Elections 2021: North East voters head to the polls for 'Super Thursday' ballots

Hunstanforth voters headed out in the snow Credit: Paul Kingston

Polling stations opened across the North East on Thursday for voters to cast their ballots in a set of which could shake up British politics and have profound implications for the future of the United Kingdom.

Among the votes taking place is the hotly contested Hartlepool parliamentary by-election.

On what has been dubbed 'Super Thursday', polling stations across the region opened at 7am, in the largest test of political opinion outside a general election, with the future of the Labour Party and the state of the Union among the issues at play.

As well as local council and mayoral contests, the Hartlepool parliamentary by-election will indicate what progress – if any – Labour has made in regaining votes in its former northern heartlands.

Hartlepool was held by Labour with a majority of 3,595 in 2019 even as other bricks in the so-called “red wall” crumbled – in part due to the Brexit Party splitting the Tory vote.

Defeat would be a blow to Sir Keir Starmer and provide a rare by-election gain for a governing party.

Boris Johnson has sought to manage expectations ahead of the elections, playing down his chances of taking Hartlepool – a seat that has been Labour since its creation in 1974.

The Conservatives hope to achieve a “hat trick” of successes, winning Hartlepool and retaining the mayoralties in Teesside and the West Midlands.

Teddy the dog at the Polling Station at Fulwell Windmill in Sunderland & Nessa the dog outside St Cuthbert's Church in Sunderland Credit: NCJ Media Syndication

For many of us, casting out vote means heading to the local council buildings, a church hall or the nearby school.

But for some in the North East it calls for an unlikely trip to the hairdressers, a castle or even a windmill.

In recent years, election day has also sparked a social media tend. #DogsAtPollingStations has become something of a tradition in the UK.

Pablo the Chihuahua off to vote with his owner Amy in Gateshead. Credit: Amy
Bobby the retired greyhound off with his owner Joshua to cast their vote! Credit: Christine Stewart-Tilling

The idea is simple, voters take their pets along when they cast their vote and take a photo of man's best friend outside their local polling station.

The reason behind the trend isn't know, but for many, it serves as a welcome break from politics until the polls close and all attention turns to the count.

Hunstanworth in County Durham Credit: Paul Kingston

Despite being Spring, some voters in Northumberland and County Durham could be forgiven for thinking it was winter when they set off to cast their vote.

People living in Slaley and Hunstanworth woke to a dusting of snow.

Votes in the Hartlepool by-election will be counted overnight, with a result expected in the early hours of Friday but it could be Sunday night before all the results in England’s local contests are known.

Final results in Police and Crime Commissioner elections may not come until Monday night.