IN the tough town centre of Dudley, general election candidates will need to tackle crime to win votes.

The seat is currently held by Conservative Marco Longhi who is fighting for his place in the House of Commons with immigration at the top of his agenda.

In the bar of town centre pub The Old Priory, immigration is an election issue but not the only thing on peoples’ minds.

The Old Priory pub in DudleyThe Old Priory pub in Dudley

Bar manager Carl Hodgetts said: “The main thing is policing, you are scared to walk around the streets round here.

“People like us – old school – know how safe it was, now you are scared to go anywhere, pubs shut early because if they stay open they get all the trouble in.”

Mr Hodgetts believes national politicians do not understand the reality of living in towns like Dudley.

He said: “They are not in tune with what’s going on, folks get beaten up, we have seen folks stabbed, it’s a horrible town.

“They are not doing anything on sentences – they are really soft, a lad was stabbed, a friend of mine.”

Carl Hodgetts - bar manager at the Old PrioryCarl Hodgetts - bar manager at the Old Priory

The gaffer of the New Street pub, which dates back to 1807, says the alleged offender was arrested but is now back on the streets.

He said: “They have got evidence and just let him out again, he will be carrying a knife again because that’s what he does.”

“For most folks who stand at the bar and put the world to rights is mainly crime and immigration.

“I have a lot of mates who can’t get on council lists and you’ve got refugees and asylum seekers put in hotels.”

Despite feeling disillusioned with what he calls ‘big general politics’ Mr Hodgetts is more positive about his constituency MP.

He said: “The town ain’t coming to life so a lot of people are thinking whoever gets in – it will be all the same.

“The government is not so brilliant, you can’t blame Marco, he does his bit but the government ain’t doing their bit for the country.”

Customer Nick Floyd, a 56-year-old carpenter, puts the NHS at the top of his list of priorities after treatment following a heart attack.

L-r - Paul Grey and Nick Floyd at the Old Priory pub in DudleyL-r - Paul Grey and Nick Floyd at the Old Priory pub in Dudley

He said: “NHS are brilliant but they are underfunded, you can’t expect nurses and doctors to work 12 hours a day and at your GP- you can’t get in.

“The government says they are spending money on it but where is it?”

He also believes in increasing pensions for senior citizens and military veterans as well as lowering the retirement age, adding: “I don’t want to drop down dead at work”. 

Mr Floyd remembers the outbreak of Covid 19 and has plenty of sympathy for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He said: “I’ve always been Labour but when we had the pandemic Johnson was chucked in the deep end and I think he did a cracking job.

“As soon as it was over he was criticised for everything he did – that’s the reason why I would vote Conservative.”

Paul Grey, a retired jeweller aged 67, has concerns about the cost of living but is unconvinced by the idea of a change of government.

He said: “We pay too much for everything, food, clothing, fuel.  Labour – I don’t think they would make a very good government, the Tories seem to be running it properly, I like the things they do.”