LABOUR and the Tories are going head to head in Hyndburn.

Former Labour opposition leader on the borough council Graham Jones is convinced the “failure” of the government’s economic recovery to come to the constituency will see him elected for a second term as MP.

Conservative candidate Kevin Horkin detects a mood of optimism among voters reminding him of the 1983 campaign (which he worked on) which produced an unexpected Tory victory for Ken Hargreaves by 21 voters.


The unpredictable factor is Ukip, which already has two borough councillors and claims its candidate Janet Brown is picking up enough votes from Labour to make Mr Jones majority of 3,090 in 2010 wafer thin at best.

Tory enthusiasm for making a fight of the seat was shown in January as Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne headed to Accrington’s Hanson Brickworks to officially restart the production line mothballed in 2008.

They hailed it as a sign of the economic recovery coming to East Lancashire.

Mr Cameron later claimed it was “one of my favourite moments of the past five years”.

Mr Jones is dismissive of the Prime Minister’s claims.

He said: “The big issues on the doorstep are lack of job security and low wages.

“The people I meet don’t think the government is on their side.

“They see no sign of the economic recovery coming to Hyndburn.

“They are concerned that Tory plans to cut £12 billion from the welfare bill will hit the tax credits so many depend on.

“Voters are also very worried about the NHS.

“We’ve had one or two Labour voters saying they’re going Ukip, but most know we need a Labour government to change things.”

Ukip chairman Paul Thompson is bullish about his party’s progress since getting just 1,481 votes (3.5 per cent), behind the BNP in 2010.

He said: “It’s beyond my wildest dreams.

“We’re getting people asking for posters and joining up.

“We started by getting Tory voters but lately we’ve had a surge of former Labour supporters.

“I think we could get 20 per cent of the vote.”

Despite this Ukip factor, only a major national Conservative surge or a spectacular performance from Mr Horkin (a teenage Accrington market stallholder turned Ribble Valley millionaire businessman) will produce an upset.

The Roman Catholic vote is important, helping propel Papal Knight Mr Hargreaves to Westminster twice.

A significant South Asian vote is also being hard fought over.

Well-established local Green campaigner Kerry Gormley could also have an effect.

She has been very active and has concerns about fracking in East Lancashire as her trump card.

Liberal Democrat Alison Firth will hope her vote is not squeezed below 2010’s 5,033 when the party was riding high in the polls and heading for a coalition with the Tories.

Labour highlight leader Nick Clegg’s U-turn over university tuition fees with the pledge to cut them by £3,000 a year.

Catholic Mr Horkin highlights concerns about the poor state of Accrington town centre and the number of empty shops in townships across the borough.