Angela Rayner visits North East in last-minute push for votes

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has used a visit to the North East to urge voters to reverse some of the surprise results that saw her party lose Red Wall constituencies in the region in 2019.

Ms Rayner visited Thornaby, on Teesside, to rally activists in the Stockton West constituency that looks set to be one of the tightest races in the region. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also visited the constituency last week to campaign for the Conservative candidate, Matt Vickers.

The visit came shortly after one of Rishi Sunak’s most loyal Cabinet allies said Labour is likely to win “the largest majority any party has ever achieved”. Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride, who has been probably the Conservatives’ most prominent voice during the election campaign, said it is “highly unlikely” that polls suggesting a victory for Sir Keir Starmer’s party are wrong and appeared resigned to a heavy defeat.

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But Ms Rayner and other Labour politicians are wary of people taking the election result for granted and urged people in Teesside to go out and vote on Thursday.

Speaking to party volunteers outside of the party’s battle bus, Ms Rayner said: “We’ve got candidates who are putting their area first and we’re a changed Labour Party. We did have a huge defeat in 2019 but we’re in the service of working people - country first, party second.

“The contrast with the Conservatives is the chaos, the crashing of the economy, the cost of living crisis and the crisis in our NHS. We have to turn the page on that and Labour is the only party with a plan to roll up our sleeves, working with local candidates like Joe to make sure that we deliver across the whole of the North East and the rest of the UK.”

The Conservatives are defending five seats in Teesside and others in Northumberland and Durham where they made some unexpected gains in 2019. A number of polls have suggested significant Labour gains and even Tory wipeout in the North East, but the Conservatives hope to hang on to some seats.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used a visit to the region last week to urge voters to judge his MPs on their record of delivery in the area.

Ms Rayner said: “I’ve been an MP now for nine years and it’s an honour and privilege to do that but in opposition you can’t affect change. That’s been the frustration to me: seeing the damage the Tories have done and not being in power to change things.

“I saw what the last Labour Government did for girls like me with things like Sure Start centres and working tax credits. These really mattered and changed my life and people like me. I want the opportunity to serve.”