Battleground Yorkshire: Voters in Barnsley need a Labour government to deliver the change they need, says local MP

Barnsley has been a Labour area for the last century, yet the party has only been in power for around a third of that time.

A safe seat like this, represented by an MP from an only occasional party of government, breeds some resentment, with a generally disillusioned and unpredictable electorate across the country seeing little in return for decades of party loyalty.

In 2019, following a local vote for Brexit of almost 70 per cent, the seat came close to joining many of other seats across Yorkshire and the North in outsting Labour.

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Steph Peacock, the local MP, saw her majority fall by 10,000, coming within 3,200 votes of losing to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, while the sister constituency of Barnsley North saw Dan Jarvis do the same.

Stephanie Peacock is Labour's candidate for the new seat of Barnsley South.Stephanie Peacock is Labour's candidate for the new seat of Barnsley South.
Stephanie Peacock is Labour's candidate for the new seat of Barnsley South.

“I completely understand the reasons why people were angry,” says Ms Peacock.

“We can appreciate the reasons why Labour effectively let people down and didn't do as well as we should, and didn't put the offer forward that we, that we could have or should have.

“I think a lot of stuff has happened since then, and I think we're in a very different world now.”

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“We've helped over 20,000 people with casework here in Barnsley, and I've made hopefully a difference to people's lives.

“But you can do more in one day in government than you can do in years of opposition. And we haven't had a Labour Government and therefore, you know, despite the hard work of the Labour Party we haven't been able to make the change that we want to be able to do.

“And that's why it is important to vote Labour. And, you know, and to keep doing that in the hope that actually this time we can get across the line.”

Though Labour’s poll lead makes it highly unlikely that history repeats itself again, the scars of apathy in the seat are still there, and are a worry for a party looking at more than one term.

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Reform now picks up the baton of working class resentment where UKIP and the Brexit party left off, and is polling respectably even without Nigel Farage leading from the front.

As of this week it is now outpolling the Tories in the North, according to YouGov.

David White, the party’s candidate for the seat, is Reform’s sole representative on the council, resigning from the Conservative Party in December 2022, and describes himself as “politically homeless” according to his party’s literature.

“In my opinion, the Conservatives are already set for many years in the wilderness, and deservedly so for what they have done to our people and country.”

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Yet, without Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn, the political glue that held together Boris Johnson’s coalition just as it did for the Brexit Party in the seats where it ran against Labour, the party’s offer lacks the same focus.

Mr White’s self-expressed policy platform mixes anger at underinvestment in local services with, among other things, “the woke obsession”, “inappropriate pronouns”, “unisex toilets”, and “net zero”.

The war on woke is a popular topic amongst newspaper columnists and angry people on social media, but is nothing new. Social change happens, the UK progressively becomes more liberal in almost all areas of public life, often under Labour, but it is not quite the same level of political clout that can drive a campaign in the same way that Levelling Up has done.

However, the general resentment against Labour is set to dramatically increase if it does less than voters hope during a first term in office.

Though the party talks of “14 years of Tory chaos”, voters will be looking for delivery as Labour seeks to get a mandate and be held accountable for enacting it for the first time in 20.

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