Have Labour’s hopes of holding its northern seats hit a brick wall in Darlington?

For our first Policy North Dispatch we visited the St Paul's area of Darlington, one of the Conservatives' top target seats in the North East.

Labour’s Jenny Chapman, first elected in 2010 is defending the seat with a marginal 3,158 majority.

The terraced streets we visited were once dominated by St. Paul’s Church, which was demolished in 1975 after a fire. Today there are two main features in the area, Harrowgate Hill Primary School, rated as Good by Ofsted, and the obligatory Morrisons superstore.

This North East constituency is however unlike many of those that surround it. Darlington found its historical success not in coal mining, but as a town built on the success of the railways. Darlington maintains a key East Coast Mainline station today. That prosperous engineering heritage has helped it remain an affluent town, in part explaining why the Conservative’s picked up 35% of the vote last time, less than 10% behind Labour. Indeed, the Conseratives held the seat between 1983 and 1992.

On the streets of St Pauls, where the average house price is £82,000, there was an undoubtedly clear movement from Labour to the Conservatives. Life long Labour voters were indeed making the switch to “get Theresa May in.”

With Labour’s Jenny Chapman facing a tough time locally over Library closures and the 2015 Conservative candidate Peter Cuthbertson standing again, it will be a surprise if the Conservatives don’t manage to pick up Darlington on 8th June.  

Darlington: Labour majority: 3,158