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Can UKIP break Labour’s grip at local elections?

POLL POSITION ... can UKIP make an impression in Labour's dominance of South Tyneside Council? We'll find out this week.

POLL POSITION ... can UKIP make an impression in Labour's dominance of South Tyneside Council? We'll find out this week.

The moment of truth has almost arrived for those standing in next week’s local elections across South Tyneside.

The 18 seats up for grabs in the borough will be contested by 59 candidates on Thursday.

At present, Labour dominates South Tyneside Council in what has long been been one of its traditional heartlands.

That could be about to change, though, as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) looks to gain a foothold in the region for the first time.

Just last month, UKIP leader Nigel Farage predicted a “mini-earthquake” after claiming Labour had turned its back on the North East.

Shop manager Richard Duffy, 45, says he is thinking about casting a protest vote for UKIP.

He said: “Since arriving on the scene, I think UKIP has forced the main parties to take a good, hard look at themselves.

“None of them has done anything about the level of immigration. This is an important issue and people have been feeling uneasy about it for years.”

Ex-factory worker Valerie Storey, 63, of Boldon Colliery, has already put a cross next to a UKIP candidate on her postal vote.

She said: “Everyone I know seems like they want to vote for UKIP. People just see Labour and the Conservatives as part of the establishment, while UKIP is on the outside.

“I think it is worth voting for a different party to see if they can make things better. If they do, great, but if not, at least I can say I have tried.”

Others, such as retired driving instructor Bill Grieves, 72, of Westoe, South Shields, simply lack enthusiasm for the upcoming elections.

Mr Grieves says he has voted Conservative in the past, but that is unlikely to be the case next week.

He said: “I have always felt I should vote, but on this occasion, I do not know who to vote for.

“I cannot trust any of the parties in terms of what they say or do.

“They do not seem to care about the common man in the street.”

“I used to have faith in politics, but not now. I think the damage has been done, for me and probably others too.”

Former secretary Denise Coulter, 54, of Whiteleas, South Shields, agrees with that sentiment.

She said: “You do not see many people from poorer backgrounds going into politics these days. It seems only to be for the privileged few.

“They do not know what it is like to live on the dole, or have very little money or even nothing at all. I find it very frustrating.”

Alice McLechlan, 85, of Brockley Whins, South Shields, is a retired factory worker. She says she will vote next week, but it will be with a heavy heart.

She added: “I normally choose a Labour candidate, but in these elections, I’ll go for an independent.

“Labour would need to do quite a lot to make me change my mind.”

One person who still has faith in Labour is unemployed Joan Merryfield, 62, of Brockley Avenue, South Shields.

She said: “I have always gone for Labour because it gets things done, but you can understand why people are not too bothered any more. They are just fed up with politics.”

n Prime Minister visits borough ... Page 7

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

 

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