Post by syorkssocialist on Apr 7, 2020 0:07:48 GMT
Created in 1983, this constituency is most famous for electing former leader of the opposition and newly appointed shadow cabinet member Ed Miliband on five different occasions.
While Doncaster is often thought of as little more than a run down post industrial town, large swathes of this constituency are fairly rural and it includes villages like Sprotbrough, Fishlake, Campsall and Kirk Bramwith, which most people would consider to be more on the upper class side, relative to the rest of the Doncaster borough. On the other hand, it does include some of the most deprived towns in South Yorkshire such as Stainforth and Mexborough - the former of which I grew up in.
Much of the area has a mining history which is still close to many residents hearts and has played an important factor even in the lives of younger residents. For example, Hatfield Main Colliery in Stainforth remained open until 29th July 2015, making it one of the last three deep coal mines in the UK to permanently shut down. The colliery did cause some problems in its final years, namely a landslide that occurred on the local railway line in 2013, resulting in the station being closed for some time, with trains unable to run on the line. Despite this, the colliery was the one of the main sources of employment in Stainforth and the surrounding villages even by 2015, and many residents lament its loss.
Other collieries in Doncaster North included Askern (closed 1991), Brodsworth (closed 1990) and Hickleton (closed 1988) among others, and dozens of miners who worked at these pits later came to Hatfield. The region is incredibly proud of this heritage and memorials to the industry can be seen outside some pubs and in certain churches and libraries. There are still several miners welfare clubs in operation, many of the older male constituents are themselves former miners and it is still the case that a large portion of residents from the larger towns/villages work industrial jobs such as construction and manufacturing.
As I mentioned early on, while the main population centres of the constituency such as Stainforth, Mexborough, Adwick and Bentley are all pretty working class, it does have some more well to do areas. Fishlake is a lovely rural village that many people who grow up in Stainforth and end up making decent money move to. Property prices are fairly expensive there and its a great place for walking or cycling, but it has had problems with flooding very recently, with many residents still unable to return to their homes. Due to the small populations of villages like this, they tend to be lumped into larger, Labour voting council wards such as Norton & Askern in this particular case.
The one exception to that rule is Sprotbrough, which has a population of about 11,000 and has consistently elected exclusively Conservative councillors since the current ward was created for the 2004 local elections. It is the only major part of Doncaster I've been to that features gated communities and enormous front gardens, so its voting habits should probably not be seen as a surprise. Despite this, every other council ward in Doncaster North bar one (Mexborough) have all reliably voted Labour up to now.
In Mexborough, a group of effective independents called Mexborough 1st began standing there in 2014, gaining their first councillor and later winning all three of the ward's seats in the all-outs of 2015 and 2017, although our canvassing returns indicate that the area has continued to support Labour in general elections. The Branch Labour Party (BLP) in Mexborough ward was inactive for an extended period of time, which probably contributed to our losses there, however some passionate activists are now kicking things back into gear.
Smaller national parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens have had very little presence in Doncaster North in recent years, although UKIP did run us close in much of the constituency and managed to win council seats in both Doncaster Central and Don Valley in 2014 and 2015. However, by 2017, there were no UKIP councillors left on DMBC. Mexborough also went through a period of voting LD at the local level up until the coalition, and they unexpectedly won a 1998 council by-election in Stainforth as well.
So, as you would expect from a constituency with this kind of profile, it has voted Labour at every UK parliamentary election since its creation, and the two constituencies it was created from (Goole and Don Valley) continuously elected Labour MPs between 1935 and 1983. Also, due to the strong presence of the mining industry here, the NUM has always been influential and both Michael Welsh and Kevin Hughes (Miliband's predecessors) were sponsored by the NUM when seeking selection. Both MPs were staunch left wingers, the former being a keen supporter of Tony Benn's deputy leadership bid and the latter having been a member of the New Communist Party in the 70s - although he ended up supporting the Iraq war and Blair's anti-terror legislation.
From 1983 to 2017, Doncaster North returned the Labour candidate at every election without fail, usually achieving 50%+ of the total vote with majorities ranging from 10,000 to almost 22,000. However, this changed in December 2019 when Miliband was only re-elected by a very small majority of 2370 votes amid Labour's landslide national defeat. This was only 38.7% of the total vote; a decrease of 22.7% on the election held less than three years prior. In fact, had the Conservative and Brexit Party votes been combined, they would have beaten us.
The Chris Hanretty estimates suggest this is the 7th most pro-Brexit constituency in the UK with a leave vote of around 72%, and while the pro-second referendum stance taken by the Labour Party undoubtedly proved problematic here, my experience on the doorstep suggested that Corbyn's leadership was the much more pressing issue on people's minds. Whether this result was a temporary blip or a lasting problem for the Labour Party remains to be seen, but the results of next year's local elections in the following wards should give us some idea: Norton & Askern, Bentley, Roman Ridge, Adwick-le-Street & Carcroft, Thorne & Moorends and Stainforth & Barnby Dun.