Former Tory leader on Northumberland County Council explains why he's backing Labour in Hexham

Alex Kerr (inset) along with Labour signs in Corbridge
-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)

A former councillor who served as the leader of the Conservative group on Northumberland County Council has revealed he will be backing the Labour Party at the general election.

Alex Kerr was a Tory councillor at both county and district level for more than two years, and spent eight years as the group leader on the county council and is now an Alderman of the council. The former Humshaugh councillor also served as deputy leader of the now defunct Tynedale District Council.

But the 88-year-old, who now lives in Corbridge, will not be backing his former party when the country goes to the polls on July 4. Instead, he will be voting for Labour candidate Joe Morris.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Kerr said: "It's just I think it's time for a fresh face in the area. Voting for Joe is a decision both me and my wife have made individually.

"I'm voting for the person not the political party on this occasion. It's the way they're trying to persuade people to vote for them - Joe came here and spoke to me at length.

"I've known Guy (Conservative candidate Guy Opperman) for years. They have sent me a letter on parliamentary paper - I know he has ministerial responsibilities, but that doesn't quite equate with my impression of how Conservatives should ask for a vote.

"The pleasing thing is that Joe is a Hexham lad who wants to represent this constituency to the best of his ability. That seems important to me, that you have someone who wants to be an MP and wants to be part of the community. That's very important to me.

Mr Kerr also felt some national issues had played a part in his decision - he added: "I can't get away with the present Prime Minister.

"I have never met him, I don't know him - but he just doesn't come well for me in the grand scheme of things."

The Hexham constituency has never been a Labour seat, and has returned a Tory MP in every election for the last century. However, the latest polls from the model created by Britain Elects and the New Statesman put Labour on 44.6%, compared to the Conservatives on 28.4%.

Asked if Mr Morris could really win the seat for Labour for the first time, Mr Kerr said: "I hope so. A number of years ago I would have said he had no chance.

"If people take the time to hear him and meet him, he's got a good chance."

Northumberland Conservatives were contacted for comment.

The candidates for the Hexham constituency are William Clouston of the SDP; Nick Cott of the Liberal Democrats; Nick Morphet of the Green Party; Joe Morris of Labour; Guy Opperman of the Conservative Party; and Independent candidate Chris Waley.