GENERAL ELECTION 2017: True-blue tradition in one of county’s affluent areas

Ribble Valley
Ribble Valley
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It’s one of the truest blue seats in the country, and its voters are also committed Brexiteers.

The attractive rural seat of the Ribble Valley has been Conservative since it was created in 1983 - with the exception of the shock year in 1991 when Liberal Democrat teacher Michael Carr ousted the Tories in the anti Poll Tax vote. It was won back the following year by Nigel Evans, who has held the seat ever since.

It’s one of the more affluent areas of Lancashire and also holds one of the county’s largest employers – BAE Systems at Samlesbury.

The constituency includes the two main towns of Clitheroe and Longridge, a string of small villages ranging from Downham, where the film Whistle Down The Wind and the TV series Born and Bred were made, to Whalley and Hurst Green. It changed its character somewhat in 2010 when boundary changes meant Samlesbury, Walton le Dale, Bamber Bridge, Lostock hall and Farington were included.

It has a significant farming industry, many small businesses, can be a tourist hotspot and is a popular area for day trips with a thriving high profile restaurant scene. Clitheroe Food Festival which takes over the town is a big attraction.

Many workers commute out of the constituency which has easy access to the motorway network, to Preston and Blackburn and along the A59 to Yorkshire.

Local newsagent David Brass, who has himself stood for parliament in the past as a protest candidate wearing a striped ‘humbug’ suit, said: “The election is more the personalities in this case”.

There are pockets of stronger Labour support, but concerns about Labour’s leadership are a discernible factor, says David, who adds the new Tory policy of not paying the fuel allowance to wealthier pensioners has also caused ripples.

He said: “The Winter Fuel allowance – that’s clicked a few raw nerves. A lot of people have been careful with their money and they don’t see why they should pay for being careful.”

“It’s not generating a fantastic amount of interest this election.

“I think it’s a bit of a dull campaign overall. It caught a lot of people on the hop when the election was called.”

In the Brexit vote 56.4 per cent voted leave and 43.6 per cent remain – inevitably the farming community and businesses with international reach are waiting to see just what Brexit will bring and want any MP to be a strong voice for their interests.

But above all concerns about infrastructure and new housing developments are, as in neighbouring constituencies, a major area of concern which voters share across the Valley from Longridge to Clitheroe.