Former shoemaker says she'll "fight tooth and nail" for Wellingborough as MP
A Wellingborough councillor has promised to stand up for the area she loves if she springs a surprise in the general election next week.
Labour candidate Andrea Watts is hoping to win Wellingborough and Rushden's vote when the nation goes to the polls on December 12.
In 2017 she almost doubled the number of votes her predecessor Richard Garvie got in 2015 but still fell more than 12,000 short of Tory Peter Bone - but insists she can pull off a huge shock this time around.
She said: "I think I've got a good chance and it depends on what happens between now and then, and if more and more people see what I'm standing up for. I'm standing up for this area that I have been born and bred in.
"I would just love to knock him [Peter Bone] off his seat."
The warehouse worker has been a Wellingborough councillor for almost a decade and formerly worked making shoes and boots in the Dr Martens factory in her hometown of Irchester. She now works in distribution.
Ms Watts, 55, wants to bring back the area's lost community spirit and has outlined a series of pledges she wants to fight for if elected.
She said: "I will fight tooth and nail to get anything I can for Wellingborough and Rushden."
Among her promises is fighting for a university in the area, battling for improved health facilities and campaigning against Wellingborough's "downgraded" train services.
She said: "I would like a university here. There's a lot of projects building houses, why can't we have a university complex here? You're expecting children and young adults from the area to have to elsewhere to go to university."
Ms Watts added that she would fight for a walk-in health centre in Wellingborough at Isebrook Hospital. She said: "We do need centres where people can walk in and be looked at. Look at the hospitals in Kettering and Northampton, they are under strain and I'm sure an alert will go out over Christmas again because there won't be room.
"Something has to be done."
The new Stanton Cross development, which will eventually see more than 3,000 homes, was built near Wellingborough's train station with commuters in mind. But last month it was announced that major timetable changes would see all direct services from Wellingborough to the north cancelled with passengers having to change at Kettering.
Ms Watts said: "I will fight it on every level I can. We should have a train service that goes from south to north and north to south and we shouldn't be having to stop here and change there."
She added that Wellingborough's rail fares - often twice the price of nearby Northampton's on a different line - are 'extortionate' and that profits should go back into the UK's pocket rather than shareholders, with Labour pledging to eventually nationalise the railways again.
She also wants to get businesses involved in community projects more through things like food parcels, donations, community champions, and says she will fight against funding cuts to local community services such as Glamis Hall and Wellingborough African Caribbean Association.
The Labour councillor added that she wants to see a reduction in business rates to help local town centres thrive again and compete on a level playing field with online shops. She added that she was "saddened" by the decline of Wellingborough's market.
Ms Watts, who sits on the executive council at the Usdaw union, promised to donate 10 per cent of her salary as an MP to local community projects if elected.
In the 2016 referendum 62.4 per cent of Wellingborough constituents voted to leave the EU. Ms Watts, a Remain voter, said she thinks the UK is better off in the EU and trying to change it rather than being on the outside.
She thinks putting a deal to the public in a second referendum as Labour have pledged to do is "the right choice" and said she liked Jeremy Corbyn's politics.
Ms Watts was highly critical of rival Mr Bone's voting record and achievements and said she has been getting a good reaction on the doorstep.
She said she was not worried by recent polls predicting a Tory landslide and revealed she received so much abuse online in the run-up to the 2017 election that she has removed herself from Facebook this time around.
She urged potential voters to back someone who "will be in their corner".
She said: "Wellingborough and Rushden needs a change.
"They need someone that cares about the area, a person that understands the people in the area and someone who has been born and bred in the area that wants to give back something."
Standing against Ms Watts are Mr Bone, Lib Dem Suzanna Austin and Green Party candidate Marion Turner-Hawes.