VOTERS have given South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck a cautious thumbs-up on the anniversary of her by-election victory – but some think she could still learn lessons from her illustrious predecessor.
The Labour MP succeeded former foreign secretary David Miliband when she emerged victorious last May.
In the 12 months since she became the town’s first woman member of Parliament, she has sought to carve out her own identity.
The 35-year-old organised a jobs fair in town, has campaigned against the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ and has asked frequent questions in debates in the House of Commons, particularly around the Social Care Bill
The next year sees even bigger challenges with a General Election looming.
Her short term in office has not been plain sailing – she faced mockery from Tory MPs in Parliament because of her distinctive North East accent.
We found a general consensus among shoppers on the streets of the town’s King Street that the former social worker had enjoyed a relatively successful first year.
But there was also a feeling she still needed to step out of the shadow of her famous predecessor.
Retired shipyard worker Bob Gray, 74, from Whiteleas, said: “David Miliband was very good at communicating with people in the town. He helped us when we were campaigning to save the Simonside Social Club.
“He was easy to speak to and he showed a real interest in what we were doing.
“I get the sense that she could perhaps make herself more visible and get out and about in Shields at bit more. I know that she’s from Jarrow – but I don’t hold that against her!”
Elizabeth Douglas, 71, of West Harton Churches Action Station, said Mr Miliband had been a “hard act to follow”.
She added: “I have seen her on TV and she seems sincere. I know that some of the southern MPs had been mocking her accent in Parliament which I think was extremely unfair. I’m proud of my accent and so should she be.”
Jack Berry, 67, chairman of the Royal British Legion Club in Queen Street, said: “There are a lot worse accents than a North East accent – Brummies for one.
“All she needs to do is stick by her guns and she’ll be all right. I’d invite her to come along to the club.
“We are trying to raise £60,000 to repair the club roof and we’d welcome her support.”
Retired nurse Bob Wells, 63, of the Lawe Top, South Shields, said: “Of course Miliband was a hard act to follow but I always say ‘speak as you find’ and she appears very capable of holding her own. I’d say good luck to her.”
Ex-shipyard worker John Purvis, 74, from Hebburn, said: “I don’t know anything about the woman but I was a life-long Labour supporter who lost faith in the party because of Tony Blair’s policy over Iraq. Mrs Lewell-Buck will not be getting my vote as a result of that.”
Retired engineer Jack Wandless, 84, of Colliery Close, Hebburn, added: “I don’t know much about her.
“I’m aware that she is fighting the bedroom tax. I agree with her on that. It’s ridiculous.”