Labour has won the West Yorkshire seat of Dewsbury at 21 of the last 24 general elections.

While it is a marginal constituency, it has been represented by a Labour MP for 87 of the past 97 years.

Voters here nearly always return a Labour candidate and when the Tories win the seat, their hold is brief.

Even under Margaret Thatcher they only claimed the constituency in the 1983 landslide.

The Conservatives' only other success here was in 2010 when Simon Reevell ousted Labour's Shahid Malik.

That was until December when, as Boris Johnson ploughed through Labour's Red Wall of northern and Midlands' heartlands, Mark Eastwood became the third Tory MP for Dewsbury.

For Labour's Paula Sherriff, who won the seat back for Labour in 2015 with a 1,451 majority and held it two years later by doubling her advantage to 3,321, the defeat was personal.

Weeks earlier, she clashed bitterly with the Prime Minister on a febrile night in the Commons.

Paula Sherriff clashed bitterly with Boris Johnson last September on a febrile night in the Commons

Twenty-four hours previously, the Government's prorogation of Parliament was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

In an unplanned question to the PM, she urged him to tone down his language of “surrender” and “betrayal” over delays to the UK's EU withdrawal.

She highlighted rape threats and death threats issued to women MPs, and reminded him of the murder of her friend and neighbouring Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.

But Mr Johnson dismissed her pleas as “humbug” - triggering uproar in the chamber.

Speaking in Dewsbury today, Ms Sherriff said: “I hadn't intended to speak – I hadn't even combed my hair or put lipstick on.

“If I had known I was going to make such an infamous intervention I would at least have put my lippy on.

“He was whipping up a storm and I thought it was irresponsible to talk in those terms.

“When he said 'humbug' I was furious, incandescent.”

Confirming her fears about language, pro-Brexit voters echoed the PM's words of surrender and betrayal, “all the time”, she said, during the election campaign in a seat where people voted 55% to 45% to Leave.

Ms Sherriff insisted today: “Nobody loves their country more than me, you don't get more patriotic than me.”

Accusations Labour was unpatriotic particularly hurt.

The former MP speaks to the Mirror's Deputy Political Editor in West Yorks

Her father served 22 years as a Royal Navy submariner and her grandfather was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal during the Second World War.

But, like voters elsewhere across the Red Wall, people cited the Labour leader's perceived lack of patriotism as a reason they could not back the party.

“Undoubtedly Jeremy Corbyn was a huge issue round here,” she admitted.

“It pains me but people were parroting stuff from the papers – 'he's a terrorist sympathiser' and 'he's more loyal to the Russians than he is to this country'.

Ms Sherriff held the seat from 2015 to 2019

“He came up as much as Brexit, I can't deny it.”

Patriotism has been a major issue in the former mill town, which has previously suffered from racial tension between the white and Asian populations.

Today, about three quarters of Kirklees' population was white British in 2018, with 10% Asian British/Pakistani and 5% Asian British/Indian.

Mainly, they get along. But it has not always been that way.

In 1987, 26 white families here launched a protest over the choice of primary school for their children.

They wanted to send their kids to a school where most of the pupils were white.

But the youngsters were allocated to a school where nearly 90% of children were Asian, prompting the row.

Then two years later there was a small riot between BNP supporters and local Asians.

In 2005, Mohammad Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the July 7 bombers who killed 52 people on London's transport network, plotted the attack from his home in Dewsbury.

And the UK's youngest suicide bomber, 17-year-old Talha Asma, who blew himself up in Syria in 2015, came from the town.

But civic leaders in this smart, proud constituency with its 131-year-old Victoria town hall made of local Ashlar stone have worked hard to integrate communities and heal divisions.

Statistics show Kirklees – the council covering Dewsbury – had an unemployment rate of 4.1% from October 2018 to September 2019, in line with the national average.

The town centre seems quiet for a midweek afternoon as shoppers walk past boarded-up and shuttered stores including Poundland, Moneypenny's Money Shop and High Street Bargains.

She lost to her Conservative rival by 1,561 votes

Dewsbury Market only opens four days a week and, like many towns, it has its fair share of bookies, nail bars and charity shops, including Age UK and the British Heart Foundation stores.

While MPs' majorities in Dewsbury are never big – even in Tony Blair's 1997 landslide triumph the party won the seat by 8,323 votes – Labour must win here to be in government.

Ms Sherriff feared she would lose throughout the campaign, and as the 10pm exit poll dropped she knew the game was up.

“When we were out door knocking people you always perceived to be Labour no matter what, who regardless of what's going on, say, 'I'm Labour through and through' – this time that just seemed to go out the window,” she said.

Ben and Paula Sherriff on the streets of Dewsbury

“We had days where it was just awful.”

She recalled an incident which pointed to impending defeat.

“I remember a freezing Saturday knocking on three houses and meeting three ex-miners consecutively who were voting for Boris Johnson,” she said.

“The Tory message was really effective.

“Like 'Take Back Control', they were saying 'Get Brexit Done' – people were parroting it to me on the door.

“That was a real low.”

Another encounter proved prophetic, when a woman told her: “I have voted Labour all my life but I am voting Conservative for Brexit, and everybody round here is doing the same.”

Ms Sherriff believed voters were “tired of what they saw as the prevarication and procrastination” over the UK's departure, and the Tory slogan “appealed to everybody”.

She also tore into Labour's “shocking” manifesto.

“It seemed to be all over the place. There were some great policies but unfortunately some of them were drowned out,” she said.

“There wasn't anything I fundamentally disagreed with, and I absolutely get what we were trying to say, but we didn't articulate it right.

“It looked like a shopping list.”

Labour's organisation was “a mess”, with activists sent to seats the party had little hope of winning rather than defending constituencies it held, she said.

Optimists look at Britain's EU departure last Friday and Mr Corbyn's looming exit as leader as reasons to be confident of a revival.

Jeremy Corbyn's leadership ends on April 4

But Ms Sherriff warned: “It will get easier but it's not a panacea.

“For some people they voted Tory with a heavy heart.

“But you know when you hold your nose and do something for the first time it can be hideous? The second time it's easier.

“My worry is how we get them back now they're gone.

“We can't be complacent, we can't just assume that with Brexit 'done' and with Jeremy Corbyn gone that suddenly all these people are going to flock back.

“Some people are lost for good.

“I feel like we have let people down, I really do.”

She added: “We need to remember that to win elections we need to convince people who didn't vote for us last time to vote for us this time.

“I know that sounds really obvious but I think some people have forgotten that.

“We also need to look at why we are perceived to be unpatriotic and soft on crime.

“We need to be credible.”

Voters in Dewsbury today revealed why Labour lost the seat seven weeks ago.

Margaret Wright, 85, a retired bakery shop worker, said: “I've voted Conservative recently, though I voted Labour when I was younger.

Margaret Wright voted Conservative, despite backing Labour when she was younger

“I didn't think much of Jeremy Corbyn, he didn't do anything for me.

“I voted Out in the referendum – I think we're better off doing things for ourselves – and the Conservatives have delivered Brexit.”

Warehouse worker Mohammed Shabir, 59, was a lifelong Labour voter but did not vote for anyone in December.

Mohammed, who came to the UK from Pakistan 50 years ago, believed there was little difference between politicians.

“They all s*** in the same pot,” he said.

Mohammed Shabir was not impressed with any of the parties bidding for power in December

“We only see them once every four years, we don't see anybody in between.

“I've got no opinion on Jeremy Corbyn, I don't know him so I can't comment on what I read in the papers or people say about him – same as Boris Johnson.

“Let's see if he can do what he promises.”

Former soldier Murray McCarthy, 92, who served in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, voted Tory.

He said: “There wasn't much choice – Labour was shambolic, they didn't seem to be able to string anything together.

Former solider Murray McCarthy voted Tory

“I was pleased with the result of the Brexit referendum, and I voted to Leave.”

Janet Hardaker, 62, a retried British Telecom secretary, also backed the Tories.

She said: “I voted Conservative the last two times because I couldn't stand Jeremy Corbyn, he's too anti-Semitic and too pro-immigration.

Janet Hardaker believed Jeremy Corbyn was anti-Semitic

“I just don't think he would have got Brexit done.

“I voted to come Out and I wanted it sorted.

“Yes Boris is daft but I think he's OK, actually. He will get it sorted.”

She was unsure if she would back Labour again.

“I would have to see what's happening over the next 10 years with Labour because they have just gone to pot,” she said.

“It would be 10 years before I even think about it.”

Pet shop volunteer Chaz Ward turned 18 just eight days after the election, so was unable to vote.

Chaz Ward speaks to Ben Glaze in Dewsbury

But if she had been old enough she would have backed Labour.

She said: “They were aimed more at the younger side of things.

“Honestly, I think Jeremy Corbyn was a better option because I think Boris is a bit too immature – he hid in a fridge at one point during the campaign.

“He didn't take things as seriously as Jeremy Corbyn.

“If Labour continues to aim more at what the younger generation want then it will be a good thing and I would probably vote Labour.

“It's more about the world we are going to grow up into rather than the older generation.”

She added: “I don't like Brexit, there was no reason for it, we were fine as things were.”

But she did not back a return to the EU.

“It's done now, there's no point in trying to put it back together. What's done is done.”

* The Mirror is hosting the Labour leadership and deputy leadership hustings on Sunday(FEB 9). If you have a question you would like to put to the candidates please email [email protected]