Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Opperman's Approach Can Help the Tories Make Progress Increasingly Labour in the North Will Find It Difficult to Challenge This Sort of Conservative; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Opperman's Approach Can Help the Tories Make Progress Increasingly Labour in the North Will Find It Difficult to Challenge This Sort of Conservative; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson

NORTH East Conservatives are a most curious creature. Bracketed with generic "Northern-Conservatives", they are counted as a branch of the party which can make gains in Yorkshire and the North West.

But the North East is Labour in its industrial areas and Berwick is loyal to Sir Alan Beith. So over the last 15 years the party has had to talk big but accept reality.

Eric Pickles, now a secretary of state, came to Tynemouth in the run-up to the 2010 General Election and boldly admitted that "If we can't win here the party has made no progress at all".

Have a look at North Tyneside and it is clear that progress has a long way to go. Elected Conservative mayor Linda Arkley is in for quite a battle in 2013.

Council elections last month saw her long-serving group leader lose his seat. The party is paying heavily and really there will only be national issues in the minds of voters when they Increasingly head to the polls in this election. North will find challenge this Conservative Worse, there is no election in Newcastle next year, which means all eyes will be on North Tyneside as one of the few newsworthy stories.

Despite this, mayor Arkley isn't backing down. She's sought and accepted the nomination to be the candidate ... a post which one imagines few would contest.

If she survives, the party will be galvanised and ready for a fight two years later. If she loses, few will notice.

Guy Opperman will be watching, you can imagine. Which is odd, because the Hexham MP has things fairly safe. Northumberland isn't about to kick out its Tory MP any time soon.

Mr Opperman, however, appears not to have noticed he has a relatively safe seat. He has rocked the boat twice already - in ways that in others would indicate a fight for their political lives.

First, on calls for a mansion tax to hit high earners.

Mostly those are high earners in the South East and not votes he needs to win, but enough of a rebellion to upset some. …

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