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Henry G Manson on the LAB effort to take away the Tories most prized northern asset – the N Tyneside mayoralty

April 19th, 2013

Henry G Manson on an intriguing battle

There has been some discussion this week on the strength of didn’t women MPs in the Conservative Party and in Labour with some wondering if there will be another ‘Margaret’ in the near future. I can’t spot many, although a couple of years ago I wrote this piece asking if one newly elected female MP could be a ‘Thatcher’ to Cameron’s ‘Heath’.

In the meantime it’s worth watching an intriguing local election battle between two strong women who don’t mince their words.

The Conservatives have won 3 out of 4 mayoral elections in North Tyneside. The sitting mayor Conservative Linda Arkley has held the position twice. The 2009 election saw her win by four and half thousand votes winning 45% of first preference votes, to Labour’s 34%.

Despite failing to dislodge popular MP Alan Campbell in Tynemouth constituency, there remains a sizeable Conservative vote in North Tyneside borough. Even when a former mayor had to resign in the most controversial circumstances, the Conservatives won the subsequent mayoral by-election.
This contest is significant for a number of reasons.

The Conservatives aren’t over-endowed with Northern strongholds and winning again in North Tyneside would be a boost to David Cameron and support his efforts to challenge in all parts of the country.

In a rare red-blue fight it should prove a sterner test for Labour than the Liberal Democrats have so far provided in the North. Labour’s candidate is a former headteacher and her campaign has made much of her ability to restore order and discipline in the local council.

Mayor Arkley has tried to emphasise her local cuts aren’t of the scale of nearby Newcastle City Council. There is little love lost between these two women and the contest is simmering away just nicely.

Recently the Mayor was asked to leave a council meeting after a heated exchange of words with other councillors. She has since pulled out of hustings with rival candidates.

It’s understandable that there is attention given to the parliamentary by-election in nearby South Shields. However it is north of the river in North Tyneside where the real battle lay.

It will be more instructive to the strength of the Conservative Party’s remaining northern defences. If Labour wins then it won’t give any indication of its ability to win in the South, but it will deny the blues a very important electoral oasis in the North and cast serious doubt on their attempts to make gains here. Despite the lack of betting markets it is an election worth keep a look out for. Plus whoever wins this will see a strong female local leader who knows her own mind and doesn’t suffer fools. Maggie would be proud.

Henry G Manson