Sunderland's ladies in red celebrate hat-trick of Labour wins
It was a case of '˜three cheers' for Labour as the party once again made it a hat-trick of election victories in Sunderland.
All three of Wearside’s parliamentary constituencies - Houghton and Sunderland South, Sunderland Central and Washington and Sunderland West - were again firmly coloured red on the political map, meaning a return to Westminster for Bridget Phillipson, Julie Elliott and Sharon Hodgson respectively.
In all three seats, Labour saw its share of the vote increase - although not as much as the Conservatives who appeared to benefit from a huge drop in support for UKIP.
With armed police patrolling the count at Sunderland Community Pool, Tennis and Wellness Centre, the eyes of the national media focused on the city to see if it could, once again, be first to declare a result.
In the end, that distinction went to Newcastle Central, 12 miles up the road.
But once the results were finally announced in Sunderland, a familiar pattern began to emerge.
First to be elected was Bridget Phillipson, with a majority of 12,341, slightly down from 12,938 in 2015.
Reflecting on her victory, she said: “I want to thank the people of Houghton and Sunderland South.
“it’s a huge privilege to be elected to serve this country as a member of Parliament for a third time.
“The Labour Party was founded to serve people in communities such as ours.
“I still believe the government can be a force for good and the purpose of the Labour Party is to be that force for good and a force for change.”
She later told the Echo: “I fought the campaign on the need for greater investment in the NHS, better schools for our children and I want to see the police out on the streets tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.
“Theresa May has taken the British people for granted and it looks as though she may not get the result she wanted.”
In Houghton and Sunderland South, Labour’s share of the vote rose by 4.3%. The Conservatives saw their share of the vote rise sharply by 11.3% while, in contrast, UKIP’s fell by 15.8%.
In Sunderland Central, Julie Elliott saw her majority trimmed from 11,179 in 2015 to 9,997.
Ms Elliott said she would be having a well-earned rest before heading back down to parliament next week.
She said: “Then I want to focus on Brexit and from the city’s point of view the big thing going on is the bid for the City of Culture.
When asked why she believed a Labour government would be in the best interests of her constituents, she said: “Apart from anything we would not be implementing some of the horrendous things the Tories are proposing, like the real-time cuts to the NHS, the dreadful cuts in education funding, apart from the things that have come out during the campaign, like cutting the winter fuel allowance, which is detrimental to pensioners.
“Those are the things we would stop beyond the things that we’ve pledged to do.”
In Sunderland Central, Labour’s share of the vote rose by 5.4%. The Conservatives saw a 10% increase in the vote while UKIP’s plummeted by 14.3%.
In Washington and Sunderland West, Sharon Hodgson saw her majority fall slightly from 13,157 in 2015 to 12,940, but was still delighted with the result.
She said: “I’m thrilled, it is great that the good people of Washington and Sunderland West have returned me to parliament for another five years - let’s hope it’s five years this time.
“I just want to get back to work.
“I’m going straight back down to parliament on the 10am train on Monday - I’ve already booked it so straight back to work.
“We’ve got so many issues that people have raised across the constituency.
“Obviously Brexit is still on lots of people’s minds in Sunderland, but it’s schools and the NHS that just came up everywhere.
“I promise we will fight to ensure funding is increased for schools so we don’t see four-day weeks and part-time schools.”
When asked whether Theresa May did the right thing in calling a snap election, she said: “Absolutely not.
“I think if she could go back seven weeks I’m sure she would probably make a different decision up a mountain in Snowdonia. The polls obviously lulled her into a false sense of security.”
In Washington and Sunderland West, Labour’s share of the vote rose by 5.8%, while the Conservative share increased by 10%. For UKIP, there was a 12.8% drop at the polls.
In all three seats, there was a clear increase in the number of people who voted.
In Houghton and Sunderland South, turnout was 41,480 (60.9%) up from 38,489 (56.3%) in 2015.
In Sunderland Central, turnout was 45,111 (62%), up from 41,762 (57%) in 2015.
And in Washington and Sunderland West, turnout was 40,574 (60.3%), again up from 37,257 (54.6%).