Prescott’s son David vies for seat

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Published: Friday 17th April 2015 by The News Editor

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David Prescott is facing an uphill task to follow his father into parliament but he insists there could still be a “Portillo moment” in a seat the Tories have held since the 1920s.

Lord Prescott rose to be deputy prime minister from the Labour stronghold of his Hull East constituency but his son is facing the much trickier proposition of ousting Conservative Party stalwart Sir Edward Leigh on the opposite side of the Humber, in Gainsborough.

Sir Edward has been the MP for this swathe of Lincolnshire for 32 years and he won in 2010 with a 10,559 majority.

And this majority was over his Lib Dem challenger. At the last general election the Labour candidate was 16,565 votes behind the Tory grandee.

But Mr Prescott, 44, said he is not daunted by the electoral history and said he is looking for inspiration for a Labour victory from Stephen Twigg’s famous defeat of Michael Portillo in Enfield Southgate 18 years ago.

“I reckon we could get a Portillo moment here,” the former journalist and businessman said.

Mr Prescott said: ” When someone says to me that it’s a safe Tory seat – it’s only unwinnable because it’s not been won yet.

“If you knock on doors and talk to people you can turn them round. I’ve knocked on doors since December and I can tell you people have never seen candidate knocking on doors around here.”

He said that having Lord Prescott as a father has “closed as many doors as it’s opened” but has certainly given him an unrivalled apprenticeship in political campaigning.

One of his first memories is helping with the campaign in the first 1974 election and, in 2010, father and son toured marginal constituencies together in a white van called the Prescott Express.

“I’ve known nothing else,” Mr Prescott said. ” So I’ve seen what a good local MP does and I’ve seen the challenges there can be when you’re that high up in politics. And I’ve also seen the good that it can do.”

He said: “It’s great to have his support but I am my own man not my old man. I will campaign for the values I have been brought up in. There’s only one Prescott on the ballot, and it’s David. This year he can’t even vote, because he’s a lord now.”

Much of the sprawling Gainsborough constituency conforms to the stereotype of a solid Tory, middle-England, seat with traditional market towns like Caistor and Market Rasen, and scores of pretty villages spread across miles of flat farmland.

But Mr Prescott will be pinning any hope he has on the contrasts behind this overview, with pockets of Gainsborough itself having deprivation levels as extreme as anywhere in the UK.

Today, p eople in Gainsborough’s Market Place agreed with the Labour candidate that transport links and access to health services were problems in the area – all exacerbated by the isolation of the town.

Supermarket worker Sandra Stanley said: “We need businesses, proper jobs.”

She said: “If I was the MP here I’d start catering for the younger people to stop them hanging around the streets. They get into trouble because there’s nothing to do – pure boredom.”

At the x-church community cafe, the volunteers running the kitchen said the NHS was one of the big issues in the constituency with long waiting times to see GPs, who are difficult to recruit in the area, and having to travel long distances for A&E services.

Philly Hawkins said: “If you’ve got a big cut you’ve got to all the way to Lincoln. And I don’t drive.”

But 20 miles further east, in Market Rasen, shoppers who had come into the town from the surrounding villages confirmed why Mr Prescott is facing an uphill struggle.

“It’s Tory round here,” said builder James Fraser.

“Always has been and always will be. The others will have a go but it’ll still be the Tories at the end of the day.”

Retired consultant Roger Ford said: “I think the Government has done an OK job in very difficult circumstances. You’ve got to remember what the Labour lot left them, what they left us.

“Edward Leigh will get in again. Easy, I reckon.”

Sir Edward said: “David Prescott seems like a nice chap. I’m sure in time he’ll get a safe Labour seat, which I’m sure is what he wants, but I fear there’s no support for Labour at all in the villages here.”

He said: “I wish him well but I’m afraid Labour hasn’t won this seat in 90 years.

“I’m quietly confident but I’m not being complacent.”

Sir Edward said the biggest concern he had found on the doorsteps during the campaign was a fear of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP.

He said: “They just don’t like her down here in Lincolnshire. They’re terrified of Labour doing a deal with the SNP.”

And he said that although Ukip had gained ground in Lincolnshire generally, Nigel Farage’s party’s strength was mainly in the coastal areas.

:: There are six candidates standing in Gainsborough: Geoffrey Barnes (Green); Chris Darcel (Lincolnshire Independents); Edward Leigh (Conservative); David Prescott (Labour); Lesley Rollings (Liberal Democrat); John Saxon (Ukip).

Published: Friday 17th April 2015 by The News Editor

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