Boris Johnson needs to deliver more than Brexit to keep Labour heartlands blue

We’re in Robin Hood country. And it’s as if they’d voted for King John.

This is the constituency of Bassetlaw, at the heart of the old Sherwood forest.

Last week they returned their first Conservative MP to Parliament for 90 years.

Robin’s Outlaws would be turning in their graves. So too, the ghosts of generations of miners who made this rock-solid Labour territory.

Worksop has been a staunch Labour town - until this general election. Credit: ITV News

‘’I wonder where they’re going to get the money we need for investment,’’ says Simon Greaves, leader of the council, as he reels off a list of must-haves that includes social care and education.

The Tories are not known to take from the rich to give to the poor, he says.

But old loyalties have frayed. Bingo night at the Stanley Street social club and two words come up time and time again. Brexit and immigration.

‘’If he gets Brexit done by the 31st of January, after all the toying with it, he’ll have done well,’’ says Kenneth Robinson, the bingo caller.

‘’England doesn’t feel like England,’’ adds Christine Johnston. ‘’Three quarters of the country seems foreign to me.’’

This is the Nottinghamshire town of Worksop and today it feels a long way removed from the pageant of the Queen’s Speech.

The area used to have a large mining community, but some workers have transitioned to engineering roles. Credit: ITV News

Here they’ve struggled since King Coal was dethroned thirty years ago.

So the promise of tax breaks for a high street pock-marked by shuttered shops is welcome.

Darren Fisher, who runs the Manton Colliery Club, tells us: ‘’This used to be a thriving town. Now half of it is charity shops. I hope we can get back to where we used to be. Busy.’’

At the Hair Asylum salon on Bridge Street, evidence that this Labour town has only lent the Tories its votes, and maybe for the short term.

‘’I don’t trust any of them,’’ says owner Debbie Slater. Even the tough message on violent crime is treated with scepticism.

‘’Knife crime’s got worse, but nothing will change,’’ one customer chips in.

We visit a local engineering firm. Wright Engineering has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the local coal industry – often employing workers who honed their skills down the pits.

Some voters backed the Conservatives in order to get Brexit done. Credit: ITV News

These days those kind of skills are harder to find. Managing director Chris Boden-Smith tells me he worries about the apprentice scheme the government has in place.

And there’s a deeper anxiety. A familiar one. Despite the Prime Minister’s well worn election slogan, Brexit isn’t yet done.

And for a company – and 150 jobs – dependent on tariff free European imports of steel, that is a concern.

‘’It was a shock to wake up in a staunch Labour town that had voted Tory, and I firmly believe that was because of Brexit, ’’ Chris tells me. ‘’But Brexit isn’t over. Until we see the deal - or no deal - we still don’t know.’’

Years of industrial decline, a decade of austerity and the great expectations created by Brexit. These are tough challenges to meet. Labour was accused of taking Bassetlaw for granted. Boris Johnson shouldn’t make the same mistake.