UKIP set to test Labour’s hold on South Tyneside

Kelly's Eye
Kelly's Eye

NEXT month’s local government elections will be another test for the Labour Party in South Tyneside.

Although towns like South Shields used to boast a strong political opposition, in Liberals and Progressives, those alternative voices in the council chamber have almost faded from memory.

Effectively, there has been a one-party local political state in South Tyneside for many years, given the overwhelming number of Labour councillors.

Several years ago, it seemed the National Front was about to cause a major political upset, when it grabbed lots of votes in traditional local Labour heartlands, including Jarrow.

To the relief of many, the NF political renaissance appeared to have been a false dawn.

But now UKIP is bidding to upset the political apple- cart across the North East.

Speaking at The Sage Gateshead last week, UKIP leader Nigel Farage rallied his troops in the region by promising to deliver a “mini earthquake” in Labour heartlands like Tyneside.

Although UKIP has previously tried to rally support among disgruntled Tory voters, it is now turning its political firepower on Labour.

Stating that UKIP is just four per cent behind Labour in terms of support, Mr Farage predicted his party would acquire at least one of the region’s MEP seats.

Setting out his anti-Labour political stall, Mr Farage said UKIP is “going for the big northern cities, we are going for the Labour heartlands”.

Whether UKIP will win any of the 16 seats it is contesting in South Tyneside in the local elections remains to be seen.

But for now, UKIP represents the latest and biggest challenge to Labour’s power base in South Tyneside.

Of course, it is benefiting from the widespread disillusionment with the three main political parties in Britain.

And UKIP offers simple, barn-door targets during hard times.

Getting out of Europe and closing our borders to foreigners are two easily graspable political concepts.

While it’s hardly likely that Nigel Farage’s troops will overtake Labour when South Tynesiders go to the polls next month, every political dynasty starts with a single step.

If UKIP can take one ward in South Tyneside, our local Labour Party could well have a fight on its hands.