The cities of Sunderland and Newcastle have long enjoyed a fierce rivalry.
This rivalry is most frequently expressed in football clashes between the Magpies and the Black Cats, with each side eager to win local derbies.
But, with the general election coming up on June 8th, the north east’s two big cities are likely to be competing for a different prize: the constituency to declare the night’s first result.
In the 2015 election, the constituency of Sunderland and Houghton South was the first in the country to declare. At 10.48 pm – less than an hour after voting had finished – it was announced that Labour’s Bridget Phillipson had been elected with an increased majority.
It was the fifth general election in a row that Wearside had succeeded in announcing the country’ first result.
In the 2010 election, Sunderland even gained the honour of declaring the nation’s first three results: Houghton and Sunderland South declared at 10.52 pm, Washington and Sunderland North at 11.26 pm and Sunderland Central at 11.41 pm.
Sunderland’s speedy counts have been put down to factors such as ‘tried and tested procedures’ that have been perfected over many years and experienced counting staff, some of whom have been totting up votes for over a quarter of a century.
Sunderland also uses lighter ballot papers that are easier to count.
Sunderland City Council’s chief executive, Irene Lucas CBE, would not say if declaring first was a major priority in 2017.
Ms Lucas said, “Sunderland is preparing for the forthcoming general election on Thursday 8th June.”
“The count will be held at Silksworth Community Pool, Tennis and Wellness Centre as in previous elections.”
“As usual, Sunderland is looking to run an accurate and efficient count that the electorate and candidates can all have confidence in.”
But Newcastle could this year challenge Sunderland’s boast of having the country’s quickest ballot counters.
Newcastle was the first mainland UK area to declare its result in last year’s EU Referendum. Sunderland was also pretty speedy that night, but was beaten into second place by its local rival.
The Geordies employed groups of young people in training shoes who rushed the ballot boxes into the hall of Northumbria University, where the count was taking place.
A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said, “It is great for our region that the first election results are likely to be from the north east.”
“Our priority has been, and always will be, to conduct the count accurately and efficiently.”
So let’s wait for the night of June 8th for the result of two great showdowns: will Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn find themselves living in Number 10 and will the Geordies or the Mackems be triumphant in another big north east derby?
(Features image courtesy of nat morris)