Clacton - home of Britain's next political revolution? GB News investigates whether Britons really are behind Nigel Farage...

Nigel Farage
Clacton - home of Britain's next political revolution? GB News investigates whether Britons really are behind Nigel Farage...
GB News/PA
Nicholas Dunning

By Nicholas Dunning


Published: 21/06/2024

- 15:47

Updated: 21/06/2024

- 23:19

Our reporter Nicholas Dunning went to Clacton to speak to the town's people

Clacton, Essex - a town traditionally famed for its sandy beaches, a Ferris wheel and British holidays in the 1950s. Today, Clacton has been forced into the spotlight.

Now one of Britain's lost seaside towns with high unemployment - latest government labour data shows economic inactivity stands at 46.8 per cent - almost double the UK average - Clacton is symbolic of towns across Britain filled with communities abandoned by the established governmental elite.


In comes Nigel Farage - who could be elected to parliament for the first time ever in this election. Polls are still unclear as to who will scoop up this symbolic seat, so eight years after the Brexit referendum, GB News hit the pavement to find out whether local voters are in the mood to deliver Westminster elites another big shock.

Clacton

Clacton where Nigel Farage is running for MP

GB News


"The biggest issue for me is immigration. It has got to be stopped and I'm not one of those die-hard, crazy people who want to do horrible things. They've got to get a grip of it because if they don't, I think it could explode, big time," said John, 74, a pensioner who was taking a break from his daily bike ride, sitting on a bench.

Pointing to the huge crowds Nigel Farage attracted to the seafront on the day he announced he would stand for election, John said: "He's a superstar. He's like a superhero."

Others were more reticent in declaring their support for Farage. Margaret, 82, told GB News she was conflicted between Labour and Reform UK, having ruled out the Conservatives and Lib Dems: "We have to sort out immigration, but I'm worried about the NHS."

GB News reporter Nicholas Dunning investigates whether Britons really are behind Nigel Farage in Clacton

Ben, 32, was roaming the town centre sticking up Reform UK placards

GB News

Others, however, were galvanised by the prospect of national change, with Clacton at its epicentre.

Ben, 32, was roaming the town centre sticking up Reform UK placards with his girlfriend, despite being on crutches: "I'm promoting the party. I've never canvassed or anything before."

He continued: "To see a place where I'm living being fully represented on the news, it makes me want to be more engaged.

"I go on social media and even though there are people saying that Nigel won't do anything for the area, but they don't understand that Nigel has nearly 2 million followers.

"Just by him mentioning Clacton, his advertising can increase the tourism industry that Clacton thrives on. No other candidate can do that."

Attracted not just by Nigel Farage's vow to reduce migration, Ben pointed to an increase in the personal allowance to £20,000 as a key draw: "It makes sense. Things have gone up over 20 per cent these past two years.

"Increasing the allowance helps poorer people. For someone like me, a working man trying to pay for a mortgage, that increase would help me pay that mortgage. That single policy alone is enough for me to pick Reform."

Nigel Farage in Clacton

Nigel Farage speaking from Clacton as he runs for the seat

GB News

Ben's girlfriend politely nodded along with his statements, adding she did not want to declare her agreement publicly for fear of judgement or reprisals.

Ben said: "I think there's a little bit of a whiff in the air where people don't want to say they will support Reform, because of an opinionated backlash where people say you're racist."

This sentiment which saw support for Reform UK equating to being racist seemed to permeate the town.

A group of elderly ladies winked when GB News asked whether they would be supporting Farage, then continued their walk, saying: "We don't want to get in trouble."

Those not supporting Farage are less restrained. Bob and Barbara, a couple enjoying sea views from a manicured gardens beside the pier were scathing about Reform UK supporters: "There are lots of right-wing fascists in Clacton, worrying about immigration. They can't see the big picture."

Clacton resident

John, 74, a pensioner who was taking a break from his daily bike ride said he would vote for Reform

GB News

Pressed on what he means by that, Bob retorts: "It's another divide. Farage divides the country. He's poison, mate. He's absolute poison and no good for this country."

Barbara interjects to tell GB News: "I had to email Reform because they were sending me pictures of Farage. I've asked them not to send them because I just can't stand even seeing him, let alone listening to him. He's very clever and he knows what to say, but really, it's just a load of old bull."

Bob and Barbara were certain they would vote for the Labour candidate.

On the bench around the corner obscured from behind by a tree sat John, 81, a lifelong local who told GB News he hoped his fellow Clacton voters would stick with the incumbent, Conservative candidate Giles Watling: "He's a local man. He's a very good MP. I'm not worried about his chances."

One of the biggest issues facing Clacton is poverty.

The last available data places Jaywick, a seaside town within the Clacton constituency, as the most deprived area in England. While Reform UK's promises of tax cuts and zero waiting lists are enticing to some, for those without a job or on a low income, such radical change leaves them anxious.

Beverly, 46, was emphatic she would vote for Farage on July 4, listing his promises to clamp down on immigration and woke politics as her impetus, but said tougher benefits rules would be her sticking point: "There are people who get benefits who shouldn't be. Some people can't help being on benefits. As long as you're matched properly, I suppose, instead of being just shoved into something to get the numbers down."

But Farage's assertion that the British Government's first duty is to British people went down well: "You can't keep paying out to people who have never paid anything in."

One group to which Nigel Farage is keen to appeal is small business owners. Roy, 50, is the Jewish son of immigrants who runs the town's salt-beef shop.

"I'm really, really worried," he said. "I've always been Labour, but I can't vote for them in good conscience because they're systemically antisemitic. They've got a big problem with antisemitism."

Small business owner Clacton

Small business owner, Roy was not going to vote Reform

GB News

Asked whether any proposals from the candidates could benefit his business, Roy said: "No, there's never anything that will benefit small business. It's so hard to survive in a small, seaside town. There's no employment, and high crime.

"Hospitality always gets hit: if there's a choice between paying your bills, going shopping or paying for a sandwich in a cafe, you know you're going to lose."

Above all, Roy said he was worried about a rise in populism, asking of his fellow Clacton residents: "Are they going to vote with their head, or their heart?".

Clacton was the site of the election of the UK's first, and only Ukip MP, Douglas Carswell. The town voted heavily to Leave in the Brexit referendum, with 70 per cent of voters wanting out of the EU. It is thought these credentials are what encouraged Farage to choose this struggling beach town as the location of his eighth attempt at election to Parliament.

A shock poll this week found Reform UK's support to be as high as 24 per cent nationally, with Labour in the lead on 35 per cent, the Conservatives in third on 15 per cent and the Greens on 8 per cent.

Clacton candidates of main parties (in alphabetical order):

Matthew Bensilum – Liberal Democrat

Nigel Farage – Reform UK

Natasha Osben – Green Party

Jovan Owusu-Nepaul – Labour

Giles Watling – Conservative


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