The road into Corby town itself from Rutland offers a startling vista that summarises the constituency. One trundles along through woods and gentle hills, and the little English village of Rockingham, and suddenly WHAM! You're in the middle of some gritty council estates in an industrial town that looks as if it were hundreds of miles to the north. Industrial Corby was a product of the 20th Century.
A huge steel works was built in 1932-35, attracting construction and steel workers from all over Britain, particularly from unemployment blackspots like Scotland, Tyneside and Cornwall. The Scottish contingent was particularly prominent, with more than 4,000 (in a town of 18,000) living there in 1939 and more arriving after 1945. Corby was designated a New Town in 1950 and continued to grow, an anomalous, part-Scottish industrial presence amid quintessential English countryside.The steelworks closed in 1980, yet, as Lewis notes, the newly created Corby constituency was won by the Conservatives.
He points out one obvious reason for this:
Most of the acreage of the Corby constituency consists of some very plush East Northamptonshire countryside. It is hard to imagine that a constituency containing Oundle and the villages around it could be marginal, let alone Labour for 13 years, and although giving a partial impression first impressions do not mislead when it comes to this part of the seat. It is very similar to some hard-core Tory areas just across the county border in Rutland, north Cambridgeshire and south Lincolnshire. The Conservatives polled over 60 per cent of the vote in most of these wards in the 2011 elections, and Labour did not even bother contesting most of them.He is also right to point out that Corby, certainly on its southern side, has sprouted roads of affluent new housing. My impression is that the people who live there rarely go into Corby itself but shop instead in places like Market Harborough.
And they may well work in London - Corby railway station reopened in 2009 and enjoys an hourly service to St Pancras.
All of which means that, though Labour may well win the by-election, the Conservatives really ought to poll well here even while in government. Simply saying that Corby is a Labour town will not excuse a rout int he by-election.
There is, sadly, little record of Liberal electoral success here, though I like forward to a good showing by UKIP putting the wind up the flakier elements in the Conservative Party.