Does Theresa May have support in Labour’s Mansfield?

Published On October 9, 2016 » 638 Views»

We have had a Labour MP in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, since 1922 – so it’s hardly natural Tory territory.

But in the knowledge the Prime Minister was about to tell the party conference about a shift to the centre ground, an appeal to “ordinary working class people”, I left Birmingham the night before the speech to find out what some real voters, in the Labour stronghold, thought.

We call them vox pops in the trade, from the Latin “vox populi” which means voice of the people – one question asked of randomly picked people in the street.

People in Mansfield Market
Image captionMansfield has been Labour for nearly 100 years

Normally on TV they are short and to the point. But such was the eloquence and strongly-held beliefs I found in Mansfield, they are worth hearing at length because they sum up what people think of politics and the country right now.

The first person in his mobility scooter bemoaned the number of homeless people on the streets, particularly ex-servicemen. This is what he said, though, about Teresa May:

“She needs a chance.

“But making false promises isn’t going to get us out of the situation that we are in.”

Patience required

Next, the 75-year-old ex-miner, still working as a gardener. Proud he had worked, so far, for 60 years and not intending to retire.

“She’s great and I’ve always been a Labour man,” he said.

“But this woman makes sense. I’m sure she’s going to do a good job for us and we’ve got to be patient and I’m sure at the end of the day we’ll be all better off.

Man talking politics in Mansfield
Image captionThis ex-miner said despite being a Labour man he thought Theresa May was “great”

“She’s got that know-how look. I’m sure she means what she says and she’s going to do it and she’s got a good group of people around her.”

Next the man in the street who takes the anti-immigration line.

He said: “I think she should do what she says and do it for the working class, which is curtailing foreigners from coming into this country.

“I’ve worked hard all my life and these foreigners are coming in and using our system and they’re not paying for it.”

“I think this town needs a change… it needs more money putting into it.”

‘Quite optimistic’

In the market place, stall holders were reluctant to talk. Not on camera anyway.

There was concern at the Brexit vote, the falling pound putting up the cost of what they sell from the EU threatens their future.

The next to speak was a woman who was surprised to find herself supporting the Prime Minister’s words.

“I was a bit sceptical about her to start with but what she’s saying is making a lot of sense,” she said.

“But whether she puts it into practice… I’m quite optimistic. As I say, I was very sceptical to start with because I’m not a Conservative person.”

Finally, although we did speak to more, the disillusioned man who speaks for many too, on politics, Brexit, and even the voting system.

man at Mansfield market
This man said he was disillusioned by British politics

All in response to the same question about his thoughts on Theresa May’s speech appealing to ordinary working class people.

“I’m more leaning towards Socialism than Conservatism,” he said.

“Politics is in a worst state than it’s ever been.

“I’ve never been so disappointed as I am at the moment with the political situation. Every party.

“The Brexit thing was very disappointing. You’ve got a decision which just over half the country wanted so you’ve got a divided nation there.

“I’m very proud to be British but in reality I’ve never felt so down with politics as I do at the moment.”

Lots for politicians need to take heed of here. Words and promises are powerful but what is delivered in the end is what will decide which way people vote.

Domestic policies are one thing, the government can control that. It can decide where to invest to help the economy as it steps towards to the centre and at the same time to the right on immigration.

We, as a nation, may have voted to seize control with the referendum result on 23 June but it may be hard to control the effects of Brexit on the economy.

What will the people of Mansfield think then?

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