ALL parliamentary candidates for the Hexham constituency have agreed to sign up to a clean campaign pledge proposed by a local vicar.

Rev. Tom Birch, who represents the parishes of St Oswin’s Wylam and St Mary the Virgin’s Ovingham, called on the four candidates – Conservative candidate Guy Opperman, Labour’s Penny Grennan, Stephen Howse of the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party’s Nick Morphet – to sign the pledge.

It called on candidates to campaign with a positive message about their policies; not to engage or encourage any personal attacks on their opponents, not to deface campaign literature of their opponents, and not to post derogatory, untrue, or hateful messages on social media.

Rev. Birch explained that he saw the local clergy as a mediator, seeking peace and dialogue between the candidates against the backdrop of an aggressive national campaign.

He said: “People are becoming increasingly fed up with negative campaigning and sound bite responses on crucial issues affecting our lives.

“Our politics has become more tribal, extreme and aggressive with people of different views talking past each other and not engaging with alternative views.

“This has caused real division in our society.

“So this is an attempt by the church in this constituency to bring the candidates together with a pledge that promises honest, open and fair campaigning and to engage with each other to promote better politics going forward.”

All four candidates welcomed the pledge, and they also committed to participating in a special ‘alternative hustings’ at the end of the campaign.

The hustings, which will be held on December 9 at St Mary the Virgin’s in Ovingham, is aimed at bringing the candidates together to reflect on general political discourse in public life, and to positively engage with one another’s ideas.