What new Labour leader must prioritise - from the Sheffield gran purged by the party

Winnifred Francis from Low Edges who has been a Labour supporter since 1957 but was 'purged' by the party and refused a vote in the leadership race because she wants to back Jeremy Corbyn'Picture Dean Atkins
Winnifred Francis from Low Edges who has been a Labour supporter since 1957 but was 'purged' by the party and refused a vote in the leadership race because she wants to back Jeremy Corbyn'Picture Dean Atkins

Grandmother Winifred Francis has lived through more Labour leadership elections than most people can recollect.

The 90-year-old first signed up to be a party member in 1957 after the family moved to Lowedges and was canvassed by Frank Hooley, who went on to become MP for Heeley.

Robert Murray

Robert Murray

She spent decades as a stalwart supporter, fulfilling the role of constituency chairman and others such as election agent, while local boundaries, MPs and the party changed nationally.

Winifred did leave as a member at around the turn of the century but remained a supporter, and rejoined this year because she wanted to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

But the forms did not arrive, and the family eventually discovered she would not be allowed to vote as part of the controversial Labour ‘purge’ of thousands of people from the ballot.

Winifred, of Lowedges, said: “It was absolutely a shock. I was distraught. I did leave the party because I wasn’t happy with the way things were going, the Iraq War – but I didn’t join any other party and never would.

Adam Wisdish on the campaign trail. Photo credit Gemma Thorpe @gemma_thorpe

Adam Wisdish on the campaign trail. Photo credit Gemma Thorpe @gemma_thorpe

“I rejoined as a member when I saw a glimmer of hope with Jeremy Corbyn trying to become leader.”

Last week, Winifred was told that her vote had been restored and she was awaiting the form when she spoke to The Star.

She said: “I think the economic situation really needs sorting out desperately. It is so unfair, the difference between the richest and the poorest, and it’s widening all the time,

“Certainly I think the Trade Union Bill is shocking because that is removing power from a working man who has fought for it.

“The party needs to show people that they are on their side, then I think they have a very good chance of winning the next election. I think Jeremy Corbyn has captured a lot of people’s imaginations because he is speaking their language by saying the current Parliamentarians got their education free, why should young people now have debts of £30,000?”

Student Adam Wisdish may not remember the days when Clement Attlee was leader, and Prime Minister, in the 1950s – but he has already got stuck in with grassroots politics.

The 19-year-old, of Crookes, was part of the campaign behind Labour candidate Oliver Coppard in Sheffield Hallam, one of the most watched seats in the country during the general election as it is held by Nick Clegg.

Adam said: “I wanted to join a political party because I think it is important that young people get involved.

“The obvious and immediate challenge the leader will be facing is the refugee crisis and the bombing in Syria – that will define the tone of their leadership.

“Another of the biggest challenges is the EU. We’re going to have the EU referendum sometime soon. Economic credibility is the main one thing that I think the party has to face. All four party leaders would give an alternative to Tory austerity because Tories want a smaller state and lower taxes but it’s whether or not they go ‘we need to balance the books’ or go on spending.”

Adam is backing Yvette Cooper – the only Yorkshire MP in the running – to be the party’s first female leader because of her ‘bold’ stances and ability to ‘take on the Tories.’ He said: “I don’t think David Cameron would know how to handle her.

“He’d probably bring up her husband Ed Balls which would come across as sexist and tell her to ‘calm down dear’ – it wouldn’t work and will make him look out of touch.”

Semi-retired public services manager Robert Murray, of Nether Edge, is backing Liz Kendall for leader and has been involved with her local campaign.

He said the priorities for any new leader included working with the broader electorate to discover what voters wanted from the party.

He said: “They need to find ways of harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of the new supporters and translate that into enthusiasm for Labour to become the party of government in 2020.”

Sound and credible economic and defence policies are also on the list.

Mr Murray added: “I think Liz Kendall realises that the same old approach is not convincing to the electorate and there has got to be quite a lot of radical changes in how Labour presents itself.

“She is committed to things like economic credibility.”

Sheffield’s most senior Labour politician and one of its newest are both backing Andy Burnham.

Lord David Blunkett, a former city MP and Home Secretary who was recently made a peer, received his vote only on Tuesday and is also supporting Don Valley MP Caroline Flint as deputy.

He said: “I was able to vote at teatime on Tuesday, but I was getting mildly concerned!”

On the new leader’s priorities, he said: “Whoever is the new leader has got to convince the electorate not that we mean well but that we can govern well. We’ve got to convince the electorate that it won’t just be promises, it will be hard-headed commitments to massive changes as we are affected by what happens on a global basis.

“I want the party to be talking about those big changes and looking to relate them to people’s lives. There’s an old saying which is ‘think globally, act local’ and I think we need to get back to that so we paint a picture of the world as it really is.”

Louise Haigh, who was elected to represent Sheffield Heeley in May, nominated Jeremy Corbyn to ‘broaden the debate’ but said she was always planning to back Burnham.

She said ‘party unity’ and ‘building on’ the party’s 600,000 new members was key.

Miss Haigh added: “It’s to be fit for not just the 2020 elections but for the local elections and for the EU referendum that could happen in less than a year. We want to build on that movement of new members not just to fight elections but to fight Tory cuts.”

Tackling low wages, creating jobs and a green economy was also on her list of priorities.