LOCAL ELECTIONS 2019: Former council leader says Labour's Brexit stance contributed to the party's poor showing in traditional heartland Bolsover

Labour has lost control of Bolsover District Council for the first time in more than 40 years. Photo: Bolsover District Council, Twitter.
Labour has lost control of Bolsover District Council for the first time in more than 40 years. Photo: Bolsover District Council, Twitter.

It was a historic night in Bolsover, where the Labour Party lost control of the district council for the first time in 40 years.

The red rose party lost 14 councillors to slip from 32 seats to 18 - leaving it one short of an overall majority.

It means the 37-seat council is now made up of 18 Labour members, 16 independents, two Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat.

But outgoing Labour and council leader Ann Syrett said Brexit was to blame for her party doing so badly.

She told the Guardian: "The sad thing is that it’s not anything that we’ve done as an authority. We haven’t had problems with any particular issue with the public. I don’t get complaints

"What we’ve met on the doorstep is that it’s just not clear to people what Labour means on Brexit. It simply isn’t clear. It’s come up everywhere.

"We’ve tried to keep off it and say ‘look we’ve got a clean sheet, we’re doing our best for you and it’s OK’ .... ‘well, yes, but what about Brexit?’"

"The sad thing about Brexit is that it’s as divisive as the [1984 miners] strike used to be, where you go into a household and there are people on either side of the issue. It really is damaging."

The former leader, who did not stand in this year's election, said voters needed more clarity on Labour's stance on Brexit.

She said: "All I can say to (Jeremy Corbyn) is that we really need more information, we need a very definite lead from him, whatever it is on Brexit, he’s got to tell us.

"You can live with anything if it’s certain. At the moment, everyone is living with uncertainty. I think that’s what’s hit this."

The Bolsover constituency is synonymous with veteran Labour stalwart Dennis Skinner, who has been the area's MP since 1970.

In the 2017 General Election, Mr Skinner fought off a concerted effort to unseat him holding on to his seat with 24,153 votes - 52 per cent of the vote.