Inside the Red Wall seat of Reform's only MP... and why Labour are poised to snatch it back

GB News
George Bunn

By George Bunn

Published: 11/06/2024

- 18:01

Updated: 11/06/2024

- 20:52

GB News visited the Nottinghamshire seat of Ashfield to speak to locals about how they intended to cast their vote on July 4

"They f***ing hated Mr Corbyn" former Ashfield MP Gloria de Piero told GB News last week as she spoke about being booted from Parliament in 2019 in favour of Tory turned Reform MP Lee Anderson.

Under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, traditional working-class communities across the Midlands and the North of England turned their back on the Labour Party, including in her former Nottinghamshire seat.

But that was 2019. It almost seems like a different world now.

Corbyn has been banished from Labour and Sir Keir Starmer's party look set to rebuild so much of that Red Wall they lost on that cold December night five years ago.

\u200bAshfield, Nigel Farage, Lee Anderson

Reform are hoping for a victory in Ashfield

GB News/Getty

However, speaking to voters in Ashfield, you would struggle to believe that Labour look set for their biggest ever electoral victory - if the polls are anything to believe.

A sense of apathy and frustration lingers around the constituency. One voter in Sutton-in-Ashfield told GB News: "Labour don't do anything to excite me. The two parties are both the same."

Another, Angela Genghi, said: "Look at Mr Starmer, he is saying he is going to get the smuggling gangs. How is he going to do that? Surely someone would have done it before if it was that easy."

The suggestion that Labour too closely mirrors the Tories was vehemently denied by party candidate Rhea Keehn.

"Absolutely not," she told GB News. "We definitely have some huge differences. Look at the fresh ideas and approach that we are taking not just as a local Labour MP candidate but as a government. The difference is quite stark, we will be putting investment back into our communities, putting power and results and opportunities back into our communities.

"The Tories is just more of the same and that's what we can't continue with.

"People feel fed up by all politicians. We've had a Conservative government for 14 years. When you look at our policies now, you look at what is coming out of the shadow cabinet team, you look at the fact that our priorities are about the people. It's about making sure everybody has the opportunity to succeed and to thrive."

Keehn is looking to take the seat on July 4. However, one of those standing against her is a former Labour councillor.


It was not difficult to find boarded up shops in Sutton-in-Ashfield

GB News

Lee Anderson's political journey... from Labour to Tories, to Reform

There was anticipation around GB News headquarters in the early hours of March 11 when Reform UK announced that they were making a major announcement later that day.

There were already some journalists who correctly predicted that it would be related to the former deputy chair of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson.

Later that same day, the 57-year-old, formerly of the Conservative Party walked on stage in Westminster alongside then leader Richard Tice as Reform's first ever MP. Anderson, a former Labour councillor who claimed the party had been "taken over by the hard-left and Momentum in particular" walked on stage for a photo opportunity with Tice.

A member of the press in the audience quipped "he looks happier than you", referring to Tice. Anderson joked back saying "who said that, he's not having an interview now". A comical quip, no doubt, but he's wasn't willing to take any nonsense.

GB News asked him last week about why the people of Ashfield should put their faith in him after he turned his back on the Tories.

He said: "I've took a gamble on myself. My politics have not changed. So I'm presenting to myself to the public as Lee Anderson. I believe that my thoughts and beliefs represent a hell of a lot of people in Ashfield that speak the same language."

There's no doubt in Anderson's mind that Farage re-joining as the leader of Reform UK is a game changing moment.

He told GB News: "It's massive. He came to Ashfield last week and he got mobbed like a rock star. People see him as a saviour. He's been probably the most influential politician in the past 25-30 years in this country without actually being elected to the House of Commons."

However, the polls indicate Farage, Tice and Anderson face an uphill battle to keep the seat.

\u200bLee Anderson with then Reform UK leader Richard Tice

Lee Anderson with then Reform UK leader Richard Tice


According to the latest MRP poll from YouGov, Ashfield would return to be a Labour seat. Sir Keir Starmer's party is ahead on 35.5 per cent.

Reform drops into second on 20.1 per cent with the Tories behind on 17.7 per cent.

The Lib Dems and the Greens both fall in joint last on the poll at 6.5 per cent.

When asked what Reform's biggest obstacle between now and July 4, Anderson admitted: "Time. That's it. If we could have had a summer campaign it could have been much better to get more leaflets out and knock more doors. We're on the march. We're gathering momentum. We just have got to keep going."

However, anecdotally speaking to people in Ashfield, GB News found there remains plenty of love for Farage, Anderson and Reform UK.

\u200bLee Anderson is eyeing up a return to parliament as Ashfield MPLee Anderson is eyeing up a return to parliament as Ashfield MPPA/GB News

One local told GB News: "I like [Lee] a lot. He speaks his mind and he's a fighter."

Another, Mr Soberekon, added: "I do not know much but I like Farage, I have read his politics and he seems like a good person. I think he has good ideas and I like his composure a lot."

Some were more cynical about Farage. Gavin Abbott told GB News: "I don’t like him. He just seems like he is money grabbing."

Rachel Annable, who runs a stall in the market in the town centre, said: "We had Farage come in and he did speak to us here. My Dad, he's 89 and he's been a Tory for his whole life. He's voting Reform for the first time. He told me 'he [Farage] talks sense.'

"It's not that Tice was a poor leader but Nigel standing just takes it to the next level. I think the Tories have let down people here in Ashfield. Lee, he comes in here a lot, he does his shopping. He speaks up for people in Ashfield.

"I think the trouble for Lee is that he is too outspoken. He is passionate and feels a lot about the town and cares for the people. He is ordinary, he is a strong person and is great vocally for the area but often puts his passion first.

"I don't think there's hope for the Tories. Not anymore."

It may not all be smooth sailing for Reform, however.

Ignore the polls... Ashfield is 'awkward' says Gloria de Piero

\u200bGloria de Piero

Gloria de Piero


Gloria de Piero was MP for Ashfield from 2010 to 2019.

She told GB News: "A good hope for the Labour Party is that the right wing vote is split between the Tories and Reform and that Labour can do it. It has always returned a Labour MP at a general election until 2019. So will it come home to Labour? That is the big question.

"And if the opinion polls are right, then that is poised to happen. But whoever wins I would always say never take Ashfield people for granted."

When asked whether there was a greater threat from Conservatives or Reform, Labour candidate Rhea Keehn said: "I mean, on the doors, the biggest challenge is actually apathy.

"I think a lot of people feel fed up and like they've lost hope. And they want to see something exciting and inspiring again, and they want a government that's on their side."

GB News has approached the Green candidate, the Conservative Party candidate, the Liberal Democrats candidate and the Ashfield Independents for a comment.

The candidates for Ashfield:

  • Lee Anderson - Reform UK
  • Alexander Coates - Green Party
  • Daniel Holmes - Liberal Democrats
  • Rhea Keehn - Labour Party
  • Debbie Soloman - Conservative and Unionist Party
  • Jason Zadrozny - Ashfield Independents

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