In the final of his profiles on East Lancashire's constituencies ahead of the December 12 election, BILL JACOBS looks at a key marginal – Pendle

TWO years ago an unexpected political hurricane almost blew Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson out of Parliament.

A late Labour surge as its leader Jeremy Corbyn burnished his campaigning credentials saw Conservative minister’s majority slashed from 4,453 to 1,279.

The constituency is again a marginal ‘swing seat’.

Mr Stephenson knows he can’t afford slip-ups and believes his consistent Brexit cheerleading attracts voters keen to ‘get it done’.

Already he highlighted his Labour opponent tweeting in 2015 that ‘Corbyn would be a disaster’.

County Cllr Azhar Ali said last week the left-winger had proved a ‘fine leader’ and would make ‘a good Prime Minister’.

He hopes this will be enough to keep the Corbyn effect among the young and voters of South Asian heritage.

But his earlier scepticism may reassure older residents with reservations about the 70-year-old.

Both Mr Stephenson and Cllr Ali know Brexit is the biggest issue in a borough which voted 63.2 per cent to quit the EU.

The latter trusts Labour’s compromise of negotiating a new deal before a confirmatory referendum is acceptable to apprehensive leavers and palatable to remainers.

Lib Dem Gordon Lishman, a former Age Concern boss and Burnley councillor, is a veteran of many elections.

The 72-year-old hopes his party’s policy of stopping Brexit will garner remain votes boosting his 941 in 2017.

May’s local election seizure of the borough council from 12 months Tory control by Labour and the Lib Dems is bad news for Mr Stephenson.

Green Clare Hales is also after the anti-Brexit vote with an environmental twist in the heart of UK manufacturing industry.

Nelson-born Independent John Richardson is standing on a platform of sprucing up and energising the borough.

Mr Stephenson said: “People are sick and tired that politicians have failed to deliver Brexit and that Labour MPs who promised to respect the referendum result misled them.

“People are impressed with the £60million investment in Burnley General Hospital after it was allowed to run down and lost its accident and emergency department. If re-elected I will campaign for further investment in East Lancashire’s NHS. We must improve the road and rail connectivity of Pendle, reinstating the Colne to Skipton line.”

Cllr Ali said: “People are tired of the same old politics and believe it is time for a real change. They believe Jeremy Corbyn will deliver it.

“Labour has committed to reopening the Colne to Skipton rail link and electrifying the East Lancashire Line which will make a huge difference to Pendle’s economy.

“Our commitment to a real living wage of £10 an hour will take 10,000 borough children out of poverty and reduce dependence of foodbanks.

“Investment in lifelong education will give young people real opportunities and ensure workers have the skills needed.”

Cllr Lishman said: “We need to reconstruct our politics because it is bust after what has happened over Brexit.

“Government must tackle East Lancashire people’s shorter and less healthy lives which is about how people live and work not just the NHS.”

Miss Hales said: “Brexit pales into insignificance against the climate crisis. We see flooding up and down the country and it worsens every year. I’d like to see investment in public transport across Pendle. Outlying villages must not be forgotten.”

Mr Richardson said: “I am sick of the bickering between the main parties locally and nationally.

“Pendle has issues with anti-social behaviour, litter and dog fouling. I want to inspire our young people and promote a ‘can do’ attitude. I want Brexit done.”

On December 12 there will be acute nervousness among candidates as the slightest change in the political wind could affect the result.