Drugs in the street and smashed windows - law and order is the big issue for Ashfield general election voters

Sutton-in-Ashfield's town centre with shoppers seen in the high street
-Credit: (Image: Joseph Raynor/Nottingham Post)

"10 years ago, nobody had ever heard of Ashfield. All of a sudden, we're on the map." Jason Parr is behind the counter at his butchers shop, feeling slightly baffled by the rush of media interest in Ashfield ahead of the July 4 general election.

Of more pressing concern to Mr Parr though is an issue which many in Ashfield say they will be thinking about when they come to cast their vote. "Law and order", says Mr Parr.

People openly using drugs and drinking in Ashfield's town centres has become a very visible problem. "It used to be very rare that you'd see someone like that", says Mr Parr, as someone walks past his shop drinking in the middle of the day, "now it's rare that you have a day when you don't."

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The types of crime and anti-social behaviour plaguing parts of Ashfield are wide-ranging. The former Wilko store in Sutton has had many of its windows smashed in, whilst a recent council-run survey found that 60 percent of women in Ashfield had been verbally abused in public.

Although it is groups of young people often blamed for such incidents, concern about this issue spans the generations. Abbie Eastwood, 18, works at the J&K Parr Butchers shop and said: "I think the country's become a shambles."

Asked by Mr Parr what she meant, Ms Eastwood said: "You're telling me Sutton's perfect with all these [drug addicts] walking round?"

Law and order might be on the lips of those who will choose Ashfield's next MP at the election, but why are so many in Westminster keenly watching the area? This unusual level of nationwide intrigue can be attributed primarily to one man - Lee Anderson.

Few were familiar with the ex-miner when he first entered the national scene following the 2019 general election, but he has now become something of a household political name. Having previously been a Labour councillor, Mr Anderson rose through the Conservative Party ranks after his 2019 election victory in Ashfield, serving as its deputy chair.

The Tories were then forced to suspend Mr Anderson after he refused to apologise for comments on GB News in which he claimed "Islamists" had "got control" of London mayor Sadiq Khan. Now hoping to retain Ashfield and standing as the Reform UK candidate, Mr Anderson has claimed the election in Ashfield will be a two-horse race between himself and Jason Zadrozny, the leader of Ashfield District Council.

Sutton-in-Ashfield's town centre, with an elderly man riding a mobility scooter through town
Sutton-in-Ashfield's town centre -Credit:Joseph Raynor/Nottingham Post

Standing for his Ashfield Independents party, the July 4 general election is not the only upcoming event of high importance for Councillor Zadrozny. The candidate is due at Northampton Crown Court in February 2025 charged with 12 counts of fraud by false representation and four counts of income tax evasion - to which he has pleaded not guilty in all cases.

Although independent candidates such as Councillor Zadrozny may not often fare well across the country, it is important to remember that the council leader is not just an independent - he is an Ashfield Independent. The party was only formed in 2016 but now dominates Ashfield District Council by a huge majority.

Even Conservative Party candidates in the past have described the Ashfield Independents as a "campaigning machine." Evidence of that is on show for anyone driving through parts of Ashfield now, with scores of Jason Zadrozny stakes erected in people's gardens. The party had secured permission from homeowners to put up these stakes months before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called this summer election.

Complete with candidates from the Labour Party, Conservative Party, Green Party and the Liberal Democrats - it all adds up to a contest that will be very hard for pollsters to call. Labour are currently favourite to win in Ashfield by a sizeable majority in many polls and ultimately, only election day will test Mr Anderson and Councillor Zadrozny's claim that the Ashfield election is a two-horse race between them.

Yet whilst all the above political intrigue has its importance, more crucial to the lives of Ashfield's voters will be an MP who starts to make a dent on the area's crime numbers. Sutton's police station closed in 2017 and it has been without one ever since. Police UK data shows that in the last 12 months, there have been 1,696 reports of violence and sexual offences in Sutton and 558 reports of shoplifting.

Candidates who attended Nottinghamshire Live's hustings for Ashfield on Tuesday (June 18) agreed that law and order was a top issue for people in the area. Rhea Keehn, Labour's candidate, said: "I myself have had to call the police several times when in the town centre in Sutton because there are drug users openly being anti-social and violent in front of families who are just trying to shop."

The Labour candidate said the party would increase the number of police and PCSOs on the streets of Ashfield to tackle crime. To address the root causes of crime, the Labour candidate said the party would take a "holistic approach" by creating youth hubs and improving mental health services.

Debbie Soloman, the Conservative Party's candidate, said in the hustings: "I was speaking to a lady yesterday and she said that there's drugs going on outside her home in the garage. They go in, they light a fire and they're just hanging out doing drugs." The Conservative candidate said she would push police to be more responsive to such incidents and that she would set up an anti-social behaviour and crime summit to engage with young people.

Councillor Zadrozny said: "What we really need is people on the streets, we need people doing the job, particularly tackling the scourge of off-road bikes and alleyways where people are causing problems. That's been a real problem and it needs tackling at a national level." The Ashfield Independents candidate said he would push for laws making it easier for councils to do their jobs and fight to increase the number of police officers on the streets.

Jason Parr, owner of J&K Parr Butchers in Sutton, wearing a black and white striped apron behind his shop counter
Jason Parr, owner of J&K Parr Butchers in Sutton -Credit:Nottingham Post/Oliver Pridmore

Aside from law and order, butcher Jason Parr, who recently turned 50, expressed concern about talk of pensions being taxed and of the state pension age rising in future. When it comes to election day, Mr Parr says he has made his mind up and that he will be voting for Lee Anderson.

He said: "I don't agree with everything he's said or done, because I can't say that about anybody living or dead." This will be the first general election that 18-year-old Abbie Eastwood can vote in, but she said: "I'm not bothering."

Political apathy is not hard to find in Ashfield, with one 57-year-old voter who did not want to be named saying: "I've voted Conservative ever since I was 18 but they've just made an absolute mess of things. There's no other decent party and so I will vote, but I will use it as a protest vote."

Others were certain they would not be casting a vote on polling day. One man did not want to stop and chat about the election, instead declaring, "they're all rubbish", as he walked on.

Popping into the butchers for a pack of bacon, 45-year-old barber Daniel Bostock, from Huthwaite, felt there was no candidate in Ashfield for him. "If we had a UKIP candidate, I'd vote for them", said Mr Bostock, who said he "can't stand" Nigel Farage after he distanced himself from his former political home of UKIP.

Ashfield has already had two visits from Nigel Farage and a visit from Ed Miliband during this election campaign, whilst national journalists flock to the area seemingly on a daily basis. The political caravan will eventually move on, but who will be left running the area?

Jason Parr, who has owned his butchers on Low Street for 16 years, is not following the election campaign too closely, having already made up his mind. Mr Parr's focus for now is on business, which he currently describes as difficult given the unseasonably wet June.

"How many people do you know who are having BBQs", Mr Parr says. Labour may be on course for a meaty majority across the country but in Ashfield, a seat that has thrown up many surprises in the past, something entirely different could be on the menu.

You can watch Nottinghamshire Live's full general election hustings for Ashfield on our YouTube channel here. Below are all the candidates standing in Ashfield on July 4, presented in alphabetical order by surname.

Reform UK

Lee Anderson


Alexander Coates

Liberal Democrats

Daniel Holmes


Rhea Keehn


Debbie Soloman


Jason Zadrozny