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Target Towns: Will Labour's U-turn on green spending cost the party in Grimsby?

Residents of Grimsby and Cleethorpes are no strangers to ministerial visits.

This is the place Michael Gove chose to launch the Conservatives' Levelling Up plan back in 2022.

Almost everyone, from Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, to Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Kier Starmer have in recent years paid these towns a visit.

On Thursday, it was the turn of Ed Miliband. Like those who came before him, the shadow climate change secretary was acutely aware of their growing strategic importance.

The electoral battle in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, Sky News' Target Towns, will be fierce. Labour will need an 11.7 point swing to win this newly-merged constituency back from the Conservatives.

In 2019, residents in Grimsby voted Tory for the first time since the end of the Second World War.

The old Cleethorpes constituency was always more of a bellwether, having voted Conservative since 2010. However, it has shed some of its rural, Conservative voting residents in the merger.

In both these towns, residents were won over by the Conservatives' promises of levelling up. The prospect of public investment and prosperity were big vote winners.

No surprises then that on a visit to Orsted, the Danish firm investing heavily in offshore wind in Grimsby, Ed Miliband wanted to talk about Labour's plan for green jobs.

Under the Jobs Bonus, Labour will allocate £500m a year to reward renewable energy businesses that create high quality jobs in the UK.

Mr Miliband said: "We know people in Grimsby want economic change. They want good jobs, good wages.

"We know that there's a substantial base already here, but we want to give proper incentives to manufacturers in particular to actually build, for example, wind turbines here, to create the jobs here even more of them than we have at the moment."

It's a message that should resonate here.

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From fishing to green energy

Grimsby once boasted the largest fishing fleet in the world - there are signs of that heritage all over the town. However, the industry has shrunk dramatically.

Instead, renewable energy is the promise of the future.

Situated here is a port to the world's largest offshore wind farm and thousands of locals are already employed in the sector.

Demand for apprenticeships is rife.

People here are excited by these opportunities and green jobs are welcome but they are not convinced by Labour's promises, especially after the party scaled back its £28bn green spending plan.

James Elliott, a local resident and environmentalist, said the U-turn was deeply disappointing. "I think politicians need to do a better job.

"When politicians make these pledges, we need to scrutinise them a lot more. So, when they come into power they can't mould it into something else."

Pushing through green policies has been a thorny experience for Labour.

Not only has the party been forced to U-turn on its green spending ambitions after relentless attacks from the Conservatives about the cost, but it is also coming under fire from unions representing workers in Scotland because of Labour's refusal to issue new licences for drilling in the North Sea.

The head of the GMB union, Gary Smith, has called the stance "naive" and trade bodies have warned that thousands of jobs in Scotland are at stake.

However, on his visit to Grimsby, Mr Miliband was untroubled by this. "The truth is that new oil and gas licences will not provide long term sustainable jobs.

"Indeed, we've had new licences over the past 13 years and we've seen the North Sea workforce actually halve…Now, of course, we're going to keep the existing oil and gas fields in the North Sea, so we have a just and orderly transition."

Yet, Labour's own green policymaking has been anything but orderly.

On the plan, a government spokesperson said: "Ed Miliband has one question to answer and that's how is this plan funded. The answer it isn't.

"Just like their 2030 decarbonisation promise, which Labour say costs £28 billion, they can't say how they'd pay for their pledges because they don't have a plan. The only certainty is taxes would go up.

"Only Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives will stick to our plan which is working and that means we can cut taxes so working people keep more of their own money. To keep cutting taxes, we must stick to the plan which will mean a stronger economy and a brighter future for you and your family."

In Grimsby and Cleethorpes there is clear political capital to be gained through the promise of green jobs. However, the challenge is getting people to believe in the promise.

Sky News' Target Towns series aims to follow the build-up to the general election from a key constituency prized by both Conservatives and Labour - Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Send in your stories to targettowns@sky.uk.