MP hopefuls try to bowl over voters

DROPPING IN ... South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck officially launches Readhead Vets bowls club's new season, pictured with president Stan Minchell, front.
DROPPING IN ... South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck officially launches Readhead Vets bowls club's new season, pictured with president Stan Minchell, front.

TWO of the candidates aiming to become MP for South Shields have been trying to bowl over would-be voters.

Lawn green bowling is a sport deeply embedded in the borough’s past.

FELLOWSHIP ... Ukip Coun Norman Dennis officially opened the bowling season at Marine Park Bowling Club. He's pictured with chairman Bob Cragg.

FELLOWSHIP ... Ukip Coun Norman Dennis officially opened the bowling season at Marine Park Bowling Club. He's pictured with chairman Bob Cragg.

For more than a century members of clubs have been rolling woods on lush greens.

Now two candidates fighting for votes in South Shields at the General Election on Thursday, May 7, have visited members of the town’s bowling fraternity.

Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck was invited to the opening of the new season at Readhead Veterans Bowling Social Club, of which she is the honorary vice-president.

And, just across town, the United Kingdom Independence Party’s Norman Dennis was asked by his lifelong friend Bob Cragg, chairman of the Marine Park Veterans Social and Bowling Club, to perform the same role there.

As far as the membership here is concerned, there are different political persuasions. It’s just good to have her (Emma Lewell-Buck) popping in from time to time.

Martin Urwin, Readhead Vets

But for both candidates it was less a chance to promote their political ambitions, rather more an opportunity to show their support for a sporting institution.

Both clubs are anxious to encourage new members, especially among the younger generation.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “It was a real privilege to open the bowling season today as the honorary vice-president of Readhead Veterans Park.

“It is a great club and I am always made to feel welcome. I wish the team success for the coming season.”

With the recent fine weather, members of both clubs are aiming to put their rivals in the shade in the borough’s newly-amalgamated Sawyer Cup League this coming season.

Martin Urwin, secretary at Readhead Vets, in Readhead Park, said: “We currently have 44 members, but we would like to take that up to 60 if we could.

“The club is open 11am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, and anyone who comes along and is thinking about joining will receive a warm welcome.

“It’s good to have Emma aboard to show us her support, but it’s not political.

“As far as the membership here is concerned, there are different political persuasions. It’s just good to have her popping in from time to time.

“It’s not just about the lawn bowling here. We have indoor bowling in the winter, darts, fives and threes, snooker and billiards.”

The same level of social and sporting diversity is also evident over at the Marine Park, where new members are also welcome to pop along on weekdays between noon and 3pm.

Coun Dennis said: “Bowls is a great sport and I was delighted to be invited to come along and kick off the new season.

“It’s a wonderful sport for all ages, but in particular it offers fellowship for our older people.

“I think the council has done a good job on the seafront and has been supportive of this club, but there is always room to do a bit more.”

The other candidates in South Shields are Lisa Nightingale (Independent), Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat), Robert Oliver (Conservative), Shirley Ford (Green).

Twitter:@shieldsgazpaul