Joy and devastation in Blyth Valley as Tories take Labour stronghold

Shock, joy and devastation were among the emotions expressed by voters in Blyth Valley after the former mining community elected a Conservative MP for the first time in almost 70 years.

Dog walkers on the attractively developed South Beach were all surprised at the result, which saw local NHS worker Ian Levy taking the seat from Labour stalwart Ronnie Campbell – who was not standing this time.

Keith Ritson, a retired managing director, was exercising his Great Dane Ge-Ge on a long training lead and was met with a stream of other dogs hoping for a snack from his supply of treats.

He said: “If Ronnie Campbell was still standing, I would have had a more difficult time deciding, but I voted for Mr Levy and so did my wife, and it was her first time voting Conservative.

Keith Ritson with his Great Dane Ge-He, who voted Conservative in Blyth Valley, Northumberland
Keith Ritson, who voted Conservative in Blyth Valley (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

“It was because of the attitude of Labour – I think 95% of this (heavy loss) is down to (Jeremy) Corbyn and (John) McDonnell.

“Corbyn is like a puppet and it’s Momentum that’s the problem.

“I never thought I would see a Tory win here – they didn’t use to count the Labour vote, they weighed them.

“The mining legacy is falling away and other things have taken its place, there’s renewable energy jobs here.”

Beach huts in Blyth, Northumberland
Beach huts in Blyth (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

Mary Fox, who was striding briskly down the promenade in front of Blyth’s prettily painted beach huts, said: “It was a surprise to see that in Blyth Valley, it has been such a staunch Labour place for a long time.”

She felt the key issue was Brexit, as the area voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, and the Tories had a simple message of getting it done.

The Tory voter, who described herself as “over 60”, added: “All this talk of a second referendum? Why? We voted to come out and they should have adhered to that.”

Bill Brown, who voted Conservative in Blyth Valley, Northumberland
Bill Brown voted Conservative (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

Tory retired deputy head teacher Bill Brown, 81, was walking his friendly shih tzu Buddy.

He felt Mr Corbyn’s leadership had been a mistake for Labour, while he supported Boris Johnson shedding the Remainer MPs from the party prior to the election.

“I want to see Brexit done,” he said.

“I think we have seen some bad deals and I really think it is about time now.”

But Tracy McDonald, 49, of Seaton Sluice, was “devastated” by the result.

Walking her two dogs along the beachfront in bright lunchtime sunshine, she said: “I think a lot of people did not like Corbyn because of the negative press, they did not see they were not voting for the person, they were voting for the policies.

“People voting to leave Europe don’t realise they were voting for all the other Tory policies.

South Beach in Blyth, Northumberland
South Beach in Blyth (Tom Wilkinson/PA)

“I am quite shocked that there are so many people in this country who cannot see what is going to happen.

“It’s doom and gloom today – all my friends are of the same opinion.”

The constituency, which has an electorate of just over 60,000, was established in 1950 as Blyth, and it was ranked 85th on a list of Labour seats most vulnerable to the Tories.

Mr Levy took it with a majority of 712, a 10% swing to the Tories.

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