Bassetlaw: inside the constituency with the biggest swing of the general election
As the Labour heartland turned blue for the first time in 84 years, The Face headed to Retford and Worksop to find out why.
At 2:40pm on 13th December the final election results were announced. The constituency of St Ives in Cornwall re-elected their Conservative incumbent, securing the party’s win with a majority of 78. The biggest general election victory since 1987, it was a margin that no pre-election polls predicted – one that will give the Boris Johnson the mandate to “get brexit done”.
Within the 59 lost Labour seats, 24 heartland constituencies swung for the first time in decades. The party’s broken “Red Wall” of stronghold working-class seats saw Great Grimsby turn blue after voting Labour since 1945, Blyth Valley unseat the veteran Labour MP Ronnie Campbell and Bishop Auckland elect a Tory MP for the first time in its 134 year history.
However, it was the constituency of Bassetlaw that had the biggest shock of the night. After voting Labour since 1935, Tory candidate Brendan Clarke-Smith nabbed the seat with a historic 18,000 vote swing.
The Face headed to the constituency’s two main towns, Retford and Worksop, and spoke to voters about the forces behind this seismic shift.
What key issues and values informed your vote?
It was mainly influenced by my mum and dad because I didn’t really know who to vote for. I was a bit confused by the whole thing so I just swayed from their opinion mostly.
Jess: If I were to vote, I’d vote Conservative. But one of my main reasons is Jeremy Corbyn. I wouldn’t want him being my prime minister.
Lily: Yeah, you have quite Labour values but it was the personality that took over.
Jess: Like, I agree with a lot of what Labour says but then I also agree with a lot of Conservative and I do quite like Boris Johnson as a character.
What do you think of the party leaders?
I think out of Boris and Corbyn, Boris did have more right to win. I’m not sure about the NHS going private, because a lot of people in Retford won’t be able to afford it. My brother has medical problems so he’s in and out of hospital and we wouldn’t afford all of his treatments.
It’s so upsetting how many people actually voted Conservatives. I tried telling my friends that Boris is a massive racist and they were like: “No, all we want is Brexit done.” But it’s like, actually listen to what he’s saying – it’s not good.
I think some things Boris says are quite questionable but I feel like a lot of things a lot of people say are quite questionable. I quite like his character, he’s quite charismatic. Whereas Jeremy Corbyn, I just can’t stand him.
Why do you think there was such a large swing from Labour to Conservative?
Audrey, 59, Helen, 21
Audrey: Bearing in mind that we get about 600 – 800 people pass through this shop a day, I’ve never heard one of them say they want to remain [67% of the district voted leave in the 2016 EU referendum]. I haven’t had one conversation with a customer who doesn’t want to leave. I felt like we had a better chance of getting out of Brexit, and as Boris says, “get it done”, with a Conservative government.
Helen: He kept to that one slogan while Labour were changing around.
Audrey: That’s what I mean, Labour are very in the grey area. They’re not very here or there. They never said whether they wanted to leave or remain [Labour campaigned to renegotiate Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and put it to another public vote, with the option to remain].
I was surprised because Retford is the sort of area you imagine would benefit from a Labour government or a Labour MP.
What do you think the next five years will be like?
My fear is that people are going to forget about everything other than Brexit like the NHS, childcare and it’s just going to be focused on that and stuff is just going to go around.