Bishop Auckland

2015 Result:
Conservative: 12799 (32.5%)
Labour: 16307 (41.4%)
Lib Dem: 1723 (4.4%)
Green: 1545 (3.9%)
UKIP: 7015 (17.8%)
MAJORITY: 3508 (8.9%)

Category: Semi-marginal Labour seat

Geography: North East, Durham. Part of the Durham council area.

Main population centres: Spennymoor, Bishop Auckland, Shildon, Coundon, Barnard Castle, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Staindrop.

Profile: This is the rural south west of County Durham, stretching westwards into farmland, open moorland and the pennine hills. There are several small towns and villages in the rural west of the seat, most notably the historical town of Castle Barnard, a tourist location and site of a major GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals factory. Most of the electorate, however, is in the eastern part of the seat in the old Durham coalfield. Bishop Auckland is the historic seat of the Bishop of Durham, but in the nineteenth century became a mining town and is surrounded by other former colliery towns like Spennymoor and Coundon.

Politics: The rural western part of the seat votes Conservative, but it is easily outweighed by Labour voters in the traditional coal mining towns of the east, making this a reliable Labour seat, held by the party since 1935.


Current MP
HELEN GOODMAN (Labour) Born 1958, Nottingham. Educated at Lady Manners School and Oxford University. Former chief executive of the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries. First elected as MP for Bishop Auckland in 2005. Junior minister at Department for Work and Pensions 2009-2010.
Past Results
2010
Con: 10805 (26%)
Lab: 16023 (39%)
LDem: 9189 (22%)
BNP: 2036 (5%)
Oth: 3083 (7%)
MAJ: 5218 (13%)
2005*
Con: 8736 (23%)
Lab: 19065 (50%)
LDem: 9018 (24%)
UKIP: 1309 (3%)
MAJ: 10047 (26%)
2001
Con: 8754 (23%)
Lab: 22680 (59%)
LDem: 6073 (16%)
GRN: 1052 (3%)
MAJ: 13926 (36%)
1997
Con: 9295 (20%)
Lab: 30359 (66%)
LDem: 4223 (9%)
MAJ: 21064 (46%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
CHRISTOPHER ADAMS (Conservative)
HELEN GOODMAN (Labour) See above.
STEPHEN WHITE (Liberal Democrat)
RHYS BURRISS (UKIP)
THOM ROBINSON (Green)
Links
Comments - 177 Responses on “Bishop Auckland”
  1. 20 years of filling most of their vacant safe seats using mediocre all women shortlists is coming home to roost for Labour now. They are committed to a gender balance on the front bench whilst a large number of the women available to be chosen just aren’t up to the job. This will seriously damage Labour’s leadership and talent pool for decades to come.

  2. I agree completely with HH’s comments – the true objective should be to have free lists where all are welcome, and put in procedures to ensure that all candidates are assessed and selected on merit.

    AWS is fundamentally flawed in principle and, like HH says, if you exclude 50% of the talent pool (in either direction) then you’ll end up with sub-standard candidates. Step forward the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Lisa Nandy for starters…..

  3. “Step forward the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury”

    that one is a product of an open shortlist (albeit a NEC drawn shortlist as it was for a by-election)

  4. Andrea – I stand corrected! A valuable lesson to check my facts 🙂

    I will stand by my more general point though……I genuinely don’t think positive discrimination is a good idea, as it makes people think about the very thing you’re trying to stop them thinking about.

  5. Is there anything to actually suggest this lady isn’t a good constituency MP though? I didn’t agree with the Hunt Tweet, but the benches would be very empty if we were to ban gobby MP’s (I’m thinking of Soubry and Perry in particular here). Her CV suggests she is a somewhat intelligent woman so these gaffes are rather strange…she really needs to quit Twitter.

  6. Re Tim Collins (as Maxim mentioned) wasn’t his defeat in 2005 was more the result of a targetted Lib Dem effort to unseat various Conservative MPs with slim majorities? Collins being the only one they managed to defeat.

    But I do agree with the sentiment about parachuting of mediocre talents into seats they have little or no connection to. To offer some balance, there are examples of non-local MPs who are/were known to be very hardworking in their constituencies. I think Ann Widdecombe in Maidstone & The Weald was meant to be an example of such.

    On AWS, it was one of those weird paradoxes of New Labour. Blair tapped into vital parts of the country which he needed to win for a majority. The party’s whole vision was to take them to the centre of politics yet they implemented positive discrimination (which later on went hand-in-hand with the Labour government’s obsession with political correctness). A centrist would surely value merit over someone’s gender. Was it because the public perceived Labour (up until the financial crash) to be running the economy reasonably well at the time, so AWS and everything attached to it were just irritations they could live with?

  7. yes

  8. Perhaps a centrist would be wise enough to question whether the previous system was always selecting the best person on merit.

  9. AWS was always a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It was supposed to be temporary but once instituted the PC / equalities lobby in the party has ensured it can never be dropped. Now the Darlings, Straws, Blunketts etc have left parliament and it is plain to see what little talent there is to replace them, it has finally become apparent what a terrible long term effect AWS will have on Labour.

    In retrospect the Conservatives’ approach of trying to remove the systemic bias against women in selections without going for AWS has proved to be the better way. Certainly the average standard of the Tories’ women intake has been much better than Labour’s in the past few elections.

  10. ‘Certainly the average standard of the Tories’ women intake has been much better than Labour’s in the past few elections.’

    It’s not just the last two elections that this has been the case

    Whilst most female Tory MPs are not as well intentioned as their Labour counterparts, they certainly seem more considerably more competent and tend to be much more likely to live in the real world

    I would suspect that this is largely a result of Labour’s AWS

  11. There’s precious little talent apparent amongst the newish male MPs either. I suspect that the lack of visibility for most opposition MPs and the vacuousness of much of Labour’s recent politics is much more to blame than AWS.

  12. It is part of the same problem, as identity politics is by its very nature vacuous.

    It’s arguably true that the image of the Tory party of the 80s and 90s had become too racist, sexist and homophobic by 1997 in a rapidly liberalising country, and that New Labour’s policies on AWS, gay rights etc were vote winners at the time.

    However, in the best traditions of the party through the centuries, the Tories have eventually adapted to the more liberal Britain of today and moved on. On identity politics, Labour are stuck with the policies and rhetoric of 1997, which looks out of date and ridiculous, and is certainly starting to badly damage their talent pool and their image with voters, especially working class men.

  13. I’m not sure identity politics is necessarily vacuous – look at Northern Ireland. But New Labour’s particular kind of it may well have been.

  14. I tend to see it more as being the problem faced by social democratic parties across Europe, in that the old school socialist policies don’t tend to win elections or work all that well, but the centrist politics put forward instead aren’t much of an alternative, especially when you look inept and unprincipled. It’s hard to shine in such a situation, especially in opposition.

  15. The Conservatve Party in recent years have used professionally qualified people to vet their prospective candidates. Labour have relied on voting procedures which, whilst they might be preferable in an ideal world, are not up to the job.

    it does not help that the small cost of selecting candidates and then campaigning for their election compared to the value of the decisions they make encourages cliques to put forward candidates within parties who will further vested interests. This causes problems in particular for parties. Like Labour that are riven from top to bottom with people who have almost diametrically opposed views.

    Watch what happens in a couple of years when the Corbynistas start to deselect sitting MPs. A considerable proportion of Labour Party members seem more interested in getting candidates selected from their faction than in winning the subsquent election. It is not going to be a pretty sight.

  16. Runnymede – very true. The DUP are very popular with their WWC base precisely because of their views.

    Whereas Labour giving their base people like Dennis MacShane in Rotherham left their voters leaving in droves.

  17. FS – that’s interesting to hear. Is that a very recent change or do you just mean at a sift stage by CCHQ, or for By-elections?

    My experience of all Parties’ vetting processes is that they are all woeful. Indeed I might have mentioned on here on another seat that it took my colleague less than an hour to find out that the contents of a PPC’s CV was false.

    Most certainly wouldn’t pass an Apprentice-type Claude interview!

  18. I was thinking for example of Professor Jo Silvester, a leading Chartered Occupational Psychologist who I understand helped to develop Tory selection procedures between 2010 ans 2015.

  19. Was an extra level created? NW CCHQ said their Director merely interviews Tories who want to get onto the National List and they ask the local Assoc Chairman for a report, as well as a CV/appn form.

    No vetting – in terms of financial/credit ref checks – seemed to take place, although perhaps that’s because it wasn’t a winnable seat?

  20. The advice I was thiinking of related to personnel style checks of abiility and integrity.

    It would not surprise me in the least if several parties, including the Conservatives, need to review their financial/credit reference checks with a view to making them more stringent in time for the 2020 election.

  21. Does anyone have any local insights into why Bishop Auckland and Sedgefield are trending Tory?’

    Why would there have to be any local factors at play?

    These are the sort of post-indiustrial WWC seats that have been trending Tory for the last 10-15 years throughout the country

  22. ‘Bassetlaw doesn’t seem to fit this pattern though.’

    You’re right – and this must have something to do with Blue Labour MP John Mann

    Copeland in the Lake District is another WWC seat that doesn’t seem to have swung to the Tories – and even Barrow & Furness – which has a history of being represented by good Labour MPs (Hutton & Woodcock) very much on the moderate wing of the party

    If such MPs are de-selected Labour really will be shooting themselves in the foot and will deserve to go down to a landslide defeat

  23. I can see the Tories coming extremely close to winning most of those seats in 2020, with the exception of Sedgefield. There is certainly no reason why they can’t gain all the others mentioned, especially if one or two incumbents stand down in those seats. Still, that could be irrelevant if the prevalent trends continue to shift the seats demographically against Labour.

  24. And FWIW, I do agree that were it not for John Mann, Bassetlaw would probably be as marginal as all the other similar seats that have been mentioned time and time again. Sometimes a strong incumbent makes a seat a bit safer than it really ought to be, but if that metric were always true, John Woodcock wouldn’t have come close to a shock defeat in Barrow and Furness, but for the local factors surrounding Trident.

  25. I think other such seats high up the Tory target list we should keep a close eye on in 2020 include-
    1. Halifax
    2. Bridgend
    3. Walsall North
    4. Birmingham Northfield
    5. Wakefield
    6. Eltham
    7. Stoke-on-Trent South
    8. Darlington

  26. Both The Results and Maxim’s Tory target lists look very plausible to me and would be the type of seats I’d expect them to take with a 70+ majority

  27. The big unknown is what happens to the huge UKIP vote in these seats. They are down to 6% as per yesterday’s poll. If it goes mostly to May then I agree the Tories will win these kind of seats. Difficult to see Labour picking up UKIP votes at the moment.

  28. + Middlesbrough South

  29. “Copeland in the Lake District is another WWC seat that doesn’t seem to have swung to the Tories – and even Barrow & Furness – which has a history of being represented by good Labour MPs (Hutton & Woodcock) very much on the moderate wing of the party”

    I literally almost just threw up, Reed and Woodcock are both god awful MP’s and from what I’ve heard the local CLP’s have wanted rid of them for ages. Woodcock cos he’s a dull parachute who doesn’t understand the area and has been intentionally obstinate to everyone who disagree;s with him while Reed is just regarded as a out of touch, nasty piece of work who seems to hate his own constituents and has the maturity of a seven year old.

    I’m not saying having some leftie MP would be best for these seats cos it wouldn’t (I think a blue Labour John Mann type figure would be the best fit for these seats) but this is again another example of the phenomena I’ve mentioned before where frankly terrible MP’s are somehow toted as brilliant when their only feature of note is that they are on the right of the Lab party, what have either actually ever done of note? They’ve never lead the way and enacted change on any major issue, they’re not particularly good orators, they’re not relatable, both have haemorrhaged support in their own seats, they both appear to be just riding the political gravy train, I just don’t get where the praise comes from.

  30. With plenty of target seats like the ones we’ve mentioned, it is surely the Tories who are the main favourites to make even more net gains nationally in 2020. Even if they don’t get more than about say 20, it may be enough if Labour do absolutely collapse as most commentators agree they likely will, and the polling evidence has been consistent on this front ever since Jeremy Corbyn took over. Of course, the polls aren’t always right, witness 2015 and the EU Referendum perhaps, but common sense should tell most political thinkers that the next general election is really the Tories’ to lose even this far out.

  31. Rivers seems to be falling into the Corbynsta trap of cutting off his nose to spite his face

    I wasn’t referring to Read but Woodcock and the MP he succeeded in Barrow on Furness – Hutton

    If it was left to Corbyn with his unilateral disarmament policy., Barrow woulds already be a Tory seat – as it was last time Labour advocated that policy, and incidentally the only time during the post war period

    Whilst I appreciate polls might not have thew sway they once did, have you seen the recent ones which show the Tories more than 10 pts ahead of Labour – for the first time in something like 25 years

    It’s been said ti death but if Labour persist with Cirbyn – which looks likely – the biggest beneficiaries will be the Tories who are likely to win the next election (with more favourable boundaries) by a landslide

    In their heart if hearts surely this would be the last thing those on the Corbynite wing of the Labor Party would want – although all the evidence suggests not

    Labour are just like the Tories between 1997-2003 (in fact to be fair it’s even bleaker) – their own worst enemy

  32. Tim
    I’m not making a comment on Corbyn here, for the sake of agreement I’ll presume that yes he’s leading us to catastrophe and the sooner we’re rid of him the better (I don’t actually believe that mind) I’d just add that I think we need to ditch some of the dead wood like Reed and Woodcock too.

    I admit having re-read your post you didn’t explicitly refer to Reed (though I stand by what I said) but you did claim Woodcock was a good MP when all the evidence suggests he isn’t. There is a good possibility this seat will be vulnerable because of Labs unilateralist position (assuming that does become their position) but Woodcock isn’t Labs one saving grace and hope of retaining he seat, the fact that he almost lost the seat when Lab were not proposing unilateralism is telling. Putting all other issues aside Woodcock is in all likelihood a liability in this seat. I reiterate though I’m not saying a Corbynista would necessarily be any better.

  33. Results
    I’m not disagreeing with the main premise of your post, I personally have long since stopped making predictions this far out but a few things should be pointed out.

    “if Labour do absolutely collapse as most commentators agree they likely will”

    Most commentators also said we’d have another coalition in 2015, the Lib Dem collapse primarily benefited Lab, that the Libs would hold at least 20 seats due to popular incumbents, UKIP did more harm to the Tories, Corbyn had zero chance of winning the Lab leadership, UKIP would come close to winning the Oldham W by-election and Lab would lose hundreds of seats in the local elections. In fact they also said in 92 that Lab would never form another government and in 2001 that the Tories would never form another government. Basically the pundits have proven themselves to be even less informed than your typical punter on the street, take what they say with a huge pinch of salt is my advice.

    “and the polling evidence has been consistent on this front ever since Jeremy Corbyn took over”

    Not quite, Anthony recently did a big piece on this on the general polling thread of this site and save for the recent collapse (which is likely a mix between May’s honeymoon and Labs infighting) Lab was steadily gaining ground on the Tories from when JC was elected right up to the EU ref result. It wasn’t as good as many would have liked but Anthony sums it well when he basically says that Corbyn isn’t doing well but he isn’t doing nearly as badly as his opponents claim he is.

  34. ‘Woodcock isn’t Labs one saving grace and hope of retaining he seat, the fact that he almost lost the seat when Lab were not proposing unilateralism is telling. Putting all other issues aside Woodcock is in all likelihood a liability in this seat.’

    I think Woodcock is actually one of the reasons Labour held the seat whereas a Corbynista would almost certainly lose it – the Tories would consistently play the Unilateral disarmament card

    As one of the few Labour MPs who seems to understand WWC concerns, John Mann would probably be a good fit for most Labour seats outside the cities.

    The problem for Labour is that they hardly have any such seats left

  35. Tim
    A Corbynista may well have done worse and I totally agree John Mann is the type of MP that fits this seat best, issue is Woodcock is almost as far away from Mann as Corbyn is (albeit for very different reasons) Woodcock’s one claim to fame in Barrow is being an ardent supporter of Trident, on basically every other issue (including might I add in areas were I totally agree with him) he probably runs contrary to sentiment in his own constituency. In such a scenario one has to make up for it by being a very high quality politican and he just isn’t, as I said dull, parachute, doesn’t know his area very well, obstinate, doesn’t get on very well with his CLP etc etc

    I’m genuinely curious as to why you think Woodcock was the reason they held on? I’d argue he was the reason they came so close to losing in the first place.

  36. @rivers10 I actually agree with you that Reed and Woodcock aren’t great MPs and are more trouble than they are worth for Labour. What I don’t understand though is that you and many well educated lefties seem blind to and actively defend the left’s own awful, walking disaster of MPs who are far worse than Reed and Woodcock such as Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott, Burgeon (who in my opinion tops the poll for the worst MP from the new intake). I can understand defending left wing MPs like Cat Smith and Clive Lewis, but the four car crashes mentioned above I really, really don’t.

    What do you think Corbyn will lead Labour to? A 2015 like defeat as opposed to a blowout one?

  37. Pepps
    Regarding Abbott I’m actually inclined to agree, she’s nothing special and for some reason rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I don’t think she’s bad I just don’t think she’s any good but I totally admit that since I agree with her on most issues that’s possibly clouding my judgment somewhat.

    McDonnell is a weird one and truthfully I haven’t formed an opinion of him (or rather my opinion keeps changing) He has moments where when I wonder what the hell he’s doing (his multiple U turns over Osborne’s fiscal charter) but he also has moments of real promise (his first appearance on question time where he came across as really endearing, honest and didn’t buckle under some very challenging questions) All in all I’m still making my mind up on him, maybe I never will…

    Burgeon I admit is a real love or hate figure. I suppose he says what he believes and says it with force and clarity, if you agree with what he says (and I more often than not do) he has an ability to fire you up but if you disagree with him I can see that he’d come across as dangerous if not downright insane.

    As for the next election I avoid making predictions generally since if the last few years have taught me anything is that things can change in a matter of hours and that nothing can be taken for granted so if the election is in 2020 I couldn’t even hazard a guess. If though there is a snap election in 2017 and things remain roughly as is I’d anticipate something in the ballpark of a repeat of 2015, even less change than that election in fact since the Scot Lab collapse and Lib Dem collapse have already taken place. Lab either gaining or losing about 10 seats.

  38. ‘What I don’t understand though is that you and many well educated lefties seem blind to and actively defend the left’s own awful, walking disaster of MPs who are far worse than Reed and Woodcock such as Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott, Burgeon’

    Is McDonnell a disaster of an MP?

    The fact he has a majority of 15,700 in a seat which he won in 1997 – the height of Labour’s popularity – would suggest his constituents think otherwise

    I’m not for a minute suggesting he’d make a good Chancellor, but to build up a personal majority like that, he must have something going for him as a constituency MP

  39. He seems to call a spade a spade and you can imagine having a pint with him?
    The polices – completely dotty .

  40. “The polices – completely dotty”

    Anything in particular that makes you think that? Love him or loath him his policies pertaining to his remit (economics) are (in my humble opinion) brilliant. They were formulated with the help of McDonnell’s economic advisory panel made up of leading economists. Sure they’re radical but in my mind they make vastly more sense than what Osborne peddled in his 6 years as Chancellor which was a mix of short sightedness, rigid adherence to an ideology and catchy sound bytes.

  41. Rent control and local authority backed mortgages are definitely potty ideas.

  42. Local authority backed mortgages are already in place in several councils, it isn’t even that bold an idea it just takes various older government schemes and goes further with it.

    As for rent controls all the evidence suggests its potty NOT having them. Most every major city in the world has some form of rent controls even most cities in that bastion of socialism the US of A. Some things like extended tenancies I just don’t see how one can be opposed (unless of course your a landlord) least of all call it potty..

  43. Local authority backed mortgages sounds fairly outlandish but I think you can at least make a case for some form of rent control

    I tend to agree with Joe in that McDonnell would be better company down the pub than in high office but putting his ideology to one side he does strike me as one of the more credible, competent and likeable members of the shadow cabinet

  44. Both are terrible ideas. Neither trying to control the price of renting by legislation or having the government assist people in paying inflated property prices address the fundemental problem: a shortage of available housing in the right areas. The crux of the matter is we need to build. I am quite bemused given the current Labour leadership’s general outlook that they haven’t plumped for the straightforward solution of having the state build more houses.

    Rent control has a terrible record anywhere where there is a shortage of supply. It creates a sclerotic market with substantial barriers to new entrants, whether on the landlord or tenant side of the market.

  45. Kieran
    “The crux of the matter is we need to build. I am quite bemused given the current Labour leadership’s general outlook that they haven’t plumped for the straightforward solution of having the state build more houses”

    They have, their policy is to allow local authorities to borrow on international markets and use the funds to invest in housing. McDonnell said we need to be building 100’s of thousands of new homes each year.

  46. If more houses were to be built then rent control and state backed mortgages have no point. They are policy dead ends (which was my original point).

  47. @rivers I also think you are being way too optimistic about Labour’s prospects in an early general election (2020 is too far off to say for sure) and there is no way Labour could conceivably making net gains. My guess would be if an election was held in the Autumn of this year or the Spring of next Labour would lose ~30 seats and many would suggest that’s being conservative (small c)

  48. Rent control has a terrible record anywhere where there is a shortage of supply. It creates a sclerotic market with substantial barriers to new entrants, whether on the landlord or tenant side of the market.’

    Don’t try and make out that it’s the tenants you’re thinking of in your objections to rent controls Kieran.

    I strongly suspect the only reason you object to them is because it’s a barrier to already rich landlords making even more of a fortune of the back of their tenants – classic Tory thinking, which of course is fair enough, but don’t try and fool people in that its those who would benefit from such a policy are those you are thinking of.

    Having said that you’re right to saay that it does nothing to address the real probkem – which is a shortage of affordable housing full stop

    ‘I also think you are being way too optimistic about Labour’s prospects in an early general election (2020 is too far off to say for sure) and there is no way Labour could conceivably making net gains’

    There was such a discussion on Newsnight last night featuring unlikely Labour Party member Rod Liddle and some Momentum activist.

    As dislikable as Mr Liddle can sometimes comes across I agreed with everything he said last night about the Labour Party and the Momenum activist was living in cloud cuckoo land.,

    She genuinely believed that under Corbyn Labour were winning over thousands of white working class voters up and down the country.

    And that’s what you find with so many Corbyn supporters – they are as delusional as the contestants appearing on The Apprentice

  49. I’m fascinated by the reasoning that “rent controls are used in cities all over the world, so they must be a good idea”. You find rats in cities all over the world, but that doesn’t mean that trying to have a lot of rats in UK cities isn’t a “potty” idea.

    Putting a maximum price on something you want there to be more of (rental housing) doesn’t even pass the test of common sense, let alone economics.

  50. “Putting a maximum price on something you want there to be more of (rental housing) doesn’t even pass the test of common sense, let alone economics”.

    Correct. The only reason so many places retain rent control in the face of the mountain of evidence as to its negative effects is that it’s a very difficult policy cul de sac to reverse out of. The lucky few tenants who benefit from control constitute a powerful lobby group. The same cannot be said for potential future entrants to the market.

    “Don’t try and make out that it’s the tenants you’re thinking of in your objections to rent controls Kieran”.

    Oh fuck off Tim. Don’t presume to lecture me on why I hold the views I do. Their exists clear evidence that the tighter controls on rent are the more sclerotic the rental market and the harder it is for tenants to find a decent let.

    I don’t expect you to be interested in such evidence though. Time and again on here you’ve demonstrated a preference for remaining in your bubble of ignorance rather than doing a bit of reading, thinking and questioning your assumptions.

    For others who may be interested though here is an article on the negative effects of Sweden’s particularly tight system of control:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/19/why-stockholm-housing-rules-rent-control-flat

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