ELECTIONS: Can Labour keep a grip on East Lancashire?

1:00pm Wednesday 21st May 2014

By Bill Jacobs

TOMORROW, thousands of voters will go to the polls in East Lancashire, supposedly to vote for their local councillors and eight north west Euro-MPs.

However, for many it will be a chance to give their view on the main parties and register a protest vote.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage hopes tomorrow’s polls will see a massive vote against membership of the European Union and be the springboard for major gains in the general election next year.

Tory leader David Cameron, in Pendle last week, hopes that the feel-good factor from economic recovery will start to show.

Labour strategists need evidence that their appeal has not faltered, while the Liberal Democrats are just hoping they have some voters left after a disastrous year.

The results in East Lancashire will be studied carefully by the experts of every party because they could hold the key to what happens next May.

The area includes some of the key marginals which will decide who wins power at Westminster.

Good Tory performances in Pendle, Rossendale and Darwen are vital if Tory MPs Andrew Stephenson and Jake Berry are to keep their seats.

For Burnley’s Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle, constantly trumpeting the town revival under the coalition government, a poor result means he has just 12 months left at Westminster.

Local issues and feuds will cloud the issue as Hyndburn yesterday proved. UKIP and the Greens hope to benefit from Labour’s chaos in the borough.

Labour hopes that its stewardship of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Rossendale and Burnley will allow it to tighten its grip on local politics and give it a fair wind, not just to keep its current seats but win new ones next year.

With limited hopes for the council polls, the LibDems hope that leader Nick Clegg’s challenge to UKIP leader Nigel Farage will give it a boost despite poor poll ratings.

Mr Farage is confident of a second north west Euro-MP and hopes to see grassroots councillors give his party boots on the ground for next year.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has played the ‘cost of living card’ saying the economic revival has not helped hard-working Britain and sent his deputy Harriet Harman and shadow chancellor Ed Balls to Pendle to hammer home the message.

Mr Cameron came to the constituency himself - to Silentnight in Barnoldswick - to show he cared and promised that ordinary people would get the benefit of the growing wealth his government’s austerity programme had paved the way for.

With no elections in Ribble Valley tomorrow, voters across the rest of East Lancashire will deliver a poll verdict that everyone else in the country will listen to.

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