Not since the election of Cecil Franks in 1987, has the Barrow-in-Furness constituency turned blue, that so nearly changed in 2017, although re-elected John Woodcock has long been fighting a loosing battle, suspended in April for allegedly sending inappropriate text messages to a female staffer, his time is up.
This is the tale of the Sheffield born MP whom, if he chooses to fight another election, will have his work cut-out.
As calls intensify for John to face the electorate by triggering a by-election, he has so far resisted. A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn had the following to say, The spokesman said: “In normal circumstances, if you stand for election on one platform and then decide to abandon the platform you stood on, basic rules of democratic accountability suggest that you should then put that to the electorate.”
In 2017, John Woodcock came awfully close to losing his seat, the margin closed to just 209 votes, between a Conservative candidate that quite literally no one knew. John Woodcock once attended a debate at the local college, for the majority of the time he sat on his phone, when I tweeted him, he called me out, professionalism hasn’t always been his forte.
It must be admitted that John backed Trident, the latest Submarine programme, and key Labour figures did not, considering that BAE Systems employs over 7000 people in Barrow and many more businesses in the local economy depend on the ‘Shipyard’, this was always going to be an uphill struggle for a candidate that didn’t exactly ‘resonate’ with the local electorate.
A constituency on the coast, it does not fare well in terms of Socio-economic statistics, for example, Barrow is nearly 7% above the national average for percentage of DE voters, and over 7% for C2 voters. More telling is that, 19.3% of residents are on benefits, compared to the national average of 13.5%. I could go on and on with figures, about how the town and surrounding areas rank lower in terms of health and education, but you begin to get the picture.
Without delving into Labour policy too much, it is quite obvious that Jeremy Corbyn is attempting to introduce a socially progressive agenda. An agenda that focuses on pressing issues such as soaring inequality and falling wages, caused by years of cuts to public services and austerity measures. Corbyn a candidate that prioritises health, education and giving the people of Barrow, for example, the opportunity to progress through the social ladder and into secure employment that does not revolve around zero-hour contracts. Interestingly Len McKluskey had the following to say following his resignation:
John Woodcock resigning from @UKLabour is no big deal. He resigned from Labour's values a long time ago.
— Len McCluskey (@LenMcCluskey) July 18, 2018
It must be said John has been an MP that has fought hard on local issues, such as running a campaign to save the local maternity ward. There have also been a variety of factors that have been out of his control, such as local train services, which are ultimately down to Tory failure. For example, in the last 100 days, the Barrow-Preston 4:53 train has been late 75% of the time, if you’re unlucky enough to travel on the 7:46, that service has arrived delayed 88% of the time. He has also presided over cuts to services to Manchester at their peak 8 services used to connect the two towns a day, before the infamous ttimetablechange it was down to 3.
Will he or won’t he trigger a by-election, I doubt it, not if he values his cushty MP salary.