Socialist Worker

Scunthorpe: can Labour hold off the Tories in steel town?

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2556

Scunthorpe town centre

Scunthorpe town centre (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The gambling firms have Scunthorpe as odds-on to vote Tory on 8 June. But that’s by no means inevitable.

It’s true that since 1997, when the constituency was created, the vote for Labour has steadily fallen. In 1997, the Labour Party majority was over 14,000. By the 2015 general election that had dropped to 3,000.

Ukip’s vote in 2016 was over 6,000. Those are votes the Tories hope to pull behind a right wing version of Brexit and anti-migrant policies.

Theresa May and chancellor Philip Hammond have both visited Scunthorpe in recent weeks.

Housing

But not everyone in the town thinks it will be easy for Theresa May. “There’s been a lot more homelessness around here since the Tories came to office in 2010,” said housing worker Naomi. She works for Creative Support, a housing advice service that has a contract with Scunthorpe council.

“The bedroom tax has caused a lot of the rough sleeping,” she said. “People get into arrears with it.

“It creates a vicious cycle where people fall further and further into debt and the cycle only ends with people ending up on the street.”

College students and Corbyn supporters Alicia and Laurea don’t like the Tories. Alicia said, “We need to start taxing the rich—£80,000 is too much for people to be earning,” Laurea added, “I disagree with Theresa May about fox hunting. It’s just something rich people do for fun. Get a gun and chase them, I say!”

The steel works: the Tories cant be trusted to save jobs

When May visited the steelworks in Scunthorpe earlier this month she claimed to be on the workers’ side.

That lie enrages some people.

Pipe fabricator and Unite member Paul told Socialist Worker, “When Theresa May came to the steelworks she was lording it round the place saying, ‘I saved your steel jobs’. As if! The Tories allowed the Redcar plant to be shut down. Why should we trust anything they say?”

NHS worker Mohamed said, “People say Corbyn doesn’t have charisma. But as far as I’m concerned it comes down to what people do, not how they appear.”

He also thinks that the Tories’ attempt to gain after the Manchester bombing posturing over the police and defence would backfire on them. “The Tories are arrogant. They think they can do anything and still win. That might work in Labour’s favour,” he said.

“The attacker was reported to the police many times apparently, but nothing was done. That doesn’t make the Tories look very strong or stable.”

Turnout

There are no hustings in Scunthorpe—because the Tory candidate Holly Mumby-Croft has refused to take part.

The turnout was 58 percent at the 2015 election. Nobody is sure if this time it will be higher, but it could make a real difference if people who previously haven't thought it worth voting are enthused by Labour's manifesto and Corbyn's campaign.

Labour’s recent improvements in the opinion polls have led some analysts to predict a near-tie between sitting MP Nic Dakin and his Tory challenger.

The last few days of campaigning will be crucial.


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