Politics

Meet the Grimsby voters who will be taking part in Target Towns project ahead of general election

The UK is almost certain to hold a general election in 2024 after 14 years of Conservative prime ministers.

The latest the next election could be held is January 2025, but polling experts have predicted it will take place no later than November.

As politicians plunge themselves into “campaign mode”, Sky News will be speaking to seven people in the new constituency of Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes as part of our Target Town project.

We’ll be asking them what their concerns are, who they are planning to vote for and which factors might sway their vote.

Both main parties will be keen to win the constituency, which had been a Labour seat since the end of the Second World War before it switched to Conservative in the 2019 general election.

Here we introduce you to our “Grimsby seven”.

Callum Smith, sixth-form student

Callum Smith is yet to make up his mind ahead of the election
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Callum Smith is yet to make up his mind ahead of the election

Mr Smith, 18, will be voting for the first time in the next election and said he is leaning towards the Green Party but is also considering Labour.

Asked what it is about the Green Party that appeals to him, Mr Smith said: “It’s the things they’re offering in their manifesto – they are things that are important to people my age, things like the environment.

“I feel like Labour is lacking clarity in its messaging at the moment and it’s putting a lot of people off.”

Despite his uncertainty about Labour, he does believe party leader Sir Keir Starmer has integrity and “excellent people skills”.

“I would have no problem with him being in Number 10,” he added.

However, Mr Smith, a sixth-form student at King Edward VI Grammar School in Louth, Lincolnshire, has maintained he needs Labour to be clearer about its policies before he can decide whether to vote for them or not.

The teenager is planning to study paramedic science at university and wants to hear about policies that will help tackle the problems facing the NHS.

Mr Smith said there is “no chance” he will be voting for the Conservatives in the next election – adding he believes the current government “lacks integrity” and “lost his trust” during the pandemic.

Harp Chatha, director of Aston Estates property rental agency

Harp Chata wants to see parties take a tougher stance on immigration
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Harp Chatha wants to see parties take a tougher stance on immigration

Mr Chatha has not decided who he will vote for but said he is considering the Reform UK party because he wants to see tougher action on immigration.

The 47-year-old voted for the Conservatives in 2019 but feels the party has failed to reduce the number of migrants entering the UK.

He said: “Immigration is one of the main reasons I will not vote for the Tories again.”

The father-of-two, whose parents moved to the UK from India in the 1960s, believes there is now “far too much immigration” and he wants the next government to set stricter criteria for who will be allowed into the country.

“Currently, we’re letting in murderers and rapists all over the shop,” he said.

Mr Chatha also believes the Conservatives have failed to deliver on promises to put more police officers on the street and to provide more support for frontline NHS staff.

He added that politicians have a habit of “putting up a smokescreen” and it might be time for a “fresh change” away from the two main parties.

Reform UK, formerly known as the Brexit Party, is a right-wing populist party that wants to bring about net zero immigration. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is honorary president of the party.

Caroline Ridlington, founder of Coffee On The Docks

Caroline Ridlington is undecided who she will vote for in the upcoming election. Pic: Caroline Ridlington
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Caroline Ridlington voted for the Conservatives in 2019. Pic: Caroline Ridlington

Mrs Ridlington, who runs a coffee shop with her husband Steve, has also said she is unsure who she will vote for in the next election.

The 53-year-old says she voted for the Conservative Party in 2019 because then leader Boris Johnson seemed like a “normal, personable guy that could step up to the plate”.

However, Mrs Ridlington said she is not certain she would vote for Mr Johnson again if he was still leader and is also unsure about Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Mrs Ridlington, who has three daughters aged between 24 and 33, said: “Mr Sunak isn’t very outspoken and I just don’t really know much about him. I suppose he’s trying to get his head down and get on with the job in hand.”

Asked whether Sir Keir and the Labour Party stand a chance of winning her vote, she said: “I’m still sitting on the fence… I want to think about it a little bit more.

“Sometimes you just don’t believe anything they say on both sides – they make the promises, but when they get in, will they actually deliver?”

What is Target Town?

Sky News’ Target Town series aims to tell the story of the upcoming election from the perspective of voters in the new constituency of Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

We’ll hear from locals all the way through to election night to understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and to discuss how the future could look depending on which political party is elected into power.

The constituency is high on Conservative and Labour target lists, lying right at the heart of the ‘Red Wall’ that the Tories smashed to take the election in 2019.

Once again they promise to be pivotal to both leaders’ ambitions.

Sarah Stook, writer

Sarah Stook has said she will be voting for her local Conservative MP
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Sarah Stook has said she will be voting for her local Conservative MP in the next election

Ms Stook, who writes articles about politics, mainly for websites in the US, voted Conservative last time and said she will be doing so again.

The 25-year-old admits she believes the party has been “pretty useless” in government but she doesn’t see a better alternative.

Ms Stook said one of the deciding factors in her decision to vote for them again is that she “quite likes” her local Conservative MP, Lia Nici.

When asked who she thinks is the better leader, Mr Sunak or Sir Keir, she said: “Well, that’s like asking someone whether they would rather be shot or drink poison, isn’t it really?”

Asked about what she would like to see announced in the spring budget on Wednesday, she said: “I’m not too excited because they’re just going to be promising everything to try and win votes.”

Sean Willis, former London Underground employee

Sean Willis is looking for socialist policies as he decides who to vote for
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Sean Willis is looking for socialist policies as he decides who to vote for

Mr Willis worked in the revenue department for the London Underground for 10 years before he was declared unfit to work by the Department of Work and Pensions due to his arthritis.

The 60-year-old voted for Labour in 2019 because he was “very much a supporter” of the party’s then leader Jeremy Corbyn.

However, he is unsure if he will vote for Labour next time because he’s “looking for policies that are more socialist” than what the party is offering.

He said: “In terms of who to vote for, I’ve seen a bit about the Northern Independence Party but I’m not sure if they will be putting up a candidate here.

“There’s also the Socialist Alliance, they normally put up a candidate here, whether I would see that as wasting a vote, I don’t know.”

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Mr Willis said Labour could help swing his vote by speaking out more strongly against the actions of Israel in Gaza.

He added that the party should also introduce policies that “actually benefit working-class people rather than continuing to support trickle-down economics”.

Mr Willis said one policy he would really like to see is the closing of tax loopholes.

Asked whether the Conservatives could ever win his vote, he replied: “They would need to stop pretending they’re going to be levelling up and actually level up.”

Patrick Salmon, owner of Alfred Enderby fish smokers in Grimsby

Patrick Salmon wants to see more help for small businesses
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Patrick Salmon wants to see more help for small businesses

Mr Salmon, 60, whose fish smokers business is more than 100 years old, has always voted Conservative but is yet to decide who he will go for in the next election.

Asked what the Labour Party could do to win his vote, Mr Salmon replied: “They’ll have to come out with some policies for a start. We need very clear policies and we haven’t got that yet.

“Keir Starmer isn’t dynamic enough for me. I see the leaders of major parties as potential statesmen, you’ve got two roles, running the country internally and running the country in a global forum, but I’m not sure he fits the second part and that is a worry.”

The lifetime Conservative voter said of Mr Sunak and his party: “It’s nearly got to the point where, if they would square the Post Office scandal up completely, that might win it for me you know.”

The business owner also has an interest in what will be announced in the spring budget next week.

He said: “I don’t see how big tax cuts are going to be available to the government, but they need to help small businesses a lot more than they are doing.

“Small businesses like mine are suffering, we need to see help with small businesses.

“We’ve already got corporation tax going up… We need to see some things like that alter a bit.”

Rochelle Siviter, company director of Freedom Speaks Ltd

Rochelle Sivity is a 'floating voter'
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Rochelle Siviter is a ‘floating voter’

Ms Siviter, 39, whose business focuses on advocacy support and representation for parents with children who have special educational needs (SEN), voted for Labour in the last election but is unsure who she will be voting for this time around.

“I’m a floating voter at the moment, I think I’m going to be seeing who is on the roster of independent MPs.”

The mother-of-one said she is “very active” when it comes to “social policy” but she is not clear what Labour stands for at the moment.

Asked whether the Conservative Party can do anything to win her over in the months leading up to the election, she said: “I’m interested in social policy and business policy.

“If there was some significant move towards business growth for the middle class, I would potentially be listening a lot more.

“I’m seeing policies for working-class families and I’m seeing policies for the wealthy, but I’m not seeing anything clear for where I sit, which is pretty much in the middle.”

Sky News’ Target Town series aims to follow the build-up to the general election from a key constituency prized by both Conservatives and Labour – Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

To launch it The UK Tonight with Sarah-Jane Mee will broadcast live from Cleethorpes at 8pm.

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