ON the eve of the general election a former defence secretary visited a crucial marginal seat to throw his support behind its Labour incumbent.

Standing on Barrow's Michaelson Road Bridge in gale-force winds, former Barrow and Furness MP John Hutton proudly shook hands with his long-time friend and colleague, John Woodcock.

Lord Hutton, as he is now known, said he was confident Mr Woodcock would weather the Conservative storm and retain his seat, something he says is in the best interests of everyone in the town.

He said: "I would ask people to think very carefully who's going to be best placed to look after our jobs and fight for the issues that matter locally.

"People can vote with their hearts and minds in this election because they know John Woodcock is a sturdy champion of jobs in the shipyard; they know where he stands on the nuclear deterrent, and they can vote for him knowing he is going to put that issue on the top of his agenda."

Lord Hutton was the MP for Barrow and Furness between 1992 and 2010. During that time he was a close ally of then-prime minister Tony Blair and held several high-ranking positions in government, including defence secretary.

In his last election in 2005, Lord Hutton maintained a majority in the town of more than 6,000. This had shrunk to less than 1,000 when Mr Woodcock last stood in 2015.

Asked what he thought about this decline in what has for decades been a safe Labour seat, Lord Hutton said: "Thirty year ago Albert Booth (Lab) lost his seat and it was about jobs in the shipyard. I've no doubt at all that is the issue on people's minds when they vote on Thursday.

"I think the best way to defend job security in the yard is to have John arguing for us; he puts local issues before party issues. One thing I learnt in all my time in politics is people have far more respect for an MP who is prepared to say the difficult things and speak up for people locally rather than just tow the party line."

Mr Woodcock thanked Lord Hutton for coming to his old constituency. He said: "We have both reminded people that shipyard jobs are safe irrespective of the result on Thursday.

"Last year’s vote in parliament put the Trident renewal programme past the point of no return and Furness can look forward to decades of economic stability in this regard.

“The Tories have had a terrible campaign and a Tory landslide would wreak huge damage on our community with Furness General Hospital, local schools and our pensioners being lined up to bear the brunt of fresh cuts.

"Barrow and Furness needs a strong, independent Labour voice to fight for us, not a Tory nodding dog who will vote to go along with their plans.”

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