AFTER 13 years under Labour control, Burton was retaken by the Conservatives at the last General Election in 2010.
Andrew Griffiths captured the seat on the back of an 8.7 per cent swing which secured him a majority of 6,304.
If the Tories are to stand any chance of slipping the shackles of coalition government by securing an overall majority at the next poll, scheduled for 2015, it must retain the seat.
But Labour candidate Jon Wheale, a former captain in the British Army, is beginning to outline his policies in a bid to turn Burton red once again.
So what can Mr Griffiths offer voters in a bid to ensure they keep faith with the Blues?
“Nobody denies the challenges that Burton and the country face,” he says.
“We inherited the largest ever national debt and a country on the verge of bankruptcy.
“We are not going to solve the problems by cheap political stunts; we have to roll up our sleeves and take tough decisions.
“That is why, for instance, since being Burton’s MP I organised two jobs fairs which offered more than 3,000 real jobs and were attended by thousands of jobseekers.”
Labour, the MP says, has opposed every spending cut the Government has proposed, ‘despite getting us into this financial mess in the first place’.
“It is obvious they have not learned any lessons,” Mr Griffiths says.
He cites Labour’s opposition to benefit reform, including the cap on benefits of £26,000.
Labour, he says, not only opposed the latter but ‘proposed a limit equivalent to £50,000 for a working person’.
“Things are tough for people in Burton,” Mr Griffiths says.
“But the Government has created more than one million new jobs in the private sector.
“In Burton over the last 12 months we have seen reductions in unemployment in 11 of those 12 months.
“To help young people in Burton we have created 1,180 apprenticeships in the last academic year, more than double the figure created under the last year of Labour.
“This is real training and real jobs to get people back into work.”
The MP attacks Labour leader Ed Miliband for ‘trumpeting’ his plan to reintroduce the 10p tax band despite ‘being in Government when it was scrapped’.
“My Government has not only ensured 35,835 people in Burton are paying less tax, we have also taken 1,792 workers here in Burton out of paying tax altogether,” he says.
The Conservative believes people ‘can see through a Labour opposition which opposes cuts to tax credits but is not prepared to say if they will reinstate them if elected’.
“Every time they have a difficult choice to make, Labour flunks it,” Mr Griffiths says.
“For all their political point scoring, I am going to do what I have always done as your MP – roll my sleeves up, get stuck in helping local people and standing up for their interests, and letting them judge me at the next election on my record of achievements on campaigns like saving Elizabeth Court, getting safety measures on the A38 or fighting on their behalf over Margaret Stanhope.”
Mr Wheale, however, suggests Burton has already seen more than enough of the Tories to forsake them at the next poll.
He highlights what he calls the ‘squeeze’, arguing that people are working harder for longer for fewer rewards as prices soar.
“David Cameron is failing to take action to tackle the problems in our economy and overcome the challenges we face.
“His economic vision is of a race to the bottom in wages and skills, rewarding those at the very top but leaving everyone else behind.”
Mr Wheale says small businesses are being held back by banks unwilling to lend and that young people are being shut out of work while the economy flatlines and the deficit grows.
Mr Griffiths faces the classic dilemma of incumbency.
He knows he can try his best to fight Burton’s corner but may well be judged according to circumstances way beyond his control.
It would be suprising if these circumstances did not involve perhaps the most important political battleground of all – the performance of the UK economy.
Mr Griffiths will undoubtedly stand a far greater chance of re-election if the economy avoids a triple-dip recession and begins to grow.
If this fails to materialise, he could well find himself handing the keys to his Westminster office to Mr Wheale and looking for alternative employment.
Mr Griffiths has begun the battle for every adult constituent’s support – a battle he will continue until the very last vote has been cast.