There are towns in the area that have not recovered from the 80s job losses
Newark in Nottinghamshire likes to claim that it is the birthplace of British democracy. It was here that the English Civil War climaxed, and that King Charles was handed over to the Scottish Army, and to eventual execution.
This small, attractive market town also stood at the edge of a more recent conflict that began 25 years ago this week. The miners' strike was at its most bitter in the old Nottinghamshire coalfield, as working and striking miners turned on each other. And today, Newark find itself at the centre of yet another conflict, as unemployed construction workers, some draped in the Union Flag, march to the sound of an altogether different drum
I watched last week as a few hundred wended their way with their home-made banners to the old market square, protesting that contractors at a local power station had bought their own workers with them – and that local workers need not apply. Their progress through the town was marked by cries from shoppers of "Foreigners out!" The joint leader of the Unite union, Derek Simpson, took to the podium to reject this call and others like it, but to many of the unemployed workers gathered before him, he seemed as remote as the Labour Party they have traditionally voted for in these parts. He was heckled loudly. Many are on the cusp, if not of actually voting for the British National Party, then believing that their union is powerless and that the Government is no longer interested in their plight.
This is fertile territory for the far right. The BNP is on the march too and aiming to make big gains in the European elections in June. The East Midlands, which includes the old coalfield, is one of their main target areas. The senior Labour MEP and veteran anti-fascist campaigner Glyn Ford believes that the BNP could win up to half a dozen Euro seats and that it is possible that only the north-east and south-west of England could be without a BNP MEP after election night. His grim prognosis is echoed by other MPs in the East Midlands, who believe that the collapse in support for the UK Independence Party will see more votes heading towards the hard Right.