Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing leadership could give the North East its first UKIP MP in five years’ time, it has been claimed.
Jonathan Arnott, Ukip Euro MP for the region, said that, should Labour’s frontrunner to be crowned leader succeed, his agenda could “polarise opinion” in places like Hartlepool, where Nigel Farage’s party narrowly missed out on winning in May.
Jeremy Corbyn is seeking to win the support of voters in the North by launching a new Labour group devoted to pushing regeneration projects in the party’s traditional heartlands, where Ukip picked up many votes in May.
His campaign has already garnered plenty of support in the region, with a recent visit attracting huge crowds in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
And now, Mr Corbyn has said the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse drive is “little more than southern hot air” as he says his Northern Futures programme, backed by Easington MP Grahame Morris, will work to rebalance the economy.
Mr Corbyn said the North must be treated on a par with the South, adding: “For too long talk of northern regeneration has been little more than southern hot air.
“I am delighted that our astonishing campaign this summer has given birth to Northern Futures, an organisation which will put forward policy ideas to rebalance the economy more fairly in favour of the North.
“It’s a great example of the pattern of democratic process of consultation we will pursue if we win the leadership race.”
It comes as Andy Burnham spends the bank holiday touring North cities in a bid to win back UKIP voters.
The Shadow Health Secretary has cast himself as the candidate for the North and admits the party was guilty of “avoiding” difficult issues such as immigration, which allowed UKIP to take the advantage.
But Mr Arnott said a win for My Corbyn was not necessarily bad for Nigel Farage’s party.
He said: “Jeremy Corbyn is a maverick, shooting from the lip with policy suggestions that haven’t been properly considered.
“Some are good, some are bad – but no-one’s going to take him seriously as a potential Prime Minister.
“At least the Islington MP has seen through Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse mirage, and recognises the poor deal the North East has.
“Andy Burnham has also been caught in U-turn after U-turn; no-one knows what he really stands for.
“As immigration has become a key issue, he’s admitting the impact of Labour’s mass immigration on poorer communities, but lacks proposals to bring it under control.
“In seats like Hartlepool, with Ukip just 3,000 votes short of winning in May, Corbyn will polarise opinion – this could play into our hands.”
Extra EU funds for areas that face most pressure from new arrivals will be among Mr Corbyn’s proposed responses to a report commissioned from MP Dan Jarvis about the failure to take on Ukip.
In his report, Mr Jarvis said Labour had been “in denial for too long” about the threat of Ukip and was “in danger of becoming irrelevant” after falling to third place in some constituencies.
The party was “yet to develop an effective counter attack” to the eurosceptic advance which saw it shed crucial support across a swathe of seats in its traditional northern heartlands.
On immigration, Mr Burnham said: “For too long, Labour campaigners have been avoiding people’s eyes when this subject comes up on the doorstep.
“We need to respond to people’s legitimate concerns about the challenges that EU migration creates in some of our poorest communities.”
This story was originally published on The Chronicle website, you can read it here.