If Theresa May is going to win the large majority she called the election to try and get, her party need to win seats like Penistone. A small market town on the outskirts of die-hard Labour Barnsley, it’s one of wealthiest towns in South Yorkshire. The middle classes of Barnsley have moved away, but have taken traditional working class values with them.
Shoppers were few and far between as the rain bucketed down. The shop owners weren’t much better, the local butcher couldn’t stop to chat, and the local antiques shop owner said he didn’t want to discuss politics because it “would lead to me and him [his colleague] arguing.” Perhaps it’s happened before.
However sitting in the adjacent tea-room it wasn’t long before one of the key election topics was raised. Two pensioners, sitting having a morning coffee were having a moan about how long it takes to get a doctors appointment, and how difficult it is to speak to somebody on the phone at the local surgery. The type of ‘issues’ that politicians often say they care about.
Floating voter Dan Taylor, the 38-year-old owner of Cheeky Monkeys in the town, asks: “How can you trust what Theresa May says? It’s like on Adult Social Care. One day she says one thing, the next she’s taken it back.
“How do you know that two days after the election, whatever she’s pledged she’s not going to go back on?”
The Conservative attacks on Jeremy Corbyn haven’t landed on Taylor, either, believing that their exaggeration about his links to the IRA is all part of trying to win power.
However with 54-year-old Wendy Roberts, the Tory attack line is getting traction.
“Theresa May, I think she’s good. If that Corbyn gets in it will be a mixed result. You feel more safe with Theresa May.”
Saying that she and her husband have always been Conservative voters, but have’t quite decided on who to vote for yet. Roberts says: “I believe in working hard, and I think that if the minimum wage was increased then it would mean that there would be less tax credits handed out, and less people who work 16 hours a week, so they can get that money and tax credits on top.
“May says she’ll put money into the NHS and education, so I’ll probably vote for her,” the 54-year-old owner of Adore said.
On a day where the famous dry-stone walls of Yorkshire were turned firmly wet, the small South Yorkshire town didn’t really have the General Election on its mind. Few people mentioned Brexit, the big issue of Jeremy Corbyn and the IRA is failing to get traction, and banners and posters in people’s windows were nowhere to be seen.
What people in the town want is a fix to the difficulties they face in their lives, and are starting to feel that no government can deliver that.
Taylor says: “Governments don’t understand business rates and don’t help us out. Business rates are too high, today we’ve had one customer and that might be be due to the weather, but at the end of the day this is our livelihood.”
“We can’t go home when it’s bad business. £10 over three hours is less than minimum wage.”
Likewise, Wendy Roberts wants the government to deliver more affordable housing.
“If you are living in housing for ten years or so, then you should have the right to buy it. If you’ve lived there for that long and you have the cash you should be able to buy it,” she says.
Speaking to South Yorkshire Briefing, sources close to Labour’s Angela Smith said they were more confident of holding the seat than before. Smith has been the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge since 2005. It was thought when the election was called the Conservatives’ Nichola Wilson had more than a fighting chance. But now, after the Tory campaign has floundered it is looking to be some way from the truth. Penistone and Stockbridge’s voters will have the final say tomorrow.