Curly's Corner Shop, the blog!

South Shields premier political blog

Labour cock-a-hoop in South Tyneside

with 8 comments

Tory scalp in Cleadon and East Boldon is biggest prize

I’m still pretty tired after yesterday’s elections and a fairly long night attending the count at the Temple Park Centre in South Shields, which although it was hard on the legs for the gathered politicos was well organised by Val Stephenson on behalf of the Returning Officer, I hear that similar praise is also due for the officials at Jarrow Community Centre. They were never in any sort of race to beat Sunderland into declaring results but at least the counting was all but over at the time they predicted it ought to have started!

It would be churlish of me NOT to congratulate the Labour Party in South Tyneside for some good results last night so I’ll do it now, well done boys and girls, you have a well oiled election machine which some of the rest of us sneakily admire and envy. Biggest prize of the night went to Joan Atkinson, who after years of hard graft chipping away at the Conservative majority in Cleadon and East Boldon ousted Donald Wood. It was not a shock to some of us but there was some surprise at the size of the Labour majority and the fact that they took over 50% share of the vote on a very healthy turnout of over 55%, I felt terribly sorry for Don Wood who is a real gent and really did not deserve to be the victim of the “Potts factor”, I had predicted a tough uphill fight for the Tories in Cleadon but expected them to hold with a slim margin. One veteran Conservative (and former councillor) who I spoke to put the blame for the loss firmly on Jarrow Conservative Association for the failure to “sort out Potts” when the had the chance prior to his last reselection, he too saw the writing on the wall.

I was right too in predicting victory for Ian Harkus for Labour in Hebburn North as Lib-Dem John McKie was ousted on a night which has so far seen 295 of his colleagues lose their seats. South Tyneside now has just one Liberal Democrat councillor within its ranks. Labour’s other gain came in South Shields where “long legs” Joyce Welsh romped home with a health majority over the sitting Progressive Marjorie Robinson, the result was not as close as I predicted. Speaking to Joyce after her victory I realise she doesn’t mind being called “long legs” at all and thinks it may be an easy way to distinguish her from the similar named Cllr. Walsh!

Elsewhere former Mayor’s Secretary Fay Cunningham returns to South Shields town hall this time as a Labour councillor having held off the challenge of Tom Defty in Bede ward, we see a new “independent” in Fellgate and Hedworth in the form of Linda Hemmer who beat Labour’s Moira Smith by just over 100 votes, and already rumours are circulating that Ms Hemmer may shortly defect to the Labour benches. Real Independent George Elsom held his seat in Cleadon Park but with a reduced majority against Labour, but perhaps he would have polled better without the intervention of Colin Campbell who also took a reasonable handful of independent votes. As a side note George is convinced he was the real media star of the Shields Gazette’s videos!

The Independent Alliance candidates had a miserable night, they arrived en masse for the count (someone even suggested they marched in singing “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees” but I took that with a pinch of salt, they just didn’t look in singing mood) Jim Hodgson failed for the second year running to take Beacon and Bents ward where débutante Conservative Ali Hayder put in a strong showing holding the Conservative vote up to last year’s general election levels, the result was a comfortable win for Labour’s Audrey McMillan, although she had a nervous disposition early in the counting. Independent Alliance leader Jane Branley who probably had what most people would consider a rock solid majority in Westoe, must have been taken aback and shocked to see it wither away to around 200, and her party failed to make any real impact or improvement in other wards, perhaps the writing may be on the wall for the “Indies” who remain the largest opposition grouping on the council. Having spent a small fortune on literature and having produced and delivered more leaflets than anyone else in South Tyneside, I wonder if they feel happy with the yield on their investment?

The Conservatives surprised with a reasonable return of votes at about the same level as last year’s big turnout general election and in many places improved from fourth to third place finishes so they shouldn’t be massively dismayed with their performance other than losing one key seat – and they may well fear what may happen next year in Cleadon Village, the Liberal Democrats will be seriously worried that their presence in the council chamber may soon be gone altogether as Nick Clegg’s leadership took real punishment in England, and the Progressives will also be ruminating on their long term future as traditional independent alternative to Labour in these parts, Lawrence Nolan garnered a fairly healthy bucket of votes in Harton but it was nowhere near good enough to threaten Labour’s Rob Dix. The Progressives are now down to two seats in South Tyneside, which is not good news for a party which had previously controlled the old South Shields council.

As the dust settles I wonder what negotiations will take place amongst the fractured opposition parties and what manoeuvres we will see as they try to determine who will be seen as the “official” opposition, there are many who do not wish the six Independent Alliance councillors to dominate, the nine others may wish to upset the applecart in one form or another.

So Labour’s position is once more cemented and strengthened in South Tyneside, the people have made their choices and the turnout was pretty good for a local government election at just under 40%, so they will feel very confident that they have a strong mandate. Their policies will be tempered by the amount of available cash from central resources and the main opposition to any contentious proposals will come from within their own group or from within the community. I expect them to continue treading that line which is fairly closely linked to the Blairite tendency to mirror centre right attitudes towards acceptability and financial restraint and responsibility, they know it works and they won’t wish to throw away the gains they have made. We must now wait and see just how they display that level of responsibility in the manner that they set about spending our cash.

Sadly, ALL of our opposition councillors and parties have some serious thinking to do regarding how they approach the coming years and avoid becoming totally eclipsed.

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8 Responses

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  1. The fact is they couldn’t do anything about Potts because he controlled the membership. The size of the association trebled when he got hiself the membership chairmanship. They couldn’t touch him

    Allan Steward

    May 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

  2. Well done Labour , Hard luck all the rest..

    mickde

    May 6, 2011 at 11:23 am

  3. On a cheerful note for you, Curly, a quick look at the results would suggest that the BNP are a spent force.In only one Ward (Whiteleas) did they get more than 200 votes.

    Mrsdoasyouwouldbedoneby

    May 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    • Yes it was gratifying, but much of that was because of the huge hole in the BNP’s finances causing dismay about their leadership from ordinary members.I was red faced to see the BNP polling in greater numbers than some Conservatives last year.

      Curly

      May 6, 2011 at 9:13 pm

  4. I love Shields Conservatives. Bunch of old dinosuars. They always had a bone to pick with Potts but never had the balls to take him on so the arrogant tosser was allowed to run amok. No good crying over spilt milk, its too late now. Potts has done more damage to the Conservative cause in South Tyneside than Labour or the Independents could ever do- and he’s laughing about it

    Janet Cross

    May 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    • Conservative Associations are meant to be autonomous, therefore the South Shields Association ought to have no influence at all over the Jarrow Association.

      Curly

      May 6, 2011 at 9:15 pm

  5. How do you “take on” individuals, who seem to have no capacity to take a step back and take objective stock of themselves. Two “warring” councillors seem to sit down at their respective key boards and give vent to their personal opinions without any reflection as to their accuracy, relevance or how they will be perceived by the reasonable person on the E1 bus, who wants to know what their vision for South Tyneside is, not that they think that X is fat or Y enjoys a drink or two. Curly blogged about the marketplace and his ideas about how it could be developed, that is what we want to read about and respond to. Con Home Local Govt featured blogs about money saving proposals for Councils, some real, some hypthetical, good, relevant constructive stuff whether or not you support the party; we need more of that cross party on STC.

    LL.B

    May 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm


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