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Tories aiming to turn West Bromwich blue for the first time ever

By Peter Madeley | West Bromwich | General Election 2019 | Published:

When it comes to politics in the West Midlands, Sandwell is pretty much as red as it gets.

Conservative Nicola Richards is aiming to win Tom Watson's old seat of West Bromwich East

In parliamentary elections both West Bromwich East and West Bromwich West have been Labour since they were formed in 1974, and it is the same story in Warley since its formation 22 years ago.

The public has gone to the polls for 32 general elections across the three seats, and Labour has won them all.

While Halesowen and Rowley Regis has been Tory since 2010, more of that constituency falls in Dudley than it does in Sandwell.

On a local level, only one borough councillor out of 72 represents a different party to Labour.

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It all means that as far as the Conservatives are concerned, success in Sandwell is a tall order, and over the years the three seats have rarely been listed as realistic targets on any PowerPoint presentations at CCHQ.

But that has changed at this election, with party insiders quietly confident of causing an upset in at least one of the West Bromwich seats.

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The view has been backed by the YouGov MRP poll, which predicts both of them will fall to the Tories, albeit by slender margins.

The Tories believe that Sandwell's high Brexit vote of 68 per cent will be a major factor when voters head to the polls, along with a general dissatisfaction with years of Labour dominance in the borough.

In West Bromwich West, where Labour holds a majority of 4,460, Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey is the bookies favourite to win a seat held by the retiring Adrian Bailey for the last 19 years.

The Birmingham-based commercial lawyer, who lives in Telford, said: "People here feel let down by Labour over Brexit, but the truth is they feel let down in general.

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"They feel they have not been listened to for years and they seem galvanised at this election to say 'it's time for a change'.

"It looks like a close contest but the numbers suggest it is doable."

West Bromwich West candidate Shaun Bailey (right) out on the campaign trail with Dudley South candidate Mike Wood

The 27-year-old claims the "appeal" of Boris Johnson has been a winner on the doorstep, with voters buying in to his claim that he has done his best to deliver Brexit while being blocked by a Remainer Parliament.

By way of contrast, he said: "I've only heard Corbyn mentioned once, and I can't even repeat what was said."

Over in West Bromwich West, Dudley councillor Nicola Richards faces the task of overturning a bigger majority of 7,713.

The 24-year-old from Kingswinford – who would be one of the youngest MPs in the country if elected – is no stranger to election campaigns, having previously worked for Chris Kelly when he was the MP for Dudley South.

West Bromwich East's Tory candidate Nicola Richards (left) with Wendy Morton

She has also played key roles in successful local election campaigns in Dudley, and for Vote Leave in the EU referendum.

She said life-long Labour voters in West Bromwich East had told her they were switching to the Conservatives, with Leave supporters feeling let down by Mr Corbyn's non-committal Brexit stance.

"Brexit is big, but there are other issues like unemployment that people here are really concerned about," Ms Richards said.

Ms Richards, who has campaigned against anti-Semitism for years and previously worked for the Holocaust Educational Trust, said Labour's record on the issue under its current leadership had added "a different element" to this election.

"I feel it is my duty to help stop Jeremy Corbyn from getting into power," she said.

"It is a huge challenge to win in West Bromwich East, but if we succeed I want to prove to those who put their faith in us that their faith was justified."

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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