeford is a well-known figure and the people of Wales understand what he is about.

We’ve bounced back before and I have every confidence that Labour will do so again but we shouldn’t underestimate the challenge ahead of us – locally and nationally.

This challenge gets harder and harder each year when vicious Tory cuts make the work of our councils harder with the Conservatives cutting well over half of South Tyneside and Gateshead Councils funding since 2010 – crippling local services.  

Rest assured, I will continue to fight for the people of South Tyneside and Gateshead and to evict this vindictive Conservative government in Westminster and replace them with a Labour Government, on your side. 

(Part of column from the Shields Gazette)