VOTERS were going to the polls in Rotherham today to choose who will replace disgraced Denis MacShane as the town’s MP.
Eleven candidates are standing and, although experts predict Labour will hold the constituency, it could be a close fight with turnout a key issue.
In the Manchester Central by election earlier this month, just 18.4 per cent of people voted, the lowest anywhere in Britain since the Second World War, when huge numbers of people were unable to vote in their hometowns.
Traditionally, Labour has strong support in Rotherham.
However, the town has been rocked by a string of issues – including claims police and officials did not act swiftly in child sex grooming cases, English Defence League and National Front marches, and two foster parents having children taken from them because they support UKIP, as well as Mr MacShane’s resignation after the Labour politician was suspended from parliament over his expense claims – which could impact on voters.
Prof Alan McGauley, principal politics lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Turnout is crucial – Labour is worried about the challenges from Respect and UKIP.
“Any of the three could win if the turnout is as low as about 15 per cent, although Labour should win with a small majority if the turnout is higher.”
Prof Matt Flinders, a politics lecturer at Sheffield University, said: “My overall sense is it is still likely to be a Labour victory with a diluted majority.
“This seat is definitely less safe for Labour than it used to be.
“Respect might be a bit of a dark horse and Yvonne Ridley is a strong candidate. I don’t think the social workers issue will gain votes for UKIP, but it has made people aware of their presence.”
n Polling closes at 10pm. Votes will be counted at the town’s Magna Centre – follow The Star on Twitter, @sheffieldstar, and visit www.thestar.co.uk tonight for the results. See Friday’s paper for full reaction.
n The 11 candidates standing are: Michael Beckett (Lib Dem); Clint Bristow (Ind); Sarah Champion (Lab); Jane Collins (UKIP); Simon Copley (Ind); Paul Dickson (Ind); Ralph Dyson (Trade Union and Socialist); Marlene Guest (BNP); Yvonne Ridley (Respect); David Wildgoose (English Democrats); and Simon Wilson (Con).