As Nick Palmer bids to win back the marginal seat he lost in 2010 and retake Broxtowe for Labour, Joe Christmas joins him on the campaign trail in Kimberley
Nick Palmer, the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for the ultra-marginal seat of Broxtowe, is steering his old blue Corsa through the evening traffic and into the hills of Kimberley.
“I think people felt that we [the Labour Party] had run out of steam and it was time for a change,” he says, discussing why he lost his seat of thirteen years in 2010 — by just 389 votes — to the Conservative candidate, Anna Soubry. “And I’m not totally sure they were wrong about that.”
“If the election was tomorrow, we’d win”
He parks near Alma Hill, a working-class area with a large proportion of traditional Labour voters. It’s a warm, breezy evening in midweek and he’s out with his campaign team to drum up support for the general election on May 7.The mood is upbeat. “If the election was tomorrow,” says Palmer, 65, “I think we’d win.” The polls certainly back him up. The New Statesman’s general election website, which aggregates all polls, predicts a 5.61% local swing towards Labour in May.
But to be sure of victory, Palmer has to mobilise the core Labour vote, which means persuading people like 59-year-old Leslie Nylan — a retired security guard — that his party are still worth a cross on the ballot paper.
“I’ve been a Labour man all my life,” says Leslie on the doorstep, “and you couldn’t print what I think of the Tories, but none of the parties care about working people anymore. My son’s only young but he’s already had enough. He’s thinking of voting bloody UKIP…
“I’ll probably vote for you,” he tells Palmer. “But I don’t know.”
Feedback elsewhere is similar. Although several locals are enthusiastic about Labour, cold scepticism, not just about the Labour Party but politics in general, rolls out of the open doorways like a fog.
Around the corner, Shirley Reynolds, 78, epitomises the mood on the street. She wants to know what Labour have done for the working class, why there are so many “posh boys” in government and why the UK spends so much on foreign aid.
“Look at India,” she says. “We’re sending them money and they’re building rockets with it! We need to look after the English first. You ask me if I’m gonna’ vote? Yeah…I’m gonna’ vote UKIP. How about that?”
She folds her arms and looks at Palmer down her nose. Resigned to losing this particular doorstep, Palmer thanks Shirley for her time and begins to turn away. Then Shirley grins and wafts a palm in his face.
“I’m only pulling your leg, duck!” she laughs. “I’ll vote Labour. I always vote Labour.”Palmer has spent the last five years as a director of policy for Cruelty Free International [an animal welfare group] and, if he loses, says he’ll carry on doing that. But he’s clear about his priority.
“There’s not a street of Broxtowe I haven’t walked. I was MP here for thirteen years and I want to make a difference again.”
The battle for Broxtowe continues.