Although there is no clear front-runner in Lancashire, there is hope in young voters and the widespread care for the NHS, reports Karen Buckley
Fear of a further Tory government, and the utter cruelty and viciousness of Tory austerity, has sent me out canvassing in all weathers for the last few weekends. My target has been the marginal seats relatively near me in Altrincham and Sale West and further afield in Crewe and Nantwich. I live in a Labour stronghold constituency bordering Manchester, so not much much point canvassing there.
Altrincham and Sale West is a very affluent constituency and has been held by the Tories for a number of years, currently with the MP Graham Brady. However, things started to change in the 2017 general election following a huge mobilisation of Labour supporters going canvassing in the constituency (many in support of Jeremy Corbyn) and following the local elections this year. In the 2017 general election, the Tories got 26,933 votes (51%) and Labour MP got 20,507 (38.8%). It may seem a big amount to overcome but the majority of voters in this constituency voted to remain in the EU unlike Graham Brady who is a staunch leaver and a member of the ERG. Given that that it is a two horse race between Tory and Labour in this constituency, it may be that the remain votes will turn against Brady.
But it is not clear at all how it will go. My experience on the doorsteps of Altrincham and Sale West has been that there are a lot of undecideds. There were some clear Tory voters (some of whom liked to regurgitate the propaganda against Corbyn and more recently the supposed ludicrousness of the Labour manifesto that the right wing media has so flooded us with). Despite this, there’s been quite a number of clear Labour voters, but a significantly large number were undecided (or so they said). Some say they were waiting until all the Party manifestos had come out before deciding whereas others simply said they’re not sure yet. My fellow canvassers have reported a similar pattern.
Crewe and Nantwich has been held by the Labour MP Laura Smith since the last election. Labour won the Crewe and Nantwich seat over the Tories in 2017 with a narrow majority of just 48. Parts of this constituency are very wealthy, however, there is also a significant working class population. It is also a strong Brexit voting constituency with just over 60% of people voting for Brexit. It appears that immigration is seen as an issue by a number of Crewe residents according to some reports. The 2011 census tells us that 16.8% of the population in the ward of Crewe Central is foreign born, with 11.4% from eastern Europe, Malta and Cyprus. However, it is likely that the reasons for such a high Brexit vote are more complex. It is of note that there’s been a decline in decent jobs over a number of years. Crewe no longer has the large rail engineering and car production companies it once had. It still has some, but not much compared to the past. Like many places in Britain that formally had strong industries, there’s now a proliferation of insecure, poorly paid and non-unionised jobs.
On the doorsteps there was a few more Labour voters than in Altrincham and Sale West, a few saying they’re all the same, a few repeating media propaganda about Corbyn being a terrorist (these nearly always refused to even discuss the issues), a number voting Tory and again, many undecideds.
Like many other areas, both these constituencies have had a huge turn out Labour Party supporters and members for canvassing. This has been great to see and makes canvassing in the winter a much more pleasant and hopeful thing to do! Many I spoke to were firm Corbyn supporters (though I imagine not all). Manchester Momentum have mobilised big numbers of supporters to a number of marginal constituencies in the North West including the two constituencies mentioned here. In Crewe there’s been canvassers from many places, including us lot from Trafford and Manchester, as well as Liverpool and Wales.
I’ve found the NHS to be a useful talking point on the doorsteps. As a NHS employee and health care union representative, and as someone who has to take their elderly mum to A&E on a number of occasions, I've seen the devastation of Tory underfunding and privatisation by stealth on our NHS and it really is bad. This is definitely an issue people cared about on the doorstep and made them think. Its definitely a cause that the Labour Party have an advantage over the Tories with.
I was heartened by an older woman who had been a Labour Supporter all her life. At first I heard the familiar mantra of not liking ‘that Corbyn’ and not being sure if she’s voting, but she was quickly persuaded that only Labour could be trusted to save our NHS and agreed that she definitely needed to vote to keep those terrible Tories out.
For others (especially those with children and grandchildren) it was useful to point out that only Labour has a plan to avert the climate crisis their children will face, to build houses they can afford and fund decent schools. I have yet to meet a person under 25 on the doorsteps who was not voting Labour. My 17 year old daughter tells me that her Instagram is filled with political posts saying to vote Labour (some of her friends can), which is encouraging. I strongly suspect that it is the young people who may (hopefully) swing things in Labour's favour.
Hopefully all the campaigning and canvassing will pay off and those many undecideds will be convinced by the doorsteps discussions, the Labour Party manifesto, and by the leaders debates they’ve seen on TV (which were not great performances from Johnson or Swinson). ‘Its difficult to tell’ is what all the canvassers I’ve been speaking to have been saying. Lets hope the next couple of weeks swing things in our favour. I know I’m not alone when I say that the Tories getting back in power is too devastating to imagine.