The road to 10 Downing Street goes through Corby

Whoever came up with the line that makes the title of this blog did well.  Labour’s return to power may well be seen to start with this first by-election victory against the Tories in 15 years.

Corby town

In some ways the constituency of Corby and east Northants represents a microcosm of England.  Equally divided, or dithering, between Labour and Conservative, this seat sums up the country.

And so as Andy Sawford, Ed Miliband and the rest of the Labour Party set off from Corby to Number 10 in Downing Street they would do well to have a look around the landscape as they travel.

They’ll only have to step a little way out of Corby town centre to find themselves in Tory-land again. The countryside is Tory.  That means that although the votes are fairly equally divided in the constituency of Corby and east Northants, as in England as a whole, the Labour vote is concentrated in the towns (like Corby itself) just as is the English political map as a whole.

It’s the same in the USA – the Republicans take the south and mid-West whereas the Democrats get most of their votes from the cities of the coasts.  What Corby is to the English Parliament, Columbus Ohio is to the USA.  Ohio is a swing state where the Democrats live in the towns and the Republicans live out of them.  Just the same as Corby and east Northants.

East Northants country

It’s easy in a way to see why this is, but difficult too.  Yes farmers vote for the Right – but hardly anybody is a farmer so that’s not really it.  Yes the rich live in nice houses in the country and vote for the Right, and the Left can’t afford such places or the travel from them to their jobs and live in the towns.  But that’s not really it either is it?

Why is it that the values of Left and Right are reflected so clearly in geography?

As a Labour voter I am pained by how out of touch the Labour Party is with rural issues – public transport, internet access, farming, wildlife and the landscape.  And I wish I would hear more sense on these issues from Labour.  Why isn’t Labour doing better in the countryside – it can’t be that country people don’t want equality, fairness and a One Nation England and UK?

I am frustrated by Labour’s poor performance over the years on many of the issues that are important to me.  Yes the last Labour government had many great environmental achievements (eg refusing commercial approval for particular GM crops, general progress with Environmental Stewardship, using the fate of wild bird populations as a sustainable development indicator, banning the use of lead gunshot over wetlands, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and, probably above all of those, the Climate Change Act 2008) but there were plenty of failures too (replacing set-aside with nothing of value, allowing more cormorants to be culled, letting species conservation fall down the list of government priorities, the NERC Act 2006, failure to implement the Water Framework Directive with any force).  Both lists could be lengthened considerably.

By Caroline Ford (Secretlondon) (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.0-uk (], via Wikimedia Commons
Don’t worry Ed – you’ll get my vote anyway because there is more to life than the countryside and the people who live in it.  But – there is a lot more to life than cities too.  We watermelonsneed a bit of encouragement too.

So I hope that the Labour Party is developing its thoughts on rural issues.  A One Nation party isn’t a ‘One Nation but only if you live in towns Party’.

Yes the road to 10 Downing Street goes through Corby but it winds its way through an awful lot of countryside before it gets to its final destination.


And the offer is certainly open to Mary Creagh, Ed Miliband or any other Labour politician to put the case for what Labour offers the rural electorate but also the unenfranchised wildlife that still needs help.



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22 Replies to “The road to 10 Downing Street goes through Corby”

  1. Well ash dieback is an issue that could unite town and country, as it will desecrate both. The first party that promises effective protection from the tidal wave of plant diseases stands a good chance of getting my vote!

      1. Filbert - you're right! I think Mr Brown may actually have claimed he *had* ended boom and bust (but I'll stand corrected on that). Mr Cameron (and Mr Clegg) promised the 'greenest government ever'. Co-incidentally Martin Harper has offered some thoughts on this today:

        ... and a link to a report of how the government is doing (not especially well).

        Personally I think being the greenest government ever would involve getting us off our supersize me diet of fossil fuels and onto sustainable growth as a genuine way out of boom and bust. I don't see that happening and I think many of the wider public, not just people in conservation movement, must be thoroughly fed up of the environment being permanently short changed whovere is in power.

  2. Funnily Mark I think Labour's vote in the towns is slowly thinning out, round my way I saw more Lib/Dem posters in the windows then Labour. To me there isn't a big enough gap these days between Labour and Conservatives in "real" policies. If you had a Tory and Labour man sat in a studio, didn't introduce them and say "why should we vote for you?", you'd be hard push to tell the difference between the two, never mind be able to tell which party they represented. I found it interesting that the tories blamed the fact that Louis left Corby for America (can't blame her...Corby sucks) but I think the fact Mr.Pickles made the "forgotten about u-turn" on their localism policy and pushed through the dumping of radioactive material in tory-countryside upset Tory voters more then Louis leaving (from what I understand she was on TV more then in Corby). Why do politicians feel the need to turn up on programmes like I'm a Celeberity, Have I got News For You etc. Have they got so little to do in their areas they have so much spare time to appear on TV? I agree Labour has tried (harder then Tories) to do the right thing for conservation but none are really commited to the enviroment either globally or locally. Today we have David Cameron telling the nation he will do everything to help flood victims....but who cut the budget for flood defences in the spending cuts, which now has insurance companies saying they won't offer flood cover?
    I'm sorry but next election I won't be casting a vote, why waste my time, nothing changes, wether it be conservation, crime, anti-social behaviour, criminally low wages and high taxes. In fact what I would like to see at the next general election, to improve voter turn out, is inspired/ripped off from the Richard Pryor movie "Brewsters Millions". On the ballot paper I want a box to tick that says "none of the above". I have a sneaky feeling this box will get more votes then some of the recognised parties and will send a message to the politicians, that they a) have to actually engage with voters alot harder, I don't care if an area is supposed to be a Labour area, I still want a Tory MP to knock on my door and ask "would you vote for me", I don't want my elected MP to ignore me when I ask for a surgery appointmet (as my tory MP did) and b) realise they aren't celebrities and are actually politicians c) work together instead of all this negative rubbish of party politics for the good of local areas and the country otherwise nothing changes and people just disengae with politics. Will that happen? I bet a years worth of my salary it doesn't?

  3. I agree with Douglas we should have the option on the ballot paper to tick an "abstain" box. A bit of a cop out but what do you do if none of the major parties have manifestos that properly embrace the matters that are important to you. Voting for the least bad option seems so unsatisfactory - I would rather abstain and write to the sitting MP to tell him why, in the hope that it might bring a long term change for the better in the future if there were enough abstainers in the short term.


  4. I agree, Mark, that the town-country thing is quite fascinating - and important. How much of it is conservatism with a small c ? Because the ordinary country people who vote conservative don't seem to do that well out of either party - is it a hangover from the stately home era when all the estate staff voted conservative, usually for a scion of the ruling family who employed them ? And, as you say, equally reflected in the US. It's interesting that here at least the conservatives (our friend Mr Osborne at least) are even less enthusiastic about farm subsidies than Labour - I'm hearing rumours of the Treasury pushing to reduce subsidies even if it means losing the EU co-funding that has preserved them up to now.

    It makes what happened over Forest Sales even more interesting - and issue, which like Ash dieback as MK suggests, crossed party lines. The establishment - and that includes most nature conservation bodies - are still trying to get their heads round what happened because it goes against the way things are meant to be - we tell you what to think. I'd suggest there's a big message there - probably one a lot of people will still go on trying to suppress - because, thanks in large part to the Flow Country, the Forestry Commission crossed the great divide and started talking to people as people, not as demographics/voting blocks whatever - I wonder to what extent conservation bodies are still heading the opposite way, driven by their marketing departments ? How many conservation Lynton Crosbie's are out there for membership at any costs, even the organisation's soul ?

    I was entertained by a favourite of this blog, Kite loving Sir Simon Jenkin's, response to Alan Bennett's new play which has a dig at the National Trust's new approach to making their houses more 'accesible'. Alan Bennett is very funny but I'm not sure he's right - I rather enjoy what the NT are doing indoors (and maybe outddors soon if their ideas for the Dark Peak carry over into their wider countryside) but Sir Simon's response reminded me of how FC might have reacted in about 1995 - it is a perfect example of the 'establishment' problem, he's trying to tell me what I'm meant to think but suceeded in the exact opposite !

    1. Ian - I guess they fit in as One Nation Scotland, One Nation Wales and One Nation Northern Ireland with one Nation England in a One Nation UK. That is surely clear 😉 ?

      1. I think your reference to the "English" parliament may have rankled. I ground my teeth but had kept quiet...but it gets particularly peculiar when campaigning for recommended UK Marine Conservation Zones in the Irish Sea. 🙂

    1. Ian - one or four, I think. A bit like those pictures that look like one thing and then look like something else, depending on how you look at them.

  5. Think in the UK we have a major problem that every time Labour are in power we eventually end up with a financial crisis which in the past we have probably been blessed with Tory PM clever enough to get us out of the crisis.This time all the politicians of both party's seem really poor.
    Surely the first priority whether it is the country,a household,organisation or business is that it just has to be in good financial health then other things follow on.
    Without sounding unpatriotic I think we have to look at what other country's do and think we need to follow the Chinese example of finding the best 7 people around and put them in charge for 10 years.At the moment we seem to have a ridiculous situation where one party has a certain policy and as soon as the other gets in it is scrapped.

    1. Not sure I would entirely agree with you Dennis but then I wouldn't vote tory to sdave my life, or lib dem next time either!

    2. Sorry Dennis but I seem to remember two economic meltdowns during the Conservative rule during the late 80's and early 90's, wasn't one of them called Black Monday or Friday or something like that when thousands were wiped of shares as a Tory unveiled a new computer system for the stock exchange and as it was switched on in front of the press all the companies share prices turned RED. Following the Chinese example? I guess David Cameron could've done with some tanks during the student protests over tuiton fees:)

  6. Understand the Chinese criticisms but we may all end up with lots of UK company's with Chinese money owning them as all our party's mess up.Those who pour water on such as the Chinese need to recognise they had successful cultures way before the UK who lots of people in UK still think they are better than the rest of the world,what a joke.
    Paul seemed to assume I voted tory and said he would not vote tory or lib dem.Well there is no better prospect with labour either which is really my point.We unfortunately have at the moment lots of politicians who cannot do the job required.

    1. Oh I far from making jokes at the Chinese, you only have to see how much was invented by the country to realise how clever they are. I even remember when Rover was sold to the Chinese the board at Rover went over thinking what you pointed out, however the Chinses realised what "brits" were like, and just plyed them with drinks, so much so, they couldn't remember what deal had been done!

  7. As to not being in touch, it cuts both ways. Boris Johnson has just given approval to Walthamstow Stadium being given over to housing. You can bet your life he wouldn't make the same decision if he had the same call to make over Ascot.


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