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‘We were promised something different but it just hasn’t materialised’, say Grimsby Town supporters in battleground seat

As the floodlights illuminated the rows of chimneys on the terraced streets around Blundell Park there was a tense second half ahead.

One-nil up, the home supporters were desperate to hang on to the win as they fight for survival in League Two.

It has been like this for generations of football fans in Grimsby – a club founded in 1878 – the ground has been home since 1899.

A proper old-school venue – there are fewer and fewer places like this now in English football.

Although it is actually in neighbouring Cleethorpes, the club is a Grimsby institution.

The two towns are being merged into one constituency for the next general election, with both the Conservatives and Labour desperate to win it.

There is no shortage of political opinions before kick-off.

Image: Kiosk worker Sean Gifford

Sean Gifford was opening up the Snack Shack kiosk behind the Pontoon Stand.

He quickly identified what he believes is the biggest problem in British politics.

“It’s the narrative. Do you believe the narrative of what any politician tells you? I don’t.”

He added: “It’s being able to speak one’s mind, as opposed to always toeing the party line and making sure that the truth is spoken without any spin doctor, without any PR machine behind it.

“People just cannot speak the truth for fear of backlash.”

He isn’t just disillusioned with one or two characters in politics, it’s all of them, and he is not sure who can solve it.

“It takes somebody of almost Churchillian stature, and where’s the Churchillian prime minister of the future? I just don’t see one.”

On the hotdog stand on the other side of the ground, Kirsty and Kylie were lining up their foot-long Lincolnshire sausages ready for the half-time rush.

Image: Hot dog seller Kirsty Johnson

Kirsty is also frustrated by politicians. She told Sky News: “I think it needs someone with balls who can sort it out, take it by the horns and actually shake it up a bit.”

She doesn’t know who that is and certainly doesn’t feel that Rishi Sunak or Sir Keir Starmer fit her job criteria.

“They don’t do it for me, nobody does really.”

The existing seat of Great Grimsby voted Conservative under Boris Johnson in 2019 – the first time they had not elected a Labour MP since the Second World War.

The former prime minister surprised many here by wearing a Grimsby Town bobble hat when he was seen arriving and departing the COVID Inquiry in London in December.

Image: Boris Johnson leaves the COVID inquiry last December in a Grimsby Town bobble hat

Some here were amused by it, while 700 others signed a petition calling on him to stop bringing the club into disrepute.

He is still a divisive figure but it’s the collective frustration with all politicians that shines through.

Former police officer Alan Rutter is exasperated by the decay of public services. “I have friends who are still in the force… and it is just a desecrated service, same with the NHS – it’s just all in crisis,” he said.

The club’s chairman Jason Stockwood grew up here but, like so many others, moved away to pursue a career before returning home. He is backing Labour but told Sky News that bigger changes are needed.

“This town voted vehemently for Brexit because it was a promise of something different and a new politics and it just hasn’t materialised at all.

“My sense is that people just want some adults in the room again, rather than just the personalities of the last few years, they want truth and they want integrity.”

Image: Grimsby Town FC chairman Jason Stockwood

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He wants to see a constructive general election, not one that lurks in the extremes of politics.

“I think what people will be looking for is an honest conversation where people are prepared to turn up and have difficult conversations with everyone in our community because people [here] are forthright, they are passionate, they care about the community.

“I think there’s also an obligation on citizens as well,” he added.

“Politicians have a role to play. But everyone does need to step into and take ownership of the future they want as well.

Image: Grimsby Town fans watching their side take on MK Dons

“We’re seeing that in Grimsby. So there is hope.”

Their club held on to a 1-0 win over MK Dons. Hope is restored, on the pitch at least.

The Codheads – as the fans call themselves – tell it like it is.

Politicians fishing for votes here this year will find a tough crowd.

Sky News’ Target Towns series aims to follow the build-up to the general election from a key constituency prized by both Conservatives and Labour – Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Send in your stories to targettowns@sky.uk.

Sky News Source