Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Are Preparing for Worst in County; LOCAL ELECTIONS 2008

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Are Preparing for Worst in County; LOCAL ELECTIONS 2008

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional Affairs Correspondent

LABOUR leaders in Northumberland are today bracing themselves for the possibility of being second best on the new authority as voters "punish" local councillors for the party's national policies.

After a day spent persuading would-be voters to place a cross next to the name of Labour candidates, many potential councillors are privately preparing to lose control of the county council and the new unitary authority, which any councillors picked today will lead from April next year.

Nationally the Labour Party would settle for anything more than the 27% of the overall vote achieved in their last year under Tony Blair. Early results from Sunderland saw the ruling Labour group lose two seats, one to a Conservative candidate and one to an Independent.

Counts were taking place last night in Sunderland, South Tyneside and County Durham.

Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and Northumberland votes will be counted today.

Blyth Valley Council leader Dave Stephens, who is standing in the unitary elections, said there was a worry among his party that national policies could damage the "hard work done by local councillors who have achieved a lot for our part of Northumberland".

Last night Mr Stephens said: "The whole election has been tinged with national issues. We are still hearing a lot of genuine concern about issues like the 10p tax rate, which is not only damaging us but also distracting from what are really focused and committed local candidates.

"There has been some positive feedback but I certainly think that national issues will have caused us big problems."

Former county council leader Bill Brooks, who did not stand in the elections, said last night that his former Labour colleagues were preparing for the worst. "There are real concerns among Labour councillors, I know that much for sure. …

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