Election 2019

UK results: Conservatives win majority

After 650 of 650 seats declared
UK results
Party Conservative Labour Scottish National Party Liberal Democrat Democratic Unionist Party Others
Seats 365 203 48 11 8 15
Change +47 -59 +13 -1 -2 +2

General election 2019: 'I hope the new government can heal divisions'

Gavin Craig
Image caption Lifelong Labour voter Gavin Craig said divisions in the party had left him questioning his vote

More than a century has passed since David Lloyd George made his famous 'homes fit for heroes' speech in Wolverhampton ahead of a December election he went on to win. As another winter election looms, what are the views of people in the city?

As crowds packed into Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre, some were so eager to catch a glimpse of David Lloyd George they had seated themselves in the rafters. It was 1918 and the prime minister was in town just days after the end of World War One.

Lloyd George was a national hero - known as "the man who won the war" - and given a rapturous reception. At the theatre he delivered a rousing speech, promising that returning soldiers would have "homes fit for heroes". Hugely popular, the coalition went on to win a huge majority.

On a visit to Wolverhampton 101 years later, it is difficult to imagine an electorate as enthused as it was then.

Standing beside the bar at The Combermere Arms, Gavin Craig is despondent.

"It's an absolute shambles and has been a shambles for three years," he says of the current political climate.

In a city that voted overwhelmingly to Leave in the EU referendum, Mr Craig was a Remainer.

Wolverhampton Image copyright Tim Thursfield/Express&Star

He runs the pub in Chapel Ash, in the Park ward - the only one of the city's 20 council wards that voted Remain.

But despite being a lifelong Labour voter, this year he is undecided.

He is disappointed at the divisions in the party, a fact which has left him "questioning my vote".

Protecting the NHS is very important and he fears the "Tories will sell it off".

But above all else, there is one thing he wants.

"I just hope that when they get it sorted that one way or the other the divisions in the country will heal."

Wolverhampton is a city that is at odds with itself. It has neighbourhoods with huge deprivation, yet is also home to a number of leafy, affluent suburbs.

In 2016, 62.6% voters backed Leave. Yet it was - and still is - represented by three Remain-supporting Labour MPs.

The Wolverhampton South West seat, which has a habit of see-sawing between Labour and the Conservatives, appears to be the most vulnerable at the election, according to Patrick Burns, the BBC's political editor for the Midlands. Labour defends a majority of just over 5,000.

While recent polling suggests Wolverhampton North East, which defends a majority of 4,500, may also be on Labour's danger list.

Perhaps a signal to the importance of the area, Boris Johnson has already visited the city during the election campaign, where he attended a Remembrance Sunday service.

Wolverhampton Image copyright Gavin Dickson

And Mr Johnson is no stranger to the city. In the 1980s he briefly worked at the Express & Star newspaper as a young journalist and would later tell the New York Times that it was his time there that made him realise he was a Tory. He cited dissatisfaction with the way housing problems were being dealt with by Labour politicians as his reasons behind it.

Since those days millions have been invested in regeneration and new housing, but despite the efforts, homelessness has been a problem.

Effy Carey, 19, will be voting for the first time this year.

Kicked out of her home at 16, she turned to sofa surfing and slept rough for months before being put in contact with the Lotus Sanctuary who set her up in a shared house.

"I didn't even know I could vote, but knowing I could it's made me think I want to be able to have a say in my future and what goes on," she said.

Effy Carey
Image caption Nineteen-year-old Effy Carey is looking forward to voting for the first time

Ms Carey still has the battered white and black backpack in which she used to carry all her belongings - a reminder of how far she has come.

The government should be doing more to support those who end up in her situation, she said.

"I care about homelessness, just helping people, communities helping each other. I just want to be able to have a say."

Ms Carey is not the only one looking to vote for the first time.

Harold Durant is in West Park walking his dog, Una. At the age of 76 he admits he has had little interest in politics, nor does he trust politicians.

But he is concerned about the country and is considering going to the ballot box. He will back the Conservatives if he does vote.

"It's a bit of a mess at the moment," said the retired builder.

"They make promises and they haven't got the money. I've never voted, 76 years without voting because I just don't believe what they say half the time.

"I just think Boris Johnson is about the best of all of them. I know he talks a lot of rubbish but they all do and I think Boris Johnson will do what he says."

Emily Gibson
Image caption New mum Emily Gibson would like to see free sanitary products for women

New mother Emily Gibson was also in the park, walking her four-month-old son Lawrence.

Priorities for her are support for women and children. She wants investment in tackling childhood obesity, free sanitary products for all women and better funding for postnatal care for new mothers.

There should be "more education on your own body, breast feeding and childbirth," she said. "There's some groups but it's not very well funded."

The self-employed yoga instructor says she is undecided on who to vote for, but feels passionately about the environment and would probably "lean towards the Green Party because I think they promise to make the most changes".

At a charity shop in Chapel Ash, Barbara Whitehouse is behind the till having an animated conversation with customer Ian Lloyd. When it comes to politics, the pair say they agree to disagree.

Mrs Whitehouse, 66, is a retired care worker. She says she "voted out" and is planning on voting Conservative at the election.

The NHS is "crippled" and she believes the benefits system is under strain "due to Europe".

Barbara Whitehouse
Image caption Barbara Whitehouse believes the benefits system is under strain

"I think the whole benefits system is wrong in this country," she said. "I've been working for 49 years and all I get is my full stamp [pension].

"I worked for 49 years and they said if you haven't paid enough stamp you get less pension and get it topped up - I'm not entitled to [that] because I paid full stamp so I can't get anything. It doesn't make sense at all to me."

Mr Lloyd, meanwhile, voted to Remain and has previously voted Labour. He works for the NHS and is "fed up of it being used as a political tool".

The 48-year-old believes the Tories and the Brexit Party are "too polarised" and he would not vote for them.

He thinks a new deal on leaving the EU must be negotiated and put back to the people, but also suggests lowering the voting age so young people get a voice.

"We do need to look for the younger generation who are being marginalised and we should lower the age to 16 because kids are a lot more savvy," he said.

'Rivers of blood'

Chapel Ash is just a short walk from the former constituency office of Wolverhampton South West MP Enoch Powell.

In 1968 Powell made his infamous anti-immigration 'Rivers of Blood' speech in Birmingham.

Fifty years later, the area tells a different story. Communities live side by side and there are large black, Asian and Eastern European populations.

Powell's old seat is being defended by Labour's Eleanor Smith, who became the West Midlands' first female black MP at the last election, while his former constituency office is now an African Caribbean Heritage Centre.

Between 2010 and 2015, the seat was held for the Conservatives by Paul Uppal, a Sikh.

Today Wolverhampton is home to the second highest population of Sikhs in England and Wales.

Daljit Singh
Image caption Daljit Singh, from Uppals, says immigration has been integral to the success of the business

Just off the Dudley Road, in the heart of the Sikh community, is Uppals sweet centre - not associated with the former MP - which has had a presence in Wolverhampton since 1992.

The smells of fresh samosas and curries fill the air as a steady stream of customers visit on a busy Tuesday morning.

Daljit Singh, one of the owners, says business has been good over the years. Customers from European communities were integral to its growth, he said.

But he worries about the impact of leaving Europe and while he intends to vote, is undecided on who for.

"I'm likely to be swayed by a party that's going to understand the needs of a small business," he said.

"There's too many small businesses that are struggling. We are doing all right but we don't know what the future holds."

Visitors to the city can see firsthand the efforts under way to transform a place once named the fifth worst city in the world by Lonely Planet.

JobCentrePlus
BBC
Wolverhampton unemployment

  • 9,770people claiming unemployment benefits

  • 6.4%of people aged 16-64 unemployed

  • 3.8%unemployment rate across the UK

Source: ONS

Hoardings highlight sites earmarked for regeneration just outside the city centre, while work is continuing on a huge scheme to revamp the railway station which will create a shiny new gateway to the city.

An underpass leading to Molineux - the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers - has been transformed in the gold and black of the city's football heroes, colours that reflect Wolverhampton's motto - "out of darkness cometh light".

But it has also seen decline. Debenhams and House of Fraser are both set to close, while many of the former industries which employed generations of families have also gone, such as tyre factory Goodyear, which shut its only UK factory in 2016 after almost 90 years in the city.

Latest figures show 9,770 people are claiming unemployment benefits in the city - 6% of people aged 16-64, compared with 3.8% of people claiming across the UK.

Heather Brown is one of those people. But she wants to work.

However, the cost of childcare makes it impossible for the mother-of-four, from Heath Town, to return to employment, she says.

"Us single mums, we want to do our best, we want to go to work, but we can't afford childcare," she said.

She struggles to survive on Universal Credit and the 34-year-old said she is forced to turn to family members when money gets tight.

She will be voting Labour at the election, but feels her community has largely been ignored.

Whatever the outcome at the election, she hopes the government pays attention to those communities most in need.

"I don't think they care about the people that they really should care about," she adds.

"If the politicians really care they should be looking at the areas that really need improvement."

Molineux Stadium Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wolverhampton's coat of arms features the motto "Out of darkness cometh light"
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The full list of candidates standing in Wolverhampton's three constituencies are: Wolverhampton South West; Wolverhampton South East; Wolverhampton North East

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