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September 10, 2008 7:08 AM

Senior Newcastle Liberal Democrat councillor Greg Stone has been unanimously selected as the party's Parliamentary spokesman for the new Newcastle East constituency.

Greg will be mounting a strong challenge to Labour MP Nick Brown in the new seat, which has seen Labour's majority fall from nearly 24,000 in 1997 to 7,565 in 2005.

Mr Brown, who is close to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Minister for the North East, has already admitted his seat is under threat.

"It is very clear that the Lib Dems are the only party capable of beating Labour in Newcastle and I believe our policies on cutting taxes for average earners will win over disillusioned Labour voters who are feeling the effects of the credit crunch through rising fuel, food, and mortgage prices, not to mention Labour's disastrous 10p tax fiasco which increased taxes on the worst off," said Councillor Stone.

"The Lib Dems will be aiming to win the support of the thousands of students in the constituency who feel betrayed by the Labour MP's cave-in over the introduction of tuition fees.

"We will also be campaigning for a fair deal on funding for the North East to reduce the North-South divide, for effective action on crime, and for a fairer and greener Britain.

"There is massive disillusionment at present with the Labour Government and Nick Brown is right to be worried about his chances of holding this seat.

"If Labour can no longer hold on to safe seats in places like the East End of Glasgow, there is everything to play for in the East End of Newcastle where the Lib Dems are challenging hard."

Two-thirds of the council wards in the constituency are held by the Lib Dems and boundary changes, which see the seat gain Jesmond, Sandyford and Ouseburn and lose Wallsend) will be helpful to the Lib Dems.

The party will be looking forward to building on the considerable Liberal Democrat local election success on Newcastle City Council, as well as further recent advances by the party in Northumberland and County Durham, by translating this to Parliamentary gains in the region.

The Guardian newspaper predicted that Labour could lose Newcastle East to the Lib Dems and noted that Labour were 13% points behind the Lib Dems across the constituency in May's local elections.

Councillor Stone, who is 34, has been a councillor for Dene and subsequently North Heaton in the constituency for 10 years. He lives in the city centre and works as a regeneration consultant.

He was previously the city council's executive member for regeneration and transport, where he led many prominent regeneration projects, and is a member of the Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Authority and vice chair of the LGA Urban Commission.

He was the Lib Dem candidate for Newcastle Central in 2005, which then included

Jesmond, Sandyford, and Ouseburn, where he slashed Labour's majority with a 12% swing.

Councillor Stone also stood as the party's candidate in the high-profile 2007 Sedgefield by-election where he overtook the Conservatives to take second place.

He will be taking part in a presentation to the Liberal Democrat conference on Wednesday before the leader's closing speech, in which the party's progress in Newcastle will be highlighted.

::The Guardian newspaper, May 2 2008

"In northern constituencies such as Newcastle East, where the Lib Dems are running second, our analysis shows voters have rallied to them. .... The MPs who would lose in the seats we have studied are the transport secretary Ruth Kelly, universities secretary John Denham, and deputy chief whip Nick Brown in Newcastle East."

:: The Guardian newspaper, May 3 2008

"Look at Newcastle East, the seat of the former agriculture secretary Nick Brown. Newcastle East is the 187th most marginal Labour seat. Yet on Thursday, the Lib Dems beat Labour by 13 points in Brown's seat. It could be time for Brown to press for a peerage before it's too late."

:: Evening Chronicle, July 26 2008

"Minister for the North East Nick Brown has admitted no seat is safe following Labour's latest defeat - including his own in Newcastle."