Tories face fierce ‘Bombardier backlash’ in key marginals

Conservatives face a dramatic drubbing in Midlands marginals at the next election due to the handling of the Thameslink rolling stock contract which Derby manufacturers Bombadier was competing for.

By Neil Foster of Progressive Polling

The Government’s decision not to award the Thameslink rolling stock contract to Derby-based train manufacturer Bombardier has caused widespread anger and disbelief according to a new opinion poll.

Progressive Polling and The Mirror commissioned Survation to explore voters’ reaction in two Derbyshire constituencies affected by the decision – one with a Labour MP and the other represented by a Conservative.

Opposition is spread evenly across the supporters of all political parties and in both constituencies (See full tables here). As a result of the degree of opposition to the decision the Conservatives face a dramatic drubbing here at the next election.

 97% of those surveyed in the Derby North and South Derbyshire constituencies were aware that German firm Siemens had been awarded the contract  over Bombardier based in Derby.

This reflects the significance of the decision as well as the high profile campaign led by Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North alongside Unite and RMT unions. Meanwhile local media outlets such as the Derby Telegraph have played an active part  in keeping the issue high profile.

More than fifth-sixths of those polled believed ‘the Government has not acted in the best interests of Britain in going for the cheapest bid over a UK based bid’. This was consistent across all 3 major political parties.

Almost four in five believe that the Government is not committed to British industry and just 4% believe Secretary of State Phillip Hammond’s claim that reviewing the contract is not possible.

There is a little to cheer for Hammond from those who voted Conservative at the last election either with just 6% supporting his stance that it is too late to change matters.

The poll reveals a profound disconnect between the people of these two constituencies and the government. 3 in 4 voters believe ‘the Government has no loyalty to Derby’.

89% conclude ‘the Government is out of touch with working class people’ over half are ‘not at all optimistic’ about Derby’s future in light of the decision.

The political fallout from this is dramatic. Last month 10,000 people took part in a significant protest in Derby.  Our poll findings show that the protest will also be felt at the ballot box.

South Derbyshire, a Conservative seat represented by Heather Wheeler MP with a 7,128 majority would be wiped out and lost to Labour as roles are reversed.

In 2010 the Conservatives won with 46% of the poll against Labour’s 31%. Our poll shows the roles would now be almost identically reversed. 46% intend to vote Labour with 32% opting for the Conservatives.

In Derby North, Chris Williamson’s modest 613 majority stands to be increased substantially as 26% of voters there say they would desert the Coalition parties and make Labour the main beneficiary.

The wider lessons from the poll are significant for all political parties. In tough economic times people expect their government to consider the wider importance of growing industry and creating jobs in all its decision-making.

They reject the short-sighted view of cost and instead want decisions made in terms of ‘what’s best for Britain’. The political challenge for the Coalition Government is that 87% believe they could reverse the decision if they were minded to.

Further inaction means they risk paying twice for this controversial and unpopular decision. Ministers would be wise to pause, reflect and then think again.

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