Ed Miliband launches Labour campaign for Corby by-election after Louise Mensch's shock resignation


Ed Miliband ventured into the heart of middle England today to launch what is seen as Labour’s most significant electoral challenge since he became leader.

The party needs to over-turn a Conservative majority of just under 2,000 to win the Corby by-election caused by the sudden resignation of the colourful local MP Louise Mensch earlier this week.

Labour strategists are acutely aware that failure to take the seat – which has voted the way of the winning party in every election since 1979 – will re-open questions about whether its notional lead in polls can translate into real votes.

In some ways the name of the constituency is misleading. While it is centred on the former steel town of Corby much of the seat, formerly represented by Ms Mensch, is solidly conservative, with a small ‘c’.

So today, just four days after Ms Mensch announced she was standing down, Mr Miliband travelled to Thrapston, a pretty market town dating back to the 13 century, to prove that no parts of the constituency is off limits.

“I want to know what the one thing politicians can do to help you,” Mr Miliband asked a group of teenage girls he met on the town’s high street.

“Get a Nandos in Thrapston,” replied Verity Smith. She wasn’t really joking.

But joking or not her comment reflected a wider and more significant difficulty confronting Mr Miliband and the Tories as they seek to win a by-election (expected in November) which will set the political mood music in Westminster.

Many voters are interested in political issues – but not the politicians and parties who strive to solve them.

A number of people who voted Tory last time round seemed content to do so again with no great enthusiasm and those who voted Labour wanted them to retake the seat.

But the majority had little belief of either party could help them. Middle England is hurting – but they don’t think anyone has the power to heal the pain.

Nick Watts, 50, runs a company making timber flooring for yachts. In 2008 he employed 108 people but has successively had to let people go as the market dried up.

He now employs 72 people but says he doesn’t have work enough for them.

“Moral is pretty low – not good,” he says. “We’re just a small cog in a big wheel. The market for yachts has shrunk so the market for flooring has shrunk. It’s hard to know what to do.”

The problem, he says, is in Europe and frankly it will make little difference which party he plumps for.

“To be honest I’ve given up voting,” he says.

Sandra Naylor, who runs a florist on the high street, echoed a similar sentiment.

She said in all the years since the recession started this one so far had been the worst for her business and she didn’t believe any politician had the answers.

“It does not matter who you have in power. We had Labour in power for 13 years and they did a lot of things wrong and we’ve had the Tories in power for two years and they haven’t really put things right. This is a world wide recession and doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference who is in.”

Mr Miliband tried to address these concerns when he spoke to a group of Labour activists in a patch of scrub-land behind the high street which was set up for an ‘impromptu’ stump speech.

“Our opponents in this by election are not just the Tories and Lib Dems but those who think that politics cannot make a difference,” he said.

“People who say all politicians are the same. If there is one argument I want you to make above all, it is that Labour will make a difference to people’s lives.” 


But the wider problem remains: how to convince to people that even if you can’t get a Nandos into town – you can make a difference to their lives.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine