Grassroot fears over Labour's chances in Yorkshire in December poll

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Grassroots activists for Labour in Yorkshire are predicting the party could lose up to 10 seats in the region, after a wide-ranging poll earlier this week seemed to confirm their fears.

A survey from YouGov released earlier this week said Labour looked poised to lose a number of former stronghold seats to the Tories, and although party insiders insisted “polls should be taken with a pinch of salt”, some on the ground are downbeat.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: PA

One campaigner, who worked closely with a Yorkshire MP, said: “At the moment, it looks like it will be a shocker. HQ are making the same mistakes again by sending volunteers to seats that we will not win, they are also obsessed with bus events with minor Shadow Cabinet members.

“It’s not impossible to see us losing nine or 10 seats across Yorkshire and the Humber.”

The major poll earlier this week said the Conservatives could sweep to an election victory with a 68-seat majority next month, taking nine Labour-held seats in Yorkshire and the Humber in the process.

Using a technique called Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification, YouGov predicted that Labour-held Don Valley, Great Grimsby, Penistone and Stocksbridge, Keighley, Scunthorpe, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Rother Valley and Colne Valley will turn blue, while Sheffield Hallam will be won by the Liberal Democrats.

The Yorkshire activist said this came down to “the perfect recipe of hating Jeremy Corbyn and being p***** off about Brexit, even many people who voted remain do not agree with a second referendum. And they also do not have the activist base for some of the more mad candidates as people who have campaigned for years will no longer do it.”

John Healey, Labour’s pick for Wentworth and Dearne, admitted today during the launch of the party’s manifesto for Yorkshire that getting grassroots support had been difficult. However he pinned that on the weather.

He said: “It doesn’t help anyone, an election in the run up to Christmas, it’s been dreadful weather. But I do believe people are beginning to wake up to how much is at stake in this election.”

But the question remained over whether enough could be done in the remaining two weeks of the campaign to turn the tide for Labour in Yorkshire.

It was reported earlier in the week that Labour tactics had changed its campaigning plans, with more focus on leave-voting areas.

Labour insiders said a key mistake up until now was overestimating the electoral threat from the Liberal Democrats, and underestimating the likelihood of Leave voters switching from Labour to the Conservatives, the BBC has reported.

Labour's strategy so far had been - in part - to emphasise that the election is about more than Brexit and to get voters to focus on issues which would unite Labour voters in Leave and Remain areas.

The new plan is designed to appeal to those who voted for Brexit, and to try to convince them that Labour is not attempting to stop Brexit by offering another referendum.

The activist said: “It could save some very close seats, especially along the M62 corridor, but I genuinely think they were already hammering them quite a lot.”

They added that the region had seen more Shadow Cabinet visits than it had in a decade, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn poised for two Yorkshire visits this weekend.

They said: “They also keep sending people who are well known on Twitter but people in real life will have no idea who they are. For instance they sent Grace Blakeley on a tour of Yorkshire seats. I have never met the woman but I can guarantee that next to no one in Yorkshire knows who she is, but candidates have to take time out to welcome these people.”

Researcher and economical and political commentator Ms Blakely, who has 92,000 Twitter followers, campaigned in Yorkshire with Labour Chairman Ian Lavery earlier in the month.

They added: “Some of the Labour offer is very good, such as the specialised lung care for miners, something that has been needed for years, but it all looks to desperate.”

A Labour Party source said: "The only poll we care about is on Thursday 12 December. We're campaigning to say that our NHS is not for sale and to put money in people's pockets after a decade of cuts and neglect under the Tories. That’s our plan for real change. People deserve it and the richest in our society and big business will pay for it."