Famous faces visit Fylde coast for last push in election

Prime Minister Theresa May at the Scotch Bakery in Lord Street Fleetwood
Prime Minister Theresa May at the Scotch Bakery in Lord Street Fleetwood
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Voters on the Fylde Coast were treated to two high profile visitors as the hours counted down to the General Election vote.

Local Conservatives who have their eyes on taking control of the Blackpool South and Lancaster and Fleetwood seats were buoyed by a visit from their leader Prime Minister Theresa May.

TV star Eddie Izzard with Labour's Gordon Marsden, left, and Chris Webb, right

TV star Eddie Izzard with Labour's Gordon Marsden, left, and Chris Webb, right

While Labour’s Blackpool hopefuls Gordon Marsden and Chris Webb welcomed comedian and political activist Eddie Izzard to raise spirits.

In the red corner...

Comedian Eddie Izzard met fans at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens while throwing his support behind Labour candidates Gordon Marsden and Chris Webb.

He said: “The mood is changing and there is everything to play for. We are about the many, and not for the few. The Tories are always for the few.”

The political activist, who has been a member of the Labour party since 1995, thanked the Labour supporters for braving the bad weather to meet with their local candidates.

He also accused Prime Minister Theresa May of running scared from the public as she continues to avoid political debates in the last crucial days before the election.

Mr Izzard said: “It’s like she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She didn’t know she wanted an election. Nine times she said no and then she said yes.

“She doesn’t know about her own manifesto. She doesn’t know when she’s turning up. She doesn’t know if she’s going to do a debate.

“Do we really want someone running the country who doesn’t know what they’re doing or where they’re going?

“She doesn’t want to stand up in case they say ‘where are you? Do you want to debate any of the questions? Do you want to stand up for your words and ideas?”

Blackpool North and Cleveleys Labour candidate Chris Webb added: “I have never known anyone who has a job interview and then doesn’t turn up. She’s hiding from the public. What has she got to hide?”

“I would be incredibly proud to represent my hometown. I grew up and worked here, and representing my family and friends would be an amazing honour.

“We have seen NHS waiting times double in this last year, with people waiting on trolleys for over 12 hours.

“We need to have an honest conversation about social care. We need to ensure that our social care budget is increased as our population is getting older and not decreased as we have seen under the Tories.

“Parents now are receiving letters from schools asking for money for books, for glue, for stationery - it’s wrong. We need to be investing more in our children’s future, and also giving the older student opportunities, whether that is to go to university or go into an apprenticeship.”

Blackpool South Labour candidate Gordon Marsden yesterday received a boost for his re-election bid when he got the the endorsement by leading local figure and former Lib Dem Mayor of Blackpool, Robert Wynne.

Mr Marsden said: “I hope to continue representing the people of Blackpool South who have stuck with me through good and bad.

“One of the big divides between us and them is that we want to see the economy expand and give opportunities at every stage, which is why we have made such bold pledges which are fully-costed in terms of further education.

“I remember talking to a woman on Mereside who was a single mum. She got involved with Sure Start, three years later she was running a parents group, three years later she was training to be an infant school teacher.

“It’s that sense of progression, that sense of hope which has been stripped away from people in Blackpool that we need to renew.”

Mr Wynne said: “I am supporting Gordon Marsden in this election.

“As a lifetime Liberal, former leader of Blackpool Lib Dems and former Mayor of the town I have never before endorsed a candidate from a rival party, but this time I think it is vital that we support our local MP.

“I am still very much a Liberal and always will be, but there is no chance of the Lib Dem candidate coming close in Blackpool South and I urge liberal minded people to lend their vote to Gordon Marsden this time.

“I am shocked at the complete lack of any detail in the Conservative manifesto.

“Gordon Marsden has worked hard for Blackpool for the last 20 years and I don’t want to see him swept away by a tide of empty promises.”

Candidates: Blackpool South: Peter Anthony (Conservative), Bill Greene (Lib Dem), Gordon Marsden (Labour), Noel Matthews (UKIP), and John Warnock (Green Party)

Blackpool North and Cleveleys: Sue Close (Lib Dem), Paul Maynard (Conservative), Duncan Royle (Green Party), Chris Webb (Labour), and Paul White (UKIP)

In the Blue corner...

Mrs May dropped in early doors to see Fleetwood Tory candidate Eric Ollerenshaw and met local businessman and supporter Neil MacSymons at his bakery.

Mrs May, who has come in for criticism up and down the country for seeming to avoid local people, revealed that she had a part-time bakery job as a schoolgirl during the visit to the Scotch Bakery in Fleetwood.

But despite the teenage stint in the world of baked goods, the Prime Minister was unable to identify the local delicacy Chorley cakes.

She said: “My Saturday job at school was in a bakery.

“I’ve learnt something today. I’d never heard of Chorley cake before.”

One supporter told the Prime Minister one of his “biggest worries” was about the impact of Brexit on exports and the food industry.

Mrs May said: “We make fantastic products here and the opportunity is now to really go out there and sell those and be a bit bold and brash about how good we are.” Mr MacSymons, a Conservative supporter, was told on Monday night to expect a visitor from the party and that security would be heavy.

He said: “I was told to expect one of the top three in the Conservative cabinet.

“I didn’t think it would be Theresa May, it was a huge surprise when she walked in and a very proud moment.

“She was lovely – she asked some questions about which pastries were the best sellers and then she sat down and had a coffee. I expected her to be really tall but she wasn’t. Some of her red lipstick was left on the cup and I joked about putting it on eBay.”

A Conservative party spokesman said the Fleetwood visit had been arranged the night before as part of a series of visits on Tuesday which included Wales, the South West and the South.

Candidates: Lancaster and Fleetwood: Robin Long (Lib Dem), Rebecca Novell (Green Party), Eric Ollerenshaw (Conservative), and Cat Smith (Labour)

Tomorrow the campaigning stops and thousands of Fylde coast voters will head to the polls.

For all the latest news and results as they come in, follow The Gazette’s in-depth coverage online and in the paper.

The website - www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk - will be constantly updated tomorrow and through the night as the votes are counted.

Reporters will be on hand at the various counts across the Fylde, providing live updates, pictures and video via The Gazette’s social media channels.

Readers picking up a copy of Friday’s Gazette will see reports from the counts and all the results that come in before our deadline, which has been pushed back for the election.

Any late results and all the reaction will be published online and updated throughout Friday.