Battle lines have been drawn in the race to become Mansfield’s next member of parliament as the heated campaign for next month’s general election comes to a head.
Five hopefuls have thrown their hat in the ring to represent the district, with incumbent MP Ben Bradley bidding to retain the seat he won for the Conservatives in 2017.
The figure could have been six candidates, but the Brexit Party’s withdrawal from the area meant former mayor Kate Allsop did not stand for parliament - something she described as “heartbreaking”.
Mansfield, and neighbouring Ashfield, have been the centre of attention for a lot of the election campaign thus far, with national and international media outlets visiting our streets as the election draws closer.
The same can be said for our leading politicians, with Boris Johnson visiting the area twice in two weeks, Nigel Farage launching his Brexit Party campaign in Kirkby and Jeremy Corbyn pledging to visit both constituencies.
But on the ground in Mansfield, Mr Bradley’s victory in June 2017 the district get its first Conservative MP in the seat’s 124-year history, ending 100 years of Labour control.
The Conservative hopeful is defending a very slim margin of 1,057 and will hope to retain support of the voters who put faith in him two years ago.
But Brexit has taken over the political airwaves during the last three-and-a-half years, and Mansfield’s near 71 per cent leave vote will certainly have an influence on how the election pans out.
Party-political loyalty often plays a key role in deciding general elections, yet the town has two independent candidates standing on pro-Brexit platforms who could take away votes from the major parties.
With just less than three weeks until the December 12 election, your Chad has spoken to each candidate about why they should be your next MP.
SID PEPPER, INDEPENDENT
Sid Pepper, a former UKIP candidate in the 2015 election and successful Mansfield businessman, is standing as an independent on a pro-Brexit platform.
He said: “Like it or not, the reality is that this election is about Brexit. All because dishonourable MPs, across parliament, decided not to honour our democratic vote to leave the undemocratic EU.
“I have stood twice before, on a Brexit platform, to see my core voters, 11,800 in 2015, ‘lend’ their votes in 2017 to The Conservatives, who promised to deliver Brexit – these 9000 voters gave Mansfield its first ever Conservative MP, Ben Bradley.
“So, I have to stand again, if only to remind the voters of Mansfield of the promises made and not delivered by the Tory government. Will they deliver this time?
“But again, it is their main pitch, in this election, to deliver Brexit, but Johnson’s treaty is not Brexit, so for a second time, to win your vote, they are promising something that they will not deliver, the Brexit you voted for.
“I pledge to support the Brexit you voted for, in parliament, and make the Conservatives deliver on this promise.
“Also, I have concerns about tax on empty properties and that we should use our national resources better and for the benefit of the people.
“Locally, I would work to stop the decline of Mansfield, making our Market future proof, by moving the stalls undercover – the Old Town Hall, then using the Square for free central parking.”
COUNCILLOR SONYA WARD, LABOUR
Councillor Sonya Ward, who represents Bull Farm and Pleasley on Mansfield District Council, will represent Labour at the election.
She said: “I have lived in Mansfield for over three decades, and I have worked across Mansfield, Woodhouse and Warsop as a youth worker. I’ve also worked in the NHS and for the Open University.
“Mansfield is a great place to live in so many ways, we’ve got wonderful people and great community spirit.
“But, I’m concerned that nothing has come in to replace what was lost with the decline of industry in the district.
“Wages here are £6,400 below the national average. Low pay means less disposable income in people’s pockets, and that impacts on our town centres and marketplaces.
“It’s hard for young people to find good quality employment here, but under a Labour government, with a new focus on manufacturing in Britain, and on re-balancing our economy, there will be new opportunities, and I want to ensure that we get our fair share of those jobs and apprenticeships created here, in Mansfield and district.
“We need to be able to look forwards with hope, and we can only do that with a government and an MP who will fight for investment not further cuts.
“Mansfield was once a thriving district, and it can be again. Back me to back Mansfield.”
BEN BRADLEY, CONSERVATIVES
Ben Bradley, who has served as Mansfield’s MP since June 2017, is standing for reelection and will be representing the Conservative Party.
He said: “I have been the member of parliament for Mansfield since the 2017 election, where I won an historic victory as the first ever Conservative to win the seat, ending nearly 100 years of Labour representation.
“Since entering parliament I’ve been a vocal campaigner for Brexit and have always voted to leave the EU at the earliest opportunity, backing my constituents who voted 71 per cent to leave.
“If elected, I have pledged to continue to work to get Brexit done, and under Conservative majority government I will work with Boris Johnson to deliver it straight away.
“My key local priorities have been town centre regeneration, transport links and education, and I’ve made major progress in all three areas.
“I’ve helped secure a £25m ‘Town Deal’ to boost Mansfield’s local economy along with a commitment to hundreds of new police officers to keep the town safe.
“There is also more than £20m of government cash for the A38, A617 and A614 as well as big improvement plans on the Robin Hood Rail line, and a £14 billion increase in funding for schools whilst serving on the education select committee in parliament.
“Having grown up just down the road in Ripley and lived my whole life in North Notts, I’m passionate about the area.”
STEPHEN HARVEY, INDEPENDENT
Stephen Harvey, a former Conservative candidate on Mansfield District Council, is standing as an independent on a pro-Brexit manifesto.
He said: “In common with many Mansfield MPs throughout the last hundred years, I was a local coal miner, then a district councillor before going on to become chairman of Mansfield District Council.
“I’m now being asked to put myself forward as your MP for Mansfield.
“I’ve consistently campaigned for the delivery of Brexit and am ashamed of Parliament with its current position.
“I have a strong record of defending Mansfield district tax payers’ money.
“I have directly changed major government policies that will positively effect multi-million pound investments locally.
“I have fought for money to be brought into the area and stood up for individuals where wrong was being done. I have stood on Mansfield market as a trader and worked in local industry.
“This election is not just about Brexit. The NHS, crime, the environment and education all require a huge amount of work.
“A vote for me as an independent ensures that I can put Mansfield before any political party interests.
“Mainstream politics is in turmoil. Both main political parties are in crisis and Mansfield needs it’s interests being put before any more party political positioning. It’s time for change.”
SARAH BROWN, LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
Sarah Brown is a HR Professional who joined the Liberal Democrats in 2013, and will represent the party at the election.
She has been campaigning for several years to remain in the European Union and is strongly behind the Liberal Democrats policy to revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit.
Sarah said: “People who voted remain in Mansfield and across the UK are being ignored by both Labour and the Conservatives who are determined to delivery Brexit at any cost.
“Brexit has proved itself to be far from what was promised by Boris Johnson and the leave campaign and will cause chaos up and down our country.
“The wonderful thing about democracy is that people can change their minds.
“It would be a big change in Mansfield, but while more than 70 per cent of people in Mansfield voted to leave, there is 30 per cent who didn’t vote to leave.
“I want to be the voice for those people and for the people who have changed their minds.”
“We’re unapologetic about our pro-EU values and in my opinion there is no deal that can be negotiated that is better than the deal we have as a member of the European Union.
“But if we are going to leave, then we need a deal that makes it as smooth as possible but of course we’ll be campaigning to revoke Article 50 in the general election.”
Timothy Simon BALL, Liberal Democrats
Esther Ruth CROPPER, Green Party
Jerry HAGUE, Labour Party
Simon Louis ROOD, Independent
Mark Steven SPENCER, Conservative Party