Wansbeck

2015 Result:
Conservative: 8386 (21.8%)
Labour: 19267 (50%)
Lib Dem: 2407 (6.2%)
Green: 1454 (3.8%)
UKIP: 7014 (18.2%)
MAJORITY: 10881 (28.2%)

Category: Very safe Labour seat

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

Main population centres: Morpeth, Ashington, Bedlington, Newbiggin.

Profile: Covers the lower valley of the river Wansbeck and is named after the old district council, now subsumed into the Northumberland unitary council. It includes the market town and administrative centre of Morpeth and various former coal mining villages, most notably the large town/village of Ashington. The final deep coal mine closed in 2005, but opencast mining continues in the area. Like many former mining towns the area faces economic difficulties, in this case further compounded by the 2012 mothballing of the aluminium plant at Lynemouth.

Politics: While Morpeth itself has had some Liberal Democrat strength, most of this seat is made up of the sort of traditional mining communities that vote solidly Labour and, consequently, the area has reliably returned Labour MPs since 1935. More specifically, it has reliably returned local miners as Labour MPs - the three MPs since the creation of the current Wansbeck seat in 1983 have all been former miners, all of whom previously worked at the local Ellington colliery..


Current MP
IAN LAVERY (Labour) Born 1963, Ashington. Former miner and President of the NUM. First elected as MP for Wansbeck in 2010. Is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group.
Past Results
2010
Con: 6714 (18%)
Lab: 17548 (46%)
LDem: 10517 (27%)
BNP: 1418 (4%)
Oth: 2076 (5%)
MAJ: 7031 (18%)
2005
Con: 5515 (15%)
Lab: 20315 (55%)
LDem: 9734 (26%)
GRN: 1245 (3%)
MAJ: 10581 (29%)
2001
Con: 4774 (13%)
Lab: 21617 (58%)
LDem: 8516 (23%)
GRN: 954 (3%)
Oth: 1558 (4%)
MAJ: 13101 (35%)
1997
Con: 6299 (14%)
Lab: 29569 (65%)
LDem: 7202 (16%)
Oth: 956 (2%)
MAJ: 22367 (50%)

Demographics
2015 Candidates
CHRIS GALLEY (Conservative)
IAN LAVERY (Labour) See above.
TOM HANCOCK (Liberal Democrat)
MELANIE HURST (UKIP)
CHRISTOPHER HEDLEY (Green)
Links
Comments - 68 Responses on “Wansbeck”
  1. A few people I know think this might fall to the Tories and I do agree with them. On current Polls this seat is not safe.

  2. Nonsense.

    I know some of the former mining seats have been trending to the Conservatives, but this isn’t even a former mining seat. This is an active mining seat. Labour hold.

  3. The loss of the whip should be comiing here.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41688280

  4. It won’t happen, though.

    It’s nonsense. A single insensitive comment can get you suspended (Anne-Marie Morris, Naz Shah), but people turn a blind eye to this sort of behaviour. Even the Tory press hasn’t gotten particularly animated (perhaps because it’s probable that several Tory MPs have likewise abused directorships etc to help themselves to free money). Meanwhile Labour loyalists are rallying round Lavery, with Paul Mason in particular going full Donald Trump and blaming the fake-news BBC for running a CCHQ-directed smear story. And anyway, the agenda has moved on and already the story is yesterday’s fish-and-chip paper.

    Good on the BBC, though. We need much more investigative journalism in this country, and the BBC is well-placed to do it because it is exactly the sort of content which is of huge public interest but which doesn’t have a sustainable business model because it’s so much more expensive to produce than other forms of news. Long live Panorama.

  5. What is particularly disgusting is that the ultimate source of the money was for compensation payments for sick miners who had contacted occupational health problems.

  6. Whichever way you try and spin it, the conduct of the union is appalling.

    Writing off a £70k loan (which would have bought a nice house back in the day) – and the ‘redundancy’ pay…

    Considering unions are supposed to be all about collectivism and solidarity… though one shouldn’t be surprised with the behaviour of a NUM representative. Scargill didn’t give two hoots about the blokes struggling to pay their mortgage or rent, all he wanted was to get himself on the telly and bring down the Thatcher government. Whilst still in receipt of his salary, one would assume.

  7. This story has been chugging along in the background for some time – a couple of years now.

    The details look very odd indeed.

    I will be careful what I say here but it is clear that there are a lot of people who would rather this issue not be investigated due to Lavery’s position as a key Corbyn ally.

  8. “…it is clear that there are a lot of people who would rather this issue not be investigated due to Lavery’s position as a key Corbyn ally.”

    And of course, there are many people who would rather the issue *were* investigated, for exactly the same reason…

  9. “Considering unions are supposed to be all about collectivism and solidarity… though one shouldn’t be surprised with the behaviour of a NUM representative. Scargill didn’t give two hoots about the blokes struggling to pay their mortgage or rent, all he wanted was to get himself on the telly and bring down the Thatcher government. Whilst still in receipt of his salary, one would assume.”

    I’m a Tory voter but the bit of your comment about Scargill is bullshit and could never have been written by someone from a coalfield area who remembers the miners strike. He and many others on the hard left cared very much indeed for the miners themselves and donated a lot of their own money to the striking miners fund – my uncle told me how Skinner came into the NUM offices in Chesterfield every month with wads of notes, representing half his salary. It could only be done in cash as the government had frozen all the NUM’s bank accounts.

    Awkward as it is for those of us on the centre right to admit, Scargill was entirely correct that the government intended to shut down the entire coal mining industry over the long term and pretty much every retired miner is now of that view, including those who bitterly opposed him at the time. From that perspective, a legal strike was entirely understandable, and the decision not to hold a national ballot (which he would probably have won anyway) was a calamitous error.

    On the Lavery scandal, it isn’t that the NUM was particularly prone to corruption, it is more that circumstances combined to create a situation where any union or organisation was likely to be tempted into such wrongdoing.

    Basically, though the NUM had been campaigning for compensation for industrial illnesses for decades, it wasn’t until the early Blair years that the government really started to accept the miners’ case by paying up. Large amounts of money then started to flow to the NUM at a time when virtually the entire industry had already closed and the union had virtually no working members left, and only a skeleton staff which inevitably formed a clique.

    Furthermore, by this time most of the retired miners who would have qualified for the payments had already died, like my granddad who died a horrible death from black lung in 1990. This left a load of money sloshing around with not so many people who qualified to receive it, so it started to get creamed off mercilessly by ambulance chasing lawyers and the clique running the union, without anyone really being there to notice what was going on. A major scandal for sure and a lesson for the future. The main takeaway however, aside from whatever wrongdoing Lavery is found guilty of, is that governments of the 70s and 80s should have compensated sick ex-miners while they were still alive.

  10. @Polltroll

    What an odd comment. The issue looks extremely fishy and warrants investigation regardless of who he is.

    @H.H.

    Scargill, for his faults, was entirely right as you correctly acknowledge. I think your assessment in the last 2 paras is very shrewd and as close to the right of it as we are likely to see.

  11. HH is correct about the details of the compensation scheme. My grandmother received a payment around during the early Blair years.

    This was one of ways that his government did right by his supporters in way that was off the radar of interest to the Westminster bubble.

  12. Yes indeed. Compensating the miners was a major New Labour campaign pledge in 1997 in coalfield seats.

    As with many other things in the New Labour era, the government dished out the money but through neglect or naivety totally failed to keep an eye on what was happening to it.

    Hawthorn’s point is a very important one – where a miner had died through industrial illness, in some cases a widow qualified for some compensation. This left a lot of little old ladies as sitting ducks for ambulance chasing lawyers, sometimes in hoc with the union. The old lady perhaps understood little of what she was entitled to and was happy to receive a few hundred quid, unaware that this represented 10% of her entitlement with the other 90% being creamed off by lawyers and union officials.

  13. Surely the compo system should have been an entirely government administered one. I don’t see why the unions had to be involved at all.

    “Awkward as it is for those of us on the centre right to admit, Scargill was entirely correct that the government intended to shut down the entire coal mining industry over the long term…”.

    Absolutely, but things get more complicate when you consider what the alternative policy options were. In the archives somewhere there is a transcript of Scargill’s appearance before a Commons select committee. When asked he stated quite plainly that in his view there should be no limit to the liability the taxpayer should be willing to accept to ensure that unprofitable mines should remain open. In his view as long as there was coal in the ground it should be mined.

    I don’t think even most of those who were sorry to see the industry go would have quite been prepared to go to those lengths.

  14. ‘ Hawthorn’s point is a very important one – where a miner had died through industrial illness, in some cases a widow qualified for some compensation. This left a lot of little old ladies as sitting ducks for ambulance chasing lawyers, sometimes in hoc with the union. The old lady perhaps understood little of what she was entitled to and was happy to receive a few hundred quid, unaware that this represented 10% of her entitlement with the other 90% being creamed off by lawyers and union officials. ‘

    I know my mother and her siblings received some payment on behalf of their father who had died decades before.

    It would have been a few hundred quid as you say and as this was unexpected they saw no reason to complain. It would likely be different now with the research ability the interenet gives.

  15. ‘ Awkward as it is for those of us on the centre right to admit, Scargill was entirely correct that the government intended to shut down the entire coal mining industry over the long term and pretty much every retired miner is now of that view, including those who bitterly opposed him at the time. From that perspective, a legal strike was entirely understandable, and the decision not to hold a national ballot (which he would probably have won anyway) was a calamitous error. ‘

    It should be noted that the Thatcher government cointinually subsidised the minig industry with taxpayers money and invested in new pits even after the strike.

    It was the Major government which chose to rid itself of coal as quickly as possible – a policy continued under Blair.

    As to a strike ballot what is little known is that there were three – all of which voted against a strike. With coal stocks steadily increasing Scargill knew he could wait no longer.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_miners%27_strike_(1984%E2%80%9385)#Ballots

  16. “When asked he stated quite plainly that in his view there should be no limit to the liability the taxpayer should be willing to accept to ensure that unprofitable mines should remain open. In his view as long as there was coal in the ground it should be mined.”

    I’ve worked on estimating mine viability for 20 years. In the 1980s, the so-called profitability of a coal mine in the UK was entirely at the mercy of the government as the government set the price of coal. As the government wanted to keep electricity prices stable and relatively low, the price of coal in the UK was usually held below what a true market price would have been. This is why mines were always so keen to export their high-end coals, a practice which in fact carried on right into the 2000s at some of the last remaining deep mines such as Maltby.

    Therefore it was a matter of where government wanted to show the profit. I don’t think much analysis was ever done in the 1980s as to which mines would have been able to withstand the global free market price, but many probably would have been able to over a medium term period.

    “It should be noted that the Thatcher government cointinually subsidised the minig industry with taxpayers money and invested in new pits even after the strike.”

    Only one new deep pit was opened after the strike – Asfordby – and it was a disaster and closed very quickly afterwards. The last significant investment in new mines was Selby in the late 1970s, I can’t recall if the tail end of the openings there stretched into the Thatcher government.

    It’s true that new highly mechanised mines would probably have taken off much more successfully if the unions hadn’t consistently opposed them. Also it’s true that Thatcher invested a lot in open cast coal mining, opinion on that strategy being very divided.

    “It was the Major government which chose to rid itself of coal as quickly as possible – a policy continued under Blair.”

    The review announced by Heseltine in 1992 was the trigger for this, and that review had been secretly initiated many years earlier circa 1987 under the Thatcher government with secretary of state Cecil Parkinson. It’s fair to say I think that Major was simply continuing the direction set by Thatcher (as in many other things), but minus her political caution and nous.

  17. “The review announced by Heseltine in 1992 was the trigger for this, and that review had been secretly initiated many years earlier circa 1987 under the Thatcher government with secretary of state Cecil Parkinson. It’s fair to say I think that Major was simply continuing the direction set by Thatcher (as in many other things), but minus her political caution and nous.”

    Also the privatisation of electricity generation by Thatcher in 1990 allowed the electricity companies to import coal during periods when prices were low, meaning that during such periods government either had to subsidise UK mines until prices picked up, or UK mines lost significant market share with many mines having to close.

  18. ‘ Only one new deep pit was opened after the strike – Asfordby – and it was a disaster and closed very quickly afterwards. The last significant investment in new mines was Selby in the late 1970s, I can’t recall if the tail end of the openings there stretched into the Thatcher government. ‘

    The Selby complex opened in 1983:

    ‘ When Wistow mine, the first of the five in the Selby coalfield, began producing coal in 1983 ‘

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2004/oct/26/g2

    As to after the strike I can vaguely remember in about 1988 news reports of about half a dozen new mines being developed.

    One was in the Vale of Belvoir – Ashfordby I assume. There was another in South Wales (Margram ?) and Thorne near Doncaster. I don’t remember the others.

    Obviously with the exception of Ashfordby they never entered production. Though even if they had they wouldn’t have lasted long.

    Lets face it the coal industry in Britain was in decline for a century with government aquiescence. All this talk of secret hit lists is rather melodramatic.

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