Is this the town that highlights Corbyn's northern problem?

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
Voters in Ashton-under-Lyne spoke of apathy to politics in the safe Labour seat. (Yahoo News UK/PA Images)
Voters in Ashton-under-Lyne spoke of apathy to politics in the safe Labour seat. (Yahoo News UK/PA Images)

Boris Johnson has described next month’s election as “the most important in a generation”.

The contrast between Boris Johnson’s offering of One Nation conservatism and the “radical and ambitious” manifesto unveiled by Jeremy Corbyn means voters will face a starker choice than they have for decades come December 12.

But on the streets of Ashton-under-Lyne, a traditionally safe Labour seat in Manchester that hasn’t returned a non-Labour MP since 1931, any swell of support for a Corbyn revolution is difficult to find.

Ashton-under-Lyne is a market town just east of central Manchester, represented by Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary.

She won the seat with 60% of the vote in 2017, gaining nearly twice the votes of the Conservative challenger.

It is surrounded by seats including Stalybridge and Hyde, held by Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds, and Denton and Reddish, held by Andrew Gwynne.

Labour party shadow education secretary Angela Rayner during an event in Blackpool as the Labour party set out their plans for education ahead of the upcoming General Election.
Angela Rayner represents Ashton - but Yahoo News UK found more apathy than enthusiasm for the Labour frontbencher. (PA Images)

Mr Reynold’s seat has not been Tory since 1945 and Mr Gwynne’s has been Labour since the seat was created in 1983.

Support for the Tories is on the rise in the north-west, with YouGov putting the Conservatives three points ahead of Labour earlier this month. Labour were 19 points ahead in 2017.

The Tories have also overtaken Labour in Yorkshire and the Humber, the pollster found, and have narrowed the gap with Jeremy Corbyn’s party in the north-east.

A report in the Manchester Evening News also found that several seats across Greater Manchester, including Ashton, Denton and Reddish and Stalybridge and Hyde, saw voter apathy in the 2017 general election.

The three constituencies were all among the newspaper’s list of seats where the number of eligible voters who didn’t cast a vote at all was larger than the number of people who voted for the winner.

Though Yahoo News UK’s sample was much smaller, there was equally little enthusiasm for politics from people visiting Ashton’s Tuesday market this week.

Of the 25 people we spoke to, including those who did not want to provide an on-the-record quote, Yahoo News UK could not find anyone willing to say they would vote Labour.

Next to Ashton market, shoppers did not think much of politics.
Next to Ashton market, shoppers did not think much of politics.

Instead, the overwhelming mood was one of anti-politics - rather than any overt sense of anti-Labour or anti-Tory sentiment.

Kevin Hutchcroft, a self employed maintenance man who was visiting the market and is regularly in Ashton, said he would not and does not vote.

“I think because generally politics are not what they should be,” the 62-year-old said.

“They’re not for the working man, they’re in it for themselves.”

He last voted when Tony Blair came in and stopped after being disappointed in him.

Kevin Hutchcroft said he hasn't voted in years.
Kevin Hutchcroft said he hasn't voted in years.

Asked if he could be tempted by Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn, he said: “Not really, no, because none of them come from my kind of background.

“They all talk about working and I don’t think they’ve ever rolled their sleeves up and done a decent day’s work in their life.

“Then again, not one day’s work, try doing 16 hours a day and then getting up in Parliament and talking a load of whatever they do talk about.

“It’s all about themselves, they just talk about what they’re going to do and when they get in power none of them ever do what they were going to do.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (centre) walks with shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne, followed by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, during a walkabout at MediaCityUK in Salford prior to holding a shadow cabinet meeting.
Andrew Gwynne, right, with Jeremy Corbyn, represents Denton and Reddish. (PA Images)

Numerous people who passed through the town centre, but did not want to provide quotes for Yahoo News, were heavily critical of politics as a whole and said they would not vote at all.

Neil Halliwell, 40, of Audenshaw - in Mr Gwynne’s constituency - said he did not see the point in voting.

“I think that both parties work for a higher entity, so politics is just an illusion of choice rather than real choice just to keep people under control,” he said.

“I don’t see any point in it basically.

“It’s like a circus show - I enjoy the novelty of it, put it that way.

Neil Halliwell does not see the point in voting.
Neil Halliwell does not see the point in voting.

“I don’t see any point, I don’t trust them anyway, so if I vote what’s the guarantee that my vote’s going to be counted?

“Personally, I’d just rather stand on the sidelines and just watch it unfold.

“I don’t blame them (people who are too apathetic or angry to vote) but that could be part of the game too, to wear people down so much that everyone just switches off and leaves them to it.”

Neil’s dad, Eddie Killen, 80, from Denton, said he was switching from voting Labour his whole life to the Brexit Party.

But if Yahoo News UK could not speak to a Labour voter, some were willing to say they’d vote Tory.

Deborah Turner, 56, who owns shoe shop New Shu in Ashton, said she will vote Conservative and, as a Leave voter, believes Boris Johnson will seal Brexit.

Deborah Turner understands why voters in Labour safe seats don't think it's worth voting.
Deborah Turner understands why voters in Labour safe seats don't think it's worth voting.

But as a Hyde resident - Mr Reynold’s ward - she can understand why so many people in these safe Labour seats may not want to vote.

“Yeah, there’s a lot (of apathy) - everyone’s fed up,” she said.

“It’s all everyone talks about, anywhere.

“You’ve got to vote to get it done, to get it changed.

“I think they always think in Ashton and Tameside that there’s no point in voting because it’s Labour that will get into office, it’s always been a Labour seat, always.”

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