Will voters shun Labour at South Shields by-election?

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LABOUR won’t have it all their own way at next month’s by-election in South Shields, if a straw poll of town voters is anything to go by.

Only a complete political fantasist would consider anything but a Labour victory.

At the last General Election, exiting Labour MP David Miliband had a majority of more than 11,000 – and the seat is one of his party’s safest in the UK.

But the electoral mood may be changing, and as was seen by UKIP finishing second to the Liberal Democrats at the recent Eastleigh by-election, the public has an appetite for giving the major parties a bloody nose.

All of which makes the impending poll so fascinating.

There was certainly an appetite for change among shoppers in the town’s King Street shopping thoroughfare.

Michael Barrell, 44, of Jarrow, said: “UKIP appeal to me. I’m not a great Europhile, and I can see them as an option. They’re certainly on the up. And that’s a view coming from a person raised in a Labour household. My father, Tony Barrell, was a Labour councillor and the party doctrine was drummed into me from an early age.

“But, I’m sad to say, Labour is not what it was. Just look at Dr David Clark, standing aside and becoming Lord Clark, to enable Tony Blair to put David Miliband into South Shields.”

Amanda Malise, 38, of Horton Avenue, South Shields, said: “I don’t always vote, but I certainly will this time because the state of this country is getting beyond a joke.

“I will be looking for a candidate who can work for the people of this town.”

Norma Fife, 60, of Beach Road, South Shields, said: “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain when you don’t like the person who is elected – that’s my viewpoint. I will hear what all the candidates have to say before I cast my votes.

“What I can say is that whoever I vote for must do something about this town centre – it’s appalling.

“Apart from mobile phone shops, there’s nothing. Someone who can persuade me they can tackle that will have my support.”

John Drummond, 63, of Whiteleas, said: “Labour has ruled this town for as long as I can remember, and what have they achieved?

“It’s hardly a ringing endorsement for their policy if you take a look about here. I think it’s time we had a change. We’ll see what the alternatives are, but I won’t be voting Labour again.”

Now that Mr Miliband has departed, speculation is growing over his successor.

It is widely regarded in political circles that Coun Iain Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council, is the frontrunner for Labour – although he has yet to throw his hat into the ring.

But Stephen Franks, 50, South Shields, thinks the public has become apathetic to all politicians.

He said: “I don’t think people really think it’s worth voting because politicians are all in it for themselves. What do they do for the people?”

June Ramsay, 59, of Arthur Street, Whitburn, was still bitter at Mr Miliband’s sudden departure, claiming he used the town as a “stepping stone” in his career path.

“He used Shields to further his career, but I will vote. It’s our democratic duty to do so.”

Twitter@shieldsgazpaul