This is what Doncaster politicians think of how the election went for Labour and the Conservatives

Four Doncaster politicians have reflected on what went right and what went wrong for Labour and the Conservatives during the campaign for last month’s general election.

Sunday, 22nd December 2019, 4:00 pm
Updated Monday, 6th January 2020, 2:30 pm

The third general election in five years saw The Conservatives win an overwhelming majority, as Labour suffered devastating defeats in former northern strongholds.

This includes Don Valley where Labour’s Caroline Flint lost her seat after 22 years to Nick Fletcher who is the first Conservative ever to represent the constituency.

Here’s what four politicians from across the borough had to say about the election.

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L-R: Coun Nick Allen; Coun Dave Shaw and Coun Phil Cole

Phil Cole, a Doncaster councillorand is the husband of ousted Labour MP Caroline Flint

“This was my tenth general election, my seventh campaigning with our Labour candidate, my wife Caroline Flint, and my saddest.

“Elections are about hope, but this was uphill from the start. Jeremy Corbyn backed a winter election with Brexit not yet sorted. I knew that if we hadn’t left - voters would punish Labour for it. They did – big time.

“Voters who knew Caroline’s Brexit stance, respected her integrity. But many also feared her support for leaving would be undone if a Jeremy Corbyn-led government forced a second referendum.

Labour councillor Dave Shaw. Picture: Andrew Roe

“We spoke to thousands of people and dislike of Jeremy Corbyn was intense.

Impossible to counter. Many voters didn’t like Boris Johnson, but were more willing to vote Tory than Labour, some for the first time ever. Others protested by voting for the Brexit Party.

“I’ve never experienced an election, where people had so many positive things to say about our candidate – their hands-on local MP for 22 years – and so many fears about voting Labour.

“The Tories had just four policies: ‘Get Brexit Done’, NHS, Policing, Schools. Labour had hundreds, including dozens of free gifts: free dental, broadband, public transport for under-25s, tuition fees, lifelong learning, prescriptions, childcare, personal care for the elderly, hospital parking, and so on. Christmas for everyone! People didn’t believe it.

Nick Allen

“Even popular policies were overshadowed by negative feelings towards Labour and Corbyn.

“Labour’s worst result since 1935, the hopes of many dashed, and Don Valley turning blue. A sad end to my tenth general election.”

Doncaster Labour councillor Dave Shaw

“The seeds of Labour’s catastrophic defeat, were sown in the first days of Corbyn’s leadership and the relentless vilification of the man himself and the left generally.

Phil Cole with his wife, and former Don Valley MP, Caroline Flint

“It’s often said, that death is a result of a thousand cuts. It’s never been truer, but when so many of those cuts have been inflicted from within our own party, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, it’s a painful defeat to endure.

“In truth it started before then, not least our failure to counter the Tory assertion that Labour wrecked the economy, and created an economic environment that required the implementation of austerity and the wholesale dismantling of public services.

“It was an audacious claim, that belongs in the handbook of ‘How to become a Confidence Trickster’, but one that nevertheless took root.

“We started the race with both arms tied behind our backs. However the deepest, most serious cuts, resulted from Brexit. The issue that divided our nation, ultimately costing us our heartlands.

“The battle was lost, but not the War. Under Corbyn the party’s membership grew, making us the largest political party by membership in Europe.

“We have seen the young engage in politics and register to vote in their millions, and we have seen our manifesto received positively across the electorate.

“When Brexit is done, people will soon realise that the Tories have nothing else to offer them, other than more austerity, more insecurity, and a poverty of opportunity the likes of which belong in a Dickesian novel.”

Nick Allen, who represents Bessacarr ward on Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

“I’ve been involved with the Conservative party as an active member since 2001 and I never thought I would see the day we elected a Tory MP in Doncaster.

“I think most local Tories shared my pessimism but despite that we always worked extremely hard to ensure voters were given a choice and a reason to vote Conservative.

“This election was no different but we worked even harder across the town and mainly in Don Valley where Labour had a majority of about 5,200.

“At the last snap election in 2017 we had really upped our game in Don Valley. Our candidate, Aaron Bell (now the MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme), fought a stellar campaign which resulted in a huge increase in the Conservative vote share.

“This time round even more local people openly backed the Conservatives. We saw this openness across the Don Valley constituency as we knocked on more and more doors and met traditional Labour supporters who were willing to lend the Conservatives a vote this time round.

“People did this because of two main reasons. They disliked Jeremy Corbyn and what he has done to the Labour Party or they backed Brexit and recognised the Conservatives could get Brexit done.

“I was Nick Fletcher’s election agent at this election and I am the Conservative councillor for Bessacarr ward on Doncaster Council so I am used to campaigning. One thing which came across very clearly is the reason why voters warmed to the idea of having a Conservative MP is because they accepted the need for change.”

Coun Jane Cox, Conservative party group leader and councillor for the Finningley ward on Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

“Brexit has been the most significant political issue in not only my lifetime but my parents too.

“In the last three-years the political landscape has changed in a way no one could have predicted would happen.

“The success of the Conservative party in the general election in Doncaster has been incredible in a way no one would have predicted 10 years ago.

“The electorate are sick of being told what to do by the Labour Party and wanted a party who would not only listen to their opinions but act on them.

“If this does not make the Labour party sit up and think then I fear we will have a very weak opposition for many years to come. The electorate want their politicians to understand their concerns and to act upon them.

“The vile politics of hate we continually see from certain factions of the Labour party is showing them to be divided. The town just wants the politicians to get on with the job.

“Now is the time to call certain parts of the Labour party out for their vile vitriol. The way they have reacted to the vote of the people proves they are not there to represent but in fact to spread hate about anyone they disagree with.

“This sort of intolerance put 1,000s of voters off the Labour Party and moved them towards the Conservatives which in turn elected the first Conservative MP in Don Valley for over 100 years.”