Tl;dr - Labour would win this seat “even” if they selected a “raving alcoholic sex paedophile”
Ukip has Great Grimsby, once a Labour safe seat, firmly in its sights for the May general election. And the comments by outgoing Labour MP Austin Mitchell may have just helped its cause.
From the shuttered-up homes by the once bustling fish market to derelict harbour-side factories, politicians of all stripes admit privately that the east coast town alternates between being forgotten and taken for granted in Westminster.
It’s a narrative that Ukip is pushing hard and one that the Lincolnshire town’s veteran MP, Mitchell, unwittingly reinforced by telling the Independent on Sunday that Labour would win the seat “even” if they selected a “raving alcoholic sex paedophile”.
It was a poorly judged parting shot from an MP who says people in the town – and the east of England generally – are “pissed off” at the successive governments that have overseen the rise of a “new society based on low wages, unstable employment and poverty” – and it was seized upon by Ukip's candidate Victoria Ayling.
It’s insulting to the great people of Great Grimsby. And it’s exactly the sort of ‘take them for granted’ attitude that is turning people away from the establishment parties.
Victoria Ayling, Ukip
Mr Mitchell is still popular in the constituency, but Ukip will be facing his successor, Melanie Onn, 35. She was selected from an all-female shortlist after working for the Labour Party in London and working locally as a trade union campaigner for the living wage.
She is clearly exasperated by her Labour colleague’s comments, describing them as “awful”.
But she does admit that people on the doorstep tell her that they feel as if “they’ve been taken for granted by all parties”. Her challenge is to convince Labour voters that she will address their issues.