THIS family who helped smash Labour’s election “Red Wall” have backed the Government’s recovery plan but warned: Do not forget about us.
Lifelong Labour voter Simon English said the Tories were still “on probation” and he is relying on them to lead the country out of the pandemic and back to prosperity.
The warning comes as Boris Johnson, who marks a year as Prime Minister this Friday, is battling to steer the UK towards recovery after months in lockdown.
Simon, 42, said: “Boris Johnson has encountered more in a year as leader than most.
“He’s like a tightrope walker balancing the health and wealth of the nation with every step he takes.
“I liked his enthusiasm when he first became Prime Minister and felt compelled to vote for him at the election — convinced he could breathe new life into the North.
“We gave him our trust and faith and it’s now his turn to repay that by aiding the recovery and avoiding dole queues like those in the 1980s.
“He’s been in position for a year and made a lot of promises, so we’re hoping he can now fulfil them.”
The dad-of-four is among thousands of working-class voters who saw fresh hope in Boris and turned the market town of Darlington blue for the first time in 27 years.
He earns around £300 per week working at McDonald’s and his wife, Trish, also 42, is a lollipop lady.
‘It’s been a lifeline’
From their neat four-bed terraced house, Simon said he likes the way the Government acted to protect jobs like his own during the pandemic.
He said: “I didn’t even know what furlough meant until it happened to me. When they told me, I had to Google it to find out what it meant.
“It’s been a lifeline – I don’t know what we’d have done without it.”
But Simon challenged the PM to spend a week in the former Labour heartlands to get a real taste of life in once neglected towns and cities.
He said: “It’s not good enough for Boris and those in the Cabinet to come up north and visit for an hour and then head back south.
“To really get a feel of what it’s like up here and what the fears are for getting back on our feet, they need to be here for a week, talking to real people.”
But he fears his children and grandchildren will face having to pay off the nation’s £300billion overdraft.
He said: “We have to get spending under control otherwise my grandson Declan, who is five, will be paying this back during his adult life.”
The poll victory in the Co Durham market town was vital in helping PM Boris to achieve his landslide 80-seat Conservative majority at last December’s General Election.
The family are still onside and are backing the Covid blueprint spelled out by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Simon said: “There are lots of eye-catching ideas to get the country up and running but it must work for people like us.
“The emphasis always seems to be on London and the South East but this time it has to be for everyone, and especially the North.”
In Darlington on Friday, we saw a handful of restaurants and bars open — tables spread apart and Perspex screens in place, while shoppers patiently observed social distancing. But there are fears some businesses may not make the cut.
Simon, who has been employed by the fast food chain for five years, lives with wife Trish and sons Simon, 19, and Ryan, 17, — while older daughters Alice, 24, and Joanne, 21, have now moved out. They also have four grandchildren.
The family voted for Boris last year as he was a “breath of fresh air”. It was the first time since they started voting they had not backed Labour, in part due to Jeremy Corbyn.
They welcome policies such as the Meal Deal giving 50 per cent off, up to £10, in restaurants from Monday to Wednesday next month.
But Trish reckons issuing shopping vouchers will lure more people back to our ailing High Streets. She said: “When families are thinking about Christmas presents, do they stay at home and stay safe by ordering off Amazon?
“Or could the Government give a £10 voucher to buy at a local gift shop to help stop them going out of business at their busiest time of year. We’re also saving for a holiday next year to Spain so we haven’t got that much spare cash.”
‘Matter of survival’
With two teenagers still living at their terraced home, Simon and Trish both welcome Mr Sunak’s plan for apprenticeships.
Son Simon is an apprentice at a telecoms firm while Ryan is finishing his City and Guilds in English, Maths and motor vehicle engineering.
Under the new plans, employers will be paid £1,000 to take on trainees and up to £2,000 to hire young apprentices. A new Kickstart scheme will pay employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds for a six-month placement.
Dad Simon said: “The schemes look encouraging but I wonder if smaller firms have the manpower to take on trainees.
“They have so many other concerns — are young people going to be on their priority list?
“It’s a matter of survival for them at the moment.”
The stamp duty holiday until March 31 next year on homes worth up to £500,000 — to help more people on to the housing ladder — also gets the family’s thumbs-up. The average house price in Darlington is £150,000.
Simon said: “The money people save on stamp duty will help local businesses because they will spend it on things such as new kitchens or DIY. But Rishi needs to extend the stamp duty holiday for a lot longer.
“Our kids will no doubt save and save for a deposit, but only those who already have enough saved will benefit.
“Boris talks of ‘build, build, build’ and there are young people wanting to get their own homes so he must get started and quickly.
“I’d love it if my children could own their own home — it would be a dream. We rent our house so it would be a real step up for the family to get the keys to their own homes.”
But having better job prospects is vital.
Simon said: “If we have a skilled workforce in the town and can incentivise companies to set up here, we will be an attractive place to invest.
“We can’t let the town die, it can be re-born.”
BORIS Johnson won a staggering 80-seat majority at last year’s election, in part by breaking Labour’s “Red Wall” stronghold.
The Tories won seats they had not picked up for a generation – including Blyth Valley which had not elected a Conservative MP since 1950.
Seven months on from the victory, the towns and cities across the North are having to cope with the fallout of the pandemic.
Thousands of people in the constituencies have been furloughed and left wondering whether they will have a job to return to in the coming months.
Here, we look at ten of the Red Wall towns.
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