Paul Blomfield says Sheffield voters ‘puzzled’ by Natalie Bennett campaign

Labour’s Paul Blomfield says Natalie Bennett’s campaign in Sheffield is not picking up “any significant support” ahead of next week’s vote. 

Blomfield, defending a 17,000 majority, is running for re-election in Sheffield Central and says that voters have not been persuaded by Bennett and her ‘national priority campaign’.

“They are puzzled by the fact that Natalie is talking about a progressive alliance and then standing against Labour,” he said.

The 63-year-old claims that Green supporters and even party members have said they will vote for him rather than their party’s candidate.

“She has come here and immediately started handing out leaflets about ‘our city’, and while I’ve been busy representing the city in Parliament, she has been a full-time campaigner.”

The Labour candidate also said that the Liberal Democrats’ campaign was “not gaining traction” in Sheffield.

Elected to the Commons in 2010, fighting off Liberal Democrats,  he went on to win by a much clearer margin in 2015 when the Greens came second.

He said Sheffield was a “challenging area” for voter registration because of its high student population, with exams underway at the University of Sheffield and term already finished at Sheffield Hallam University.

“People are seeing through Theresa May…”

After a YouGov poll overnight suggesting that the Tories will lose seats, Blomfield said Labour’s poll rating was improving as people grew more skeptical of Theresa May.

“The Theresa May that I see in the House of Commons is not a strong and stable leader,” he said.

“Her leadership has been characterised by U-turns on major policy issues. Although she was a timid Remainer, she is allowing the shouty voices on the right of the party to dictate her approach. It’s the extreme Brexiteers controlling the agenda and it is leading us to a potentially calamitous hard Brexit.

“Increasingly people are seeing through Theresa May.”

Blomfield also criticised the Prime Minister’s attitude towards US President Donald Trump: “When she rushed over to be the first leader to meet Trump, she looked desperate, and that’s not a sign of strength.

“To give him the rare distinction of being invited for a state visit, it’s an act of desperation. We have to work with Trump because he is the elected leader of one of our key allies, but that doesn’t mean we should fawn to him.”

Although critical of May, he said the election should be fought on policies rather than personalities.

“The Tories have made this election about the party leadership.

“It is too often approached as a soap opera and not often enough about actually changing our society.”

He told South Yorkshire Briefing that the reforming Labour government of 1945, which founded the NHS, would never have taken office if the general election that year had been fought on the personalities of Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill.

“I don’t think parties should be so tribal…”

As the chair of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, Blomfield is a supporter of proportional representation.

“I don’t think parties should be so tribal, parties are a vehicle for achieving social change and not an end in themselves.”

Blomfield said he believed Labour could win the election, having reduced the Conservative lead in the polls, and said his party’s message was cutting through.

“There is a real appetite for change and people recognise that Labour have a programme for that.

“They are worried about the NHS, social care provision, and the housing crisis.”

Despite signing a letter calling for Corbyn to stand down in 2016, Blomfield said: “I would be happy to play any role in a Labour government.”