General Election: Which Issues Matter to Leeds?

Leeds’ eight constituencies have been divided since 2017 with 5 held by Labour and 3 by the Conservatives. With a city that voted narrowly to remain in the EU by 50.3% to 49.7%, a lot hangs in the balance for the 12th December election and this is reflected by the tight margins in key constituencies. 

Leeds North-West constituency is on the line since Labour only won with a little over 4000 votes in 2017. For the Conservatives, Morley & Outwood and Pudsey are at a significant risk with 2017 margins of less than 2100 and 400 votes, respectively. 

As these seats make Leeds a competitive area for both major parties, issues concerning local residents are topping the agendas of both parties. 

If you live in Leeds it won’t surprise you that public sector cuts and transport are the top issues for local voters. Both parties have pledged to increase spending on the police, NHS, transport and innovation. 

Boris Johnson has committed to building a high speed rail network between the city and Manchester and his party have also stated their intention to get rid of the 1980’s Pacer Trains. 

Past improvements to infrastructure by the government in Leeds that the Conservatives have pointed to mainly focus on the new entrance to the Leeds City station. 

By contrast, Labour have called for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to assume more direct control in the partnership with First Leeds and Arriva Yorkshire (private companies), which would empower local council leaders. Additionally, Labour MP’s have called for Northern Rail’s train contract to be axed in view of passenger delays and complaints over service. 

In a joint letter Labour MPs (Rachel Reeves, Hilary Benn, Richard Burgon, Fabian Hamilton and Alex Sobel) stated:

“Our railways should be run for people, not profit”. 

This demand to bring the train service under local government control ties into Labour’s plans for a metro service for the city, and on a national level a policy of renationalising rail and key services. 

However, the local council led by Labour faces challenges due to its position of expanding the Leeds Bradford Airport whilst its party has declared a climate emergency. 

As to cuts to public spending, pledges have been made to reverse some of the previous decisions (mostly on the police and the freeze on NHS spending). With regards to local council autonomy and budget cuts, this is not an issue the Conservative government wishes to reverse, despite the Labour party being critical of its impact, especially in the North. 

Image: Rui Vieira/PA Wire from LeedsLive