THE battle to become MP for South Shields is set to be the closest in more than 30 years, according to a candidate hoping to wrestle the seat from Labour for the first time in eight decades.
Ukip’s Norman Dennis isn’t going so far as to predict he’ll take the seat at the General Election on Thursday, May 7.
But he’s confident it will be a close contest between himself and Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck.
His confidence comes from the positive reception he has had from voters in the town, who he believes are “ready for change”.
Now his party has asked an independent polling agency to carry out research to see how close the battle could really be, with the results expected any time.
Mr Dennis said: “We have asked for some independent polling, which we are hoping will give us some indication of where we are standing. We are the underdog. For 85 years we have had a Labour MP and I think the mood in the town is changing and it’s encouraging to walk round.
“I think it will be close and I can say for certain that I will not lose my deposit.
“I will not predict that we are going to win, but I think it is going to be exciting times and I think the people who are more worried are in the Labour Party.
“We are not worried, we can just do our best because it’s the people of South Shields we are concerned about. It’s not about Ukip, it’s not about Labour. It’s about sending a message to the town and to the council that we’ve had enough and we want to see changes.”
Labour has remained supreme in the South Shields seat since 1935, but it has been something of a law of diminishing returns in recent years.
Mrs Lewell-Buck won the seat at the May 2013 by-election with 12,493 votes, compared to 5,988 who voted for UKIP’s Richard Elvin.
But when previous Labour representative David Miliband retained the seat in 2010 he attracted 18,995 votes and enjoyed a majority of more than 11,000.
That was dwarfed by the 22,000-plus majority previous Labour incumbent Dr David Clark had back in 1997.
And you have to go back to the General Election of 1983 to see the last close contest, when Dr Clark had a majority of under four thousand.
Mr Dennis added: “I’m not saying that we’ll definitely win, but I will say we will give Labour a good run and if it achieves nothing else but to get the council to listen to the people, we have achieved our objective.
“I think this will be the closest contest for a long time. At the last by-election it was 12,000 to 6,000 and I think we will close in on that.
“I just feel honoured to stand. We haven’t got all the answers, but I feel there are going to be changes.”
The other candidates standing in South Shields are: Lisa Nightingale (Independent), Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat), Shirley Ford (Green Party), Robert Oliver (Conservative), Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour).