Both the local Tories and LibDems are getting into a big tizz over Alan Milburn, and the latest expenses revelations.
In today's Echo our old chum Edward Legwarmer, Bart. fulminates against Alan, and demands that Labour's PPC distance herself from her old boss.
Meanwhile over on his blog, Mike Barker is positively spitting about the MP. He rails against what he terms his poor record as a constituency MP, and says he will never mention Alan's name again.
Of course, it's hardly surprising that Alan was unpopular with opposition apparatchiks in the town - he was after all a phenomenally successful advocate for Labour. It wasn't a shady conspiracy that installed him as our elected representative, but often thumping majorities over the Tories and LibDems accorded by Darlington residents in 4 successive elections. Residents liked Alan, and they liked what Labour delivered both locally and nationally.
For all the complaints that he was never around, I think a lot of people appreciated that a "big hitter" like Alan, who had the talent and character to hold Cabinet office, did the town good by raising its profile and being an adept Westminster operator. Without Alan's influence and hard work, often behind the scenes, Darlington would not have gained several big ticket projects that have benefitted the town since 1997.
Yes, he moved from Darlington to live in Northumberland. But that was hardly a state secret kept from the voters - I recall at least one Tory leaflet I think from 2001 which had an activist standing forlornly in Alan's village with a made-up sign indicating the number of miles to Darlington. And still residents voted for him in their droves. It must have driven the Tories and LibDems nuts.
Still, time moves on. Alan has clearly sensed that, and is standing down to pursue other projects. I wish him well. That's no good for the opposition, however, who would dearly love, for the first time, to be facing Alan as a candidate at the General Election. Unfortunately for them, they've got Jenny - talented, approachable and a great communicator for Labour's values.
So expect the opposition to continue pretending they're up against Alan rather than Jenny. Also be prepared for ongoing character assassination against Alan which will be mostly unfair and personal. I don't suppose it will bother him one bit. And neither will the voters be kidded from realising that in Jenny, Labour have a new and exciting PPC who will be a first class MP for the town.