Aycliffe Today offers its support to the Labour Parliamentary candidate Phil Wilson today, and here’s why…
The focus of the General Election naturally hones in on the bigger picture – the leaders of the main parties – and while the national battle promises to be an intriguing one today, we prefer to concentrate on the local campaign, and who you are actually voting for in the ballot box.
Phil Wilson has been Sedgefield’s Member of Parliament since he won the 2007 by-election following Tony Blair’s retreat, before winning the 2010 election.
In our opinion, Phil is a working-class MP who understands his constituents. He regards the job as a privilege, and has worked hard for Newton Aycliffe during the last eight years.
Let’s not forget that the Sedgefield Constituency consists of a vast area which takes in Sedgefield itself and the Trimdons, goes as far North as Ferryhill and as far South as the Darlington wards of Hurworth, Middleton St George and Sadberge.
But the first thing Phil did when he won the 2007 by-election was to relocate his Constituency office to Aycliffe town centre – recognising, at the time, that the town centre desperately needed an injection of confidence. The place has changed immeasurably since.
He then took on the Coalition Government when it threatened to scrap Hitachi Rail Europe’s Intercity Express Programme – potentially wrecking the chance to bring 730 new jobs to Aycliffe Business Park.
Phil didn’t drag Hitachi to Aycliffe kicking and screaming. They’d already decided to come here, but the deal was under threat by a dithering Coalition.
Phil launched his Back On Track campaign, and with support from the Federation of Small Business, North East Chamber of Commerce, the Northern TUC, UNITE, the Northern Echo, other MPs and a 5,000-strong petition which he took to Number 10, the Government eventually signed the IEP and Hitachi’s £82m factory is now almost complete.
Phil didn’t do that. He doesn’t claim to have, either. People Power did it. But what Phil did do was to lead a campaign which brought businesses, politicians and people together.
Aycliffe Business Park was already a thriving place. But make no mistake about it, Hitachi’s arrival here will benefit the people of Newton Aycliffe for generations – just as Nissan has on Wearside.
Phil deserves to take his portion of credit in the Hitachi deal – indeed, Hitachi themselves have openly thanked him for the work he did – and it’s understandable that it formed a strong part of his campaigning.
Despite some unsavoury smear campaigns by his opponents – or, should I say, opponent – he has maintained a dignified and professional fight, campaigning on the strengths of him as an MP and the Labour Party, which is more than can be said for others.
Only Greg Robinson from the Green Party can take any plaudits for doing the same. Although he lacked profile, at least he ran a campaign based on Green Party policies and what he was promising voters should he win.
Neil Mahapatra ran for the Conservatives in 2010 and was the nearest candidate to Phil Wilson with 9,445 votes, through running a clean campaign.
Scott Wood is their candidate this time, and has only attempted to discredit his main rival at every opportunity – with, at times, unfounded and even libellous accusations.
At a time when the electorate has made it clear they’re fed-up of negative campaigning and smears, Mr Wood failed to campaign strongly enough on his own strengths and policies, which is why his campaign should fail.
Arguably, the surge of UKIP support nationally might have seen its Sedgefield candidate, John Leathley, push Labour’s man with a close call at this evening’s count in Spennymoor.
Mr Leathley started his campaign proactively and constructively, but blotted his copybook with a loose tongue on social media, something which we’re sure he regrets.
Stephen Glenn (Liberal Democrats) has been a paper candidate at best, which is surprising given the last Lib Dem man – Alan Thomson – polled more than 8,000 in the 2010 ballot box. It’s fair to say a large share of those votes are up for grabs today.
Of course, the national picture will impact on local results – and a vast number of people voting today will be picking their preferred party based on the leaders of the main parties.
But as far as local campaigning is concerned, Phil Wilson remains the strongest candidate for Newton Aycliffe – not only for his past achievements, but for the influence and impact he will be able to have for the people of Aycliffe in the future.