Bench Across Britain: Labour-safe seat in Sheffield has mixed feelings for Keir Starmer

23 June 2024, 23:33 | Updated: 24 June 2024, 10:06

With betting an unexpected theme of this election, we've taken our parliamentary bench to the Sheffield dog track.

Bookies are lined up beside the arena and the people of Sheffield have come for a perfectly legal flutter on which greyhound can run fastest, while chasing a mechanical hare that they will never catch.

Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough is one of the most working-class constituencies in the UK - the seventh most deprived in England and Wales.

At the Owlerton Stadium a lot of the punters said they weren't going to vote, one man in his 80s proudly said he'd never voted, but those who said they are going to the ballot on 4 July, say they want change.

Callum Fradgley, greyhound trainer, said: "I would like to see Labour win it personally, but that's just a personal choice. I'd like a government that's going to be more for the working class."

Neil Kelly, a teacher on a day out with his family, said: "All you need to do is go into a school to see that the spending may be going up but it's not going up in line with everything else. I work in a school in Sheffield for autistic kids and the facilities we have at some of the sites are frankly Victorian."

Referring to Labour's policy to remove the VAT exemption on private school fees, Mr Kelly adds: "I can only see that putting VAT on private schools is going to have a positive impact on public schools, if that spending goes towards public schools."

Howard Wood, greyhound transporter, told us: "I will vote Labour. I have voted Liberal in the past but then they did a coalition with the Tories, so I'll never vote for them again. Keir Starmer comes across as a cold person, but he's a shrewd man and he will be a good leader."

Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough is a safe Labour seat.

It was David Blunkett's in the Blair/Brown years when it was simply Sheffield Brightside, and Blunkett kept it when the Hillsborough area was added and David Cameron formed his coalition in 2010.

Here, they voted for Ed Miliband in 2015, they voted for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 and 2019. It's a safe bet they will vote for Starmer in 2024 - but even so there are mix feelings about the current leader of the Labour Party.

Anne Ellis, tote operator and retired midwife, told us: "I've always voted Labour, always, but for the first time in my life I'm considering not doing that, because I think they're far too right-wing for me. And I think it's time to maybe look at an alternative, maybe the Lib Dems, I'm not sure."

"I would have had Jeremy Corbyn back," at this point she laughs, "but not everybody would".

Darren Driver, greyhound racing commentator, said: "I think I'm like a lot of people, I think the election and the campaign at the moment is just boiling my head because it seems to be constant point-scoring.

"Conservatives saying what Labour aren't going to do, Labour saying what the Conservatives aren't going to do, Liberal Democrats saying what both of them aren't going to do. Stop point-scoring and tell us what you are going to do."

Joe Wood, greyhound owner and retired welding engineer, said: "I'm very, very undecided 'cos I can't stand Labour leader Starmer.

"I know he's a wild card, but I keep thinking of Reform - just to put the cat among the pigeons. He's forthright and he don't waffle like most of them do. Over the years I've traditionally been Labour, but they don't excite me."

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Starmer may not excite everyone at this dog track but he has driven his party to a position where it would be a huge shock if they don't cross the line in front in this election.

It has been an exhausting journey back to political relevance, but, as it stands, it seems this constituency will get the government they vote for, for the first time in nearly two decades.

The full list of candidates in the Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough constituency is:

  • Maxine Bowler - Independent
  • Gill Furniss - Labour Party
  • Aaron Jacob - Conservative Party
  • Christine Kubo - Green Party
  • Will Sapwell - Liberal Democrats
  • Jeremy Turner - SDP
  • Mark Tyler - Workers Party