General election 2019: 'It's all about Brexit' in Blackpool South key marginal

By Lynette Horsburgh
BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Blackpool may have many a slot machine and amusement arcade on its seafront, but it seems there is only one game in town as the general election approaches - Brexit.

A couple of days before Boris Johnson visited the seaside resort, and as the wind howled along the famous beach, I asked people what would influence their vote on 12 December.

Would it be local issues like the state of the NHS or schools perhaps? Or social deprivation and the state of the economy?

No. Without exception - and regardless of how they voted in the 2016 referendum - the issue of how, when and whether the UK should leave the European Union trumped everything else.

Image caption,
Josh Sheard fears the UK will lose a lot of investment post-Brexit

Josh Sheard said he was "right behind" Jeremy Corbyn's push for a new Brexit deal and a second referendum.

"I studied the EU when I did my A-levels and, to put it tactfully, we will go down the toilet if we leave," he said.

The 22-year-old said he knew "a lot of people" who regretted voting to leave.

He said they were "naive to the consequences" and many now "won't admit" how they voted in 2016.

Josh fears the UK will lose a lot of investment post-Brexit and British employees will lose some of their rights at work.

He also fears a Tory government may privatise the NHS. "It could end up like America," he said.

"Where people are unable to pay for treatment. My friend's dad lives in the USA and he can't afford to pay for chemotherapy - it's really bad."

Image caption,
Brian Tyson said it was "time for a change"

Across the political divide, Conservative supporter Brian Tyson said it was "time for a change" and did not think "much work has been done" in the constituency under Labour.

The 54-year-old NHS worker said despite voting Remain in 2016, he was now happy for the UK to leave the EU in order to "honour the referendum" and respect the will of the people.

"I voted Remain but I don't agree there should be a second referendum," he said.

Emily Medcalf, a 26-year-old barmaid from South Shore, said she would vote Labour "as always".

She wants Mr Corbyn to hold a second referendum.

"A lot of people around here are set in their ways and voted to leave thinking it would sort immigration out and the country would be better," she said.

"But it would be in a mess if we left.

"I think Jeremy Corbyn is amazing and is what this country needs. It is in a mess with things like housing and mental health."

Image caption,
Anna Machowiecka is hoping for a second EU referendum

Anna Machowiecka's family owns a Polish supermarket in the North West.

The Blackpool-born 28-year-old said she was "shocked" at the overwhelming local support for Leave.

Anna said she may vote for Labour "because I definitely don't want Brexit - it will be like taking five steps back".

"It has already affected us - our prices have gone up because of the value of the pound going down," she said.

Anna hopes there is a second referendum and thinks a few people she knows would vote differently.

"They didn't realise the consequences of Brexit," she said.

Katherine Lee said she would stick with the Conservatives again - mainly because she did not want Mr Corbyn inside Number 10.

The 70-year-old, who voted to Remain, said the referendum was a "democratic result and we have to abide by it".

Image caption,
Kevin Sharp said the EU "doesn't work for us"

Another Tory voter, Kevin Sharp, believes the party's "Get Brexit Done" stance will be a "vote winner".

"I voted Leave and will only vote Conservative," he said.

"People in Blackpool want out of the EU and only Boris Johnson can sort it out," the 51-year-old former bar manager added.

"We've got a perfectly good deal so let's get out.

"I've always wanted out of the EU, it doesn't work for us."

How did Blackpool South vote in the 2017 general election?

Labour - 17,581 (50%)

Conservative - 15,058 (43%)

UKIP - 1,339 (4%)

Lib Dems - 634 (2%)

Green - 341 (1%)

Fellow Eurosceptic Mary Wilson, who works in the public service industry, said she backed the Brexit Party.

Its leader Nigel Farage has said he will field candidates only in non-Tory held constituencies, including places like Blackpool South.

This could split the Leave vote, something Ms Wilson worries about.

She said she would vote Tory if the Brexit Party did not stand as that would still get the UK out of the European Union.

"We were fine before the EU and we will be better off after it," she said.

"I will never vote Labour because Corbyn will just borrow more money and put the country in a worse mess in the long run."

The UK needs to invest in "educating and training doctors and nurses", she added.

She believes many of those who are unemployed could be given more training opportunities, resulting in "less benefits and more people paying into the system".

Image caption,
Robert Kensey is a much sought after floating voter

Robert Kensey also voted Leave.

"Brexit should have been done and dusted years ago," the 43-year-old hotel manager said.

As for the general election, he admits to being a floating voter - someone heavily valued by the competing parties.

While he voted for the Tories at the last general election, he said he was still undecided about who will get his vote on 12 December.

However, Mr Kensey added that while the NHS was a really important issue for him, "getting Brexit done" was his top priority.

This article, originally published on 15 November 2019, was updated on 21 November to include the declared list of candidates (in alphabetical order):

  • Scott Benton - Conservative
  • David Brown - The Brexit Party
  • Gary Coleman - Independent
  • Becky Daniels - Green
  • Bill Greene - Liberal Democrat
  • Gordon Marsden - Labour

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