Will Nigel Farage help the Conservatives smash through Labour's red wall?

Allegra Stratton

Former National Editor

  • Video report by ITV News National Editor Allegra Stratton

The Thursday 4pm deadline confirmed Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage will not stand down his candidates in Labour leave seats.

After shutting up shop in Tory held seats on Monday, nothing he had said this week suggested he was about to give the Conservatives a free hit in Labour facing seats – including Thursday morning’s Telegraph saying Farage was offered a Tory pact and rejected it.

These seats are being called the Tories’s red wall - 50 seats that stretch from the Vale of Clwyd in Wales across to Great Grimsby on the east coast.

The Tories really need these seats but Brexit Party candidates will suck some votes away: Brexit candidates acting a bit like an electric fence on top of the red wall... stopping the Tories from getting their hands on Labour leave heartlands.

For our Battleground series, we’re in Barrow in Furness, south of the Lake District. It had been Labour under John Woodcock but he was a former Brown aide on what was called the centre of the party but now is denounced as the old school neo-liberal right by the Corbynista movement.

Even so Woodcock won the seat again in the 2017 election as a ‘Labour Independent’. It was a wafer-thin victory for him: 22,592 versus the Conservative’s 22,383. Now he’s standing down so its ripe for the Conservative party: Tory target seat 9.

Corbyn critic John Woodcock is standing down from his seat in Barrow. Credit: PA

It voted heavily leave (58%) and the submarine dockyards dominate the town. With Labour’s leader a confirmed disarmament supporter, he's quite close to a nightmare for many of the people who rely on the dockyards for work (though there was a poll out this week suggesting British people, not Barrow people, are not far from Corbyn’s position: support for nuclear strikes was low.) In the 80s the area was Tory but even so, the Labour vote is strong here.

What could go wrong? Here in Barrow on Tuesday a Conservative councillor Ged McGrath resigned from the Tories to contest the election for the Brexit Party. Unless he is withdrawn today that means he has made Barrow exactly the sort of place that should go Tory but might not because of Farage.

Boris Johnson will be targeting seats in north England. Credit: PA

Already the Tory candidate has attacked his candidacy with their now standard line: "even Farage now admits a vote for the Brexit party makes Brexit less likely".

But even so, McGrath doesn’t have to win many votes to split the Leave vote and let Labour back in through the middle. With less than 250 votes between Labour and Tories, you can see that the leave vote being easily split.

This seat should be straight forward for the Tories. It remains to be seen if the Brexit Party is going to give them the problems they fear.

Read more from Allegra's Battleground series: