General Election 2024: Bassetlaw profile

By Jamie Waller, Local Democracy Reporter

A Conservative won Bassetlaw for the first time in nearly 100 years in 2019 – now the party faces a fight to defend a seat traditionally a deep shade of red.

This North Nottinghamshire constituency, with the market towns of Worksop, Retford and Tuxford, had been an unmovable block in Labour’s ‘Red Wall’.

However, the post-Brexit Boris Johnson wave crashed into town in 2019 and gave Brendan Clarke-Smith a 14,000 vote majority in the biggest-ever swing from Labour to Conservative.

Five years on and like many north Notts constituencies, Labour think they can claim back lost ground here. But it’s a close call for polling predictors.

Bassetlaw was home to British high street giant Wilko until the chain collapsed last year.

Thousands of local people lost their jobs – and while many did find new work, it was another blow to an area which had been trying to build a way out of lower incomes and shorter life expectancies when compared with the national average.

Result in 2019: Conservative GAIN from Labour – Brendan Clarke-Smith

Turnout: 63.5%

Electorate: 80,024

Majority: 14,013

Questioning the candidates

Brendan Clarke-Smith – Conservative

Brendan Clarke-Smith – Conservative candidate for Bassetlaw

Why should people vote for you?

I say judge me on my track record. When I became MP for Bassetlaw in 2019, we rode on the crest of a wave with all the positivity about Brexit and Levelling Up. As a Nottinghamshire lad born and bred, it was a proud moment for me to get elected. I made a promise to deliver. I’ve got over £60m for our town centre and the multi-million-pound STEP fusion project. Most important to me, we got £17.6m for a brand new A&E at Bassetlaw hospital where my son was born. The hospital’s been used as a political football for many years  – I said I would actually deliver for the place. It’s been all about positivity and I want to do more of that in future.

What are the most important issues in Bassetlaw?

It’s the same for everyone in terms of cost of living. We’ve had places like Wilko closing and the job losses there. It’s not so much the amount, it’s bringing in the highly-skilled jobs. A lot of our young people want to leave to go to Nottingham, Sheffield or London. I want people to be able to get their qualifications and skills here, and then the high-paid jobs. The STEP fusion is one example. We’re working with schools, colleges and businesses to create 100,000 apprenticeships nationally. I want to bring the economic growth and have places in the town centre we can be proud of again.

What has Bassetlaw got going for it?

There’s so much, it’s such a diverse area – all this beautiful countryside and history. There’s the Mayflower Pilgrims, Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest. We have towns like Retford which are brilliantly linked to the A1, and Worksop which has reinvented itself from a former mining town. In the past, there’s been too much negativity. If you want to attract investment, you need to be positive and talk about the good things. It’s a great place to live and work, and I’d encourage people to look at the area the same way I do.

Rachel Sara Reeves – Green

Rachel Sara Reeves, Green candidate for Bassetlaw

Why should people vote for you ?

Voting for me means voting for a party that is serious about tacking climate change and the challenge that brings, is ambitious when demanding a fairer economy and a properly-funded NHS, and stands up for peace. It’s obvious by now that our next government will be Labour, so voting for a Green is a chance for people in Bassetlaw to send a signal – that we want our politicians to offer real hope and real change, not just more of the same. Where Greens are elected, we hold the other parties accountable, and work collaboratively to influence kinder decisions.

What is the biggest issue facing Bassetlaw?

We have a shocking crisis of inequality. This is one of the richest countries in the world, yet the hospital I work at now has a foodbank for its staff – the primary school my son goes to has a food hub for young families. Greens are clear that we have to tax the very richest in society more fairly and invest more in our future – education, health, homes. In the future, climate change will get worse, and we are not ready for it. Bassetlaw flood defences are weak, and building new homes here without taking that into account is short-sighted.

What does Bassetlaw most have going for it?

Obviously, the people. I’m so glad I moved to Bassetlaw to raise my kids. People here have a real sense of community and love for the place. This area has so much potential, but it’s hard to unlock. Our transport links should be excellent, with the railway line, but the train service isn’t good enough. Our countryside is our most precious resource – the canal, the rivers, the wildlife, but we must do more to protect it and support farmers. Our infrastructure is perfect for green energy technology but we need more investment to retrain local people and support new projects.

Helen Tamblyn-Saville (Lib Dem)

Why should residents vote for you as MP?

I’m a local high street business owner, and live in Retford with my family. I understand the struggles faced by families and businesses, and being based in the community, I talk to people every single day about their concerns. A vote for me is a vote for a local champion who will stand up to ensure a fair deal for everyone, where everyone can afford a home, where every child receives a good education, where everyone can access the healthcare they need when they need it, in a cleaner, greener, Bassetlaw where everyone can thrive and no one is left behind.

What is the biggest issue facing the constituency?

People have many concerns, but one big issue is that of flooding. Rural communities, Worksop and Retford have all suffered extensively, and some residents in Retford aren’t even back in their homes. The flooding is happening more often, and with the changing climate, it is essential to mitigate against the devastation caused to residents and businesses. This includes creating natural new flood protections, and not building in areas of flood risk. As MP, one of my top priorities would be a truly collaborative approach to working with agencies on flood defences and supporting those impacted.

What does Bassetlaw have going for it?

Bassetlaw is a great place to be! Residents are friendly with a real sense of community, we have wonderful independent businesses, and the constituency is beautiful. However, we have been let down. It’s increasingly difficult to access health services when we needed, people are worried about crime, and people are struggling to pay bills. Liberal Democrats will give everyone the right to see a GP within 24 hours if it’s urgent, and introduce free personal care for everyone who needs it. We would introduce free school meals for all children in poverty, repairing the broken safety net, funding public services through fair taxes.

Jo White – Labour

Jo White – Labour candidate for Bassetlaw

Why should people vote for you?

People are telling me they want change. Every time I knock on someone’s door, people tell me they can’t get to see a dentist or a doctor. 8am waiting on the phone and a two-year waiting list for operations isn’t good enough. We can’t go on like this. I want to get more doctors appointments and operations at evening and weekends. It concerns me that people are sorting out their teeth themselves.

What are the most important issues in Bassetlaw?

The biggest challenge is many young people currently have no choice but to leave Bassetlaw to get a high-skill, highly-paid job at the moment. We want to create those apprenticeships, training opportunities and jobs here. I don’t want to see big multi-nationals bringing their own people from outside. I want to see opportunities opened up so that local people can raise families here and bring wealth into Bassetlaw.

What has Bassetlaw got going for it?

Bassetlaw’s biggest asset is its green spaces like Clumber Park. It’s a very stable population with strong families and good places to work and live. When people come here, they want to stay. The schools are the very best in the country in terms of GCSE and A Levels. I’d like toraise aspirations by restarting the Parliamentary summer school so they can get new opportunities and meet big companies such as Google and Facebook.

Frank Ward (Reform) was unable to attend and didn’t send a written statement.

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