Who should lead Labour? Our Political correspondent Paul Brand asked Labour's heartland.
Nowhere does this race matter more than here. The North East is more loyal to Labour than any other region. The party’s share of the vote here at the general election was the highest in the UK, resulting in almost every constituency here returning a Labour MP.
So who should lead them all in Parliament? Well to answer that, first you need to know who’s in the running. And that’s the first difficulty – most people don’t have a clue.
We took the faces of the four candidates out onto the streets of Stockton South - precisely the kind of seat Labour needs to win if they want to regain power in 2020. We didn’t expect everyone to know the names of the runners and riders, but the reaction we got was pretty illuminating.
The majority of people couldn’t name a single candidate - not Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper or Jeremy Corbyn. A surprising number thought Andy Burnham was Simon Cowell (perhaps those dark looks?), Yvette Cooper was confused with Nicola Sturgeon and even Anne Diamond (I can sort of see the latter), and someone said Jeremy Corbyn ‘looks like that bloke off Eastenders’. Rarely is that a compliment.
So, not a great start. In fact, the criticism of this campaign has been that it lacks energy and inspiration. Many suspect that’s why the hard-left candidate Jeremy Corbyn is surging ahead. Not necessarily because everyone loves his views, but because he actually has some, and that gives voters something to latch onto.
Among those who can name all four candidates:
- Jeremy Corbyn is certainly the favourite in the North East. Ten local parties have backed him here.
- Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham isn’t far behind on nine.
- Yvette Cooper is lagging a little in third, though a couple of people in Stockton South said they thought it was time for a female leader.
- As for Liz Kendall – the more right-wing candidate – not a single person could name her.
That speaks volumes about the shape of this race. In a region that nurtured Sedgefield’s very own Tony Blair, few have even registered the candidate most modelled in his image.