January 16, 2022 6.30 am This story is over 29 months old

How Labour could win again in North East Lincolnshire

Swing seat in the balance as tight election expected

It’s been a disastrous few weeks for the Tories. The party has lost a safe by-election, slumped in the polls, and the Prime Minister was forced to make a humiliating apology over rule-breaking lockdown parties last year.

Labour will certainly be hoping to ride the wave to victory nationally – but is the same possible in North East Lincolnshire?

The historically left-leaning borough has swung between the Labour party and a variety of coalitions for the first 24 years of its existence.

Then in 2019 the Conservatives captured outright control in an unprecedented victory.

Since then, local elections have delivered more joy and they now have a commanding control of 31 of the 42 seats.

Labour has been reduced to seven, the Liberal Democrats to three and Ukip has been wiped out. One seat is also vacant.

With some of their traditional strongholds and veteran councillors gone, the Labour party now only has seats in Grimsby’s West Marsh, South, Sidney Sussex and Heneage wards.

But if the country’s mood changes, would the local party be able to capitalise on that and start to win back voters?

Labour party leader Councillor Matthew Patrick hasn’t responded to requests to speak about this, but it isn’t unthinkable.

One of the defining issues of the 2019 local elections in which the Conservatives took power was the Toll Bar roundabout fiasco, which Labour was determined to replace with traffic lights.

Despite opposition from motorists, local residents and Toll Bar Academy, the party was committed to forcing it through.

The Tories made the most of the unpopular plans, and quickly put the brakes on them once they came to power.

Nearly three years on, has the issue faded from voters’ minds?

Then there’s the question of whether Grimsby will actually be levelled up.

Although the Town Deal was signed on Labour’s watch, Conservative party have prided themselves on bringing government cash to North East Lincolnshire.

It’s hard to keep track of all the different grants, from Future High Street funds, Levelling Up money and Town Deal cash.

But will voters wait to see the difference or get impatient?

Grimsby MP Lia Nici, who was elected around the same time as the current administration, told a party conference last year that voters were “expecting to see something now happen”.

“If I don’t see physical changes in my town before the next election I am highly likely not to keep my seat,” she said.

“My concern is national government and local government move incredibly slowly.

“The message now is we need to get on with the job. We really now need to see some positive change.”

It’s also worth remembering how long ago 2019 was.

The top political issue by miles was Brexit, which Boris Johnson used to great effect in his landslide victory.

But today it’s completely been replaced by coronavirus, and the restrictions and recovery which go along with it.

If voters become unhappy with how the government’s handling it and if Johnson is replaced – which is far from certain – Labour might find the political terrain shifting in their favour.

Of course, local politics is also about individual personalities, fly-tipping in alleys, housing developments and bus services.

A lot of hard work has to go into finding good candidates, winning trust and building a successful party, and Labour certainly has a mountain to climb after its losing streak in recent elections.

When  voters head to the polls in May for local elections, they will be asking who can deliver the best results for them.

Even if Sir Keir Starmer ends up as the UK’s Prime Minister, it is far from certain Labour will make a comeback in North East Lincolnshire.