A CONSERVATIVE candidate selected to fight the General Election in South Shields has launched his campaign with a robust defence of his party’s record in government – and a swipe at the town’s Labour MP.
Robert Oliver believes he can re-establish his party as the main challenger to Labour in the town.
I think the comments by the local MP on funerals, and the allegations that people were burying relatives in the back garden, has damaged the party’s credibility an awful lot.Tory candidate Robert Oliver
At the 2013 by-election, Ukip’s Richard Elvin pushed the Tories into third place, polling almost 25 per cent of the vote.
However, Mr Oliver, 43, thinks Ukip’s popularity has peaked and is predicting a resurgence of Conservative support.
Meanwhile, the former leader of the Conservative group in Sunderland Council, who stood down last year after a decade as councillor for the St Chad’s ward, says South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck’s recent claim in Parliament that funeral costs were so high some loved ones were being buried in back gardens, had “damaged her party’s credibility”.
Mr Oliver, who stood as Tory Parliamentary candidate in Sunderland South in both 2005 and 2010, said: “I feel the Labour Party here has been complacent.
“I think the comments by the local MP on funerals, and the allegations that people were burying relatives in the back garden, has damaged the party’s credibility an awful lot.
“The Conservatives can get a good result if we can get across how we are turning the economy around, that people are getting back into work and off welfare, that school standards are improving and there is a lot more money being put into devolved powers and transport in the North East.”
Mr Oliver said he would be seeking townsfolk’s views on the South Shields 365 masterplan to transform the town over the next decade.
He said: “Coming from Sunderland I know all about town centres not doing very well.
“I think there is a lot councils can do to help by encouraging businesses to stay here, by cutting business rates, by making the environment more attractive, by giving free parking, but a lot of it will come down to the national economy.”
“The South Shields by-election in 2013 came in the middle of the Parliamentary term when governments normally get a big hit.
“It was a time when a lot of cuts were being made, but now we are seeing the results of cuts, which is a lot of economic growth. It’s coming good now.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck has hit back at Mr Oliver’s attack on her “credibility”.
She said: “It’s the Tory party that has no credibility in South Shields.
“David Cameron promised rising living standards, then oversaw the longest fall in living standards in over a century.
“Mr Oliver needs to explain to voters here why he supports the Government that introduced the bedroom tax, slashed public services and allowed private companies into our NHS, all while cutting taxes for the rich. On funeral costs, I wanted to raise an important issue that causes deep distress to tens of thousands of people each year.”