US PRESIDENT Bill Clinton won two elections by remembering the vital catchphrase for winning votes: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’.

That is certainly true in low-wage, high-deprivation and far-flung East Lancashire.


All parties are focussing on the state of the nation’s finances, wealth and future job creation as the election campaign finally got officially under way yesterday.

The two main parties tell very different stories about the last five years.

The Conservatives talk about an economic recovery forged out of the fires of austerity which Labour would destroy by a wild borrowing spree and punitive taxes.

Labour speak of a recovery that has failed to reach ordinary people working hard in places like East Lancashire, far from the economic powerhouse that is London and the South-East.

The Liberal Democrats claim the ‘reasoned centre ground’ of moderating Tory cuts and preventing Labour waste and recklessness with the national cheque book.

Peter Kellner of pollsters ‘YouGov’ has no doubt that these two differing ‘narratives’ will be at the heart of how many people cast their vote on May 7, especially in post-industrial areas like East Lancashire.

So far his research has failed to come up with a definitive answer as to which story the nation is believing.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Mr Alexander said: “Thanks to the LibDems, we have raised the threshold for paying income tax so that next week everyone will be £825 pounds a year better off. This is hugely important in East Lancashire with its low wages.

“If we remain in government, it will rise to £12,500 a year , meaning anyone on the minimum wage will pay no income tax at all.

“This government has taken measures to improve transport in East Lancashire including Todmorden Curve and upgrading the Clitheroe-Blackburn- Darwen-Manchester rail line. These are vital improvements ignored by previous Labour and Tory governments.

“Just last week, Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle won £15.6million government investment for the town’s general hospital. These things only happen with LibDem MPs and the LibDems in government.”

Hyndburn and Haslingden Labour candidate Graham Jones said: “I don’t think this government understands how much people here are suffering.

“The key issue is low wages.

“There can be no recovery in East Lancashire without wages rising.

“Whatever the government says, the have fallen sharply and their proposed welfare cuts will hit those in work, taking ore money out of people’s household budgets and the local economy.”

He also calls for major improvements to inadequate road and rail links which hold the area back.

His Tory opponent Kevin Horkin tells a different tale: “Just look at the new developments around here.

“More than £50million pounds is being spent on new housing developments in Hyndburn.

“We have got the redevelopment of Blackburn town centre and multi-million pound bus stations in Accrington, Blackburn, and Rawtenstall.

“The reopening of the Hanson brickworks shows the construction industry is on the way back, always the first sign of a well-established economic recovery.

“Of course we want to see higher wages and a bigger share of the cake for Wast Lancashire, “If elected as Hyndburn MP I will fight for that, but you cannot have a bigger share of the economic cake unless there is one to share.”

Pendle Liberal Democrat candidate Graham Roach cautions against believe either of the main parties stories: “We have played a part in ensuring the economy has recovered the the recession.

“We will make sure if we are in coalition there is no reckless borrowing and that any cuts are not too deep.

“The LibDems will continue to take low-paid people out of tax altogether putting more money into their household budgets which can then flow into the local economy.

“Personally I am committed to the living wage for everyone rather than the minimum wage and the end of the bedroom tax.” Burnley’s Green candidate Michael Hargreaves said: “Greens stand for a fairer society and an economy that works for all.

“Greens will in invest to create one million good jobs, not zero-hours or precarious agency ones. We’ll pay for it by taxing the richest one per cent and scrapping Trident.

“I don’t see much evidence of money spent locally reaching those most in need. This has to change. We want to work towards a living wage of £10 an hour by 2020.”

Shirley Parkinson, UKIP candidate in Ribble Valley, said: “In East Lancashire we have different problems from the South.

“We need to tackle low wages and free business from the red tape of the European Union to create wealth and jobs. When it comes to transport links we don’t want massive schemes like HS2 that do nothing for East Lancashire.

“We need ones that benefit local people.”