General Election 2024: Ashfield constituency profile

By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

The growing fragility of Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ first became evident in 2017, particularly in the former mining constituency of Ashfield, when the party’s then-MP Gloria De Piero won the election by a mere 441 votes.

For generations voters had stood firmly behind the Labour Party, owing to Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government’s decision to start closing the pits from the 1980s.

Yet, there was a turning point many years later in around 2016, when almost 70 per cent of voters in Ashfield opted to leave the European Union, having been promised much-needed growth as a stronger, independent nation.

It was the Conservative’s Boris Johnson who said he’d “get Brexit done” and deliver on his promise to bring the country into the “sunlit uplands”.

Perhaps most importantly, his words appealed to the struggling former mining towns across Ashfield.

In 2019 the Red Wall crumbled, and Lee Anderson, a former miner himself and displeased former Labour councillor, was thrust into his new role as an MP representing the Conservatives.

From here his political career progressed quickly, most recently becoming the Conservative Party’s deputy chair.

But his fall from grace within the party perhaps came even more quickly, when he was suspended for refusing to apologise for his claims “Islamists” had “got control” of London mayor Sadiq Khan.

He is now fighting to keep his seat under the banner of Reform UK, the re-branded Brexit Party, which has Nigel Farage at the helm.

All the while the Ashfield Independents, which today dominate the political make-up on Ashfield District Council, have been making ground with their candidate Jason Zadrozny.

Like Mansfield, Ashfield is a key battleground in the July 4 General Election.

The Labour Party wants to restore its ‘Red Wall’, while the Conservative Party will be seeking to keep the seat blue following the departure of Mr Anderson from its ranks.

Meanwhile, the Ashfield Independents will be looking to continue its push to instil Mr Zadrozny to a higher tier of government after he came runner-up in 2019, while Mr Anderson is campaigning to retain his position under Reform.

The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats have each put forward their own candidates to run in the race.

Results in 2019 – Conservative GAIN from Labour – Lee Anderson

Turnout: 62.6 per cent

Electorate: 78,204

Majority: 5,733

Constituency boundary

The Ashfield constituency boundary (Ordinance Survey)
The Ashfield constituency boundary (Ordinance Survey)

Questioning the candidates

Rhea Keehn – Labour Party

Rhea Keehn, for the Labour Party (LDRS)
Rhea Keehn, for the Labour Party (LDRS)

Why should people vote for you?

“You take a look at the Labour policies, we’ve got a real exciting group of actions that we can take that would directly benefit people in Ashfield.

“So, getting more NHS dentists, tackling anti-social behaviour on our streets, filling our teacher vacancies and of course getting our potholes fixed.”

What are the most important issues in Ashfield?

“There’s a whole host of things people are saying they’re concerned about. I’m not surprised because it has been 14 years of Conservative government breaking their promises, so a lot of people are angry about how dangerous our roads are because of potholes, which is something we will tackle.

“A lot of people feel unsafe on our streets and in our neighbourhoods. So that’s why Labour has pledged that we will get more police on our streets, as well as introducing youth hubs so we can support our young people.

“Then a lot of people are concerned they cannot get an NHS dentist appointment for their kids. There’s also just generally people who feel fed up with politicians and politics because for the last 14 years it hasn’t really worked for them.”

What has Ashfield got going for it?

“There are so many fantastic things to gloat about in Ashfield. I mean, our location that we have got some great green spaces which need protecting and sticking up for.

“We’ve got great places like Sutton Lawn for example, which is beautiful. We have Brierly Forest Park. We’ve also got some really wonderful people in our community, people are so warm and friendly and it is about time we represented them properly and spoke up for them.

“In Ashfield we have a proud coal mining and textile industry history. Now it is an exciting chance for us to be part of the next wave of history. Under Labour we can invest in our towns and get the new GB Energy underway so we can get the investment and jobs we deserve.”

Debbie Soloman – Conservative

Debbie Soloman, for the Conservative Party (LDRS)
Debbie Soloman, for the Conservative Party (LDRS)

Why should people vote for you?

“The Conservative Levelling Up agenda I think is the best thing that any Government has put in place for this country. It is really targeted at places like Ashfield that need the extra support and the help.

“So far £62.6m has come into Ashfield through Levelling Up and regeneration of our towns, Sutton and Kirkby. I’m here because I want to continue the job that has been started. It is just the beginning but there is a huge amount of things to be done.

“I’m a self-starter, I am really good at getting things done and I am very responsive to people and I am listening to what they want to achieve. I have only had a really short time to campaign, but already I have put out surveys, I am talking with people, I am finding out what their priorities are.”

What are the most important issues in Ashfield?

“The messages that are coming back are really, really clear. People want pride back into the town centres, so we are working on that, but also health and crime seems to be really important for people.

“Health of adults and children in Ashfield is actually worse than the England average. That worries me. A lot of funding has already gone in, we have got a fantastic hospital at King’s Mill, but I have a plan to deliver more.

“I want one of our new Community Diagnostics Centres coming into Ashfield. I have spoken to people about the difficulties they sometimes have with travelling and getting to QMC, so I want something in Ashfield.

“Also, dentistry is a really big concern. I want to bring in the funding to create an emergency dental facility there.

“Crime is something I am hearing a lot about. One of the things I would put in place is direct consultation with neighbourhood policing, so crime and anti-social behaviour summits, around different neighbourhoods.

“For me it is about making sure young people don’t get involved in drugs, have something to do so there is not a problem with anti-social behaviour.

“The other thing is the state of our roads, it is absolutely terrible. The Government has put £270m more for the County Council to fix our roads, Diamond Avenue is being done shortly, but we need to make sure it continues.”

What has Ashfield got going for it?

“Ashfield has so much going for it. We have beautiful green spaces, town centres, yes they need TLC, regeneration and investment, but it is the people that you as an MP are here to serve and work for them.”

Jason Zadrozny – Ashfield Independents

Jason Zadrozny, for the Ashfield Independents
Jason Zadrozny, for the Ashfield Independents

Why should people vote for you?

“Because people are fed up with party politics.

“This is a scene clearly like the Rochdale by-election where the big parties are completely out of it. Labour and the Tories are a wasted vote, it is me or Lee Anderson, and here in Ashfield I am the only person with a real record of action.

“I won’t have to answer to a big party boss, I only answer to local residents and whether it is parks, leisure centres, new council housing, I am the person who has shown they can really deliver and that’s why I hope they put their trust in my on July 4.”

What are the most important issues in Ashfield?

“There’s a lot. Crime is a real worry, access to NHS and education services, particularly dentistry which is a massive worry.

“People have a fear of immigration, and access to good public services. A lot of those things come from 14 years of austerity. Of course, our current MP was one of the most loyal senior Tories who voted for every one of those policies, and it has harmed Ashfield.

“People voted Labour for generations, they never got any better. They leant the Tories their vote this time, it never got any better. This is a chance for a voice that makes Ashfield better and solves those problems like immigration, NHS, dentistry, access to good quality jobs.

What has Ashfield got going for it?

“Ashfield is a great place. I am born and brought up here so I am biased, but all my family live here, I’ve lived here all my life, and the strength of it is community. We have fantastic people, and they are really loyal and hardworking.

“What that means is we have a fantastic workforce, people who want to get on and aspire to something better. What they need is a slight leg-up because after the mines closed, and everything else, they need that support to make sure there are good opportunities here.

“We are fantastically placed. We are right on the M1 corridor, you can walk straight out of Kirkby, or Sutton, and into brilliant, beautiful countryside. We have got the most money secured of any council in the UK, so there are £200m of regeneration happening, some of the most exciting projects in England will be happening right here.

“Brand-new leisure centres, £5m on parks, Ashfield is the place to be.”

Lee Anderson will also be standing for Reform UK. Mr Anderson declined the opportunity for an interview, and the opportunity to provide a written statement.

Alexander Coates will be standing for the Green Party, while Daniel Holmes will be standing for the Liberal Democrats.

Both of these candidates were also contacted, and did not respond to the option of an interview or the submission of a statement.

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