Aisha Iqbal: Please take out the nastiness from the Leeds election campaign - and focus on the facts

Leeds, 18th May 1983''Equipping 334 polling stations in leeds with ballot boxes and election notices has been a long job for Leeds Electoral registration office clerk messsengers Wilf Lister (left) and Peter Sharpe.''The pair have spent most of the time leading up to polling day in the Belgrave House storage room, getting the boxes ready to serve the city's eight constituencies.''About 50 of the boxes have needed repairing after suffering damage at the May local councilelections, but this is put down to wear and tear.''The most common problem with the boxes has been damaged locks, but som eof them have seen many years of election service, said Mr. Tom McCarthy, deputy elections officer.''Each box is equipped with notices, stamping equipment, and pencils.''More than 600,000 ballot papers were handed out to presiding officers when they were sworn in on Tuesday to give their declaration of secrecy, said Mr. McCarthy.
Leeds, 18th May 1983''Equipping 334 polling stations in leeds with ballot boxes and election notices has been a long job for Leeds Electoral registration office clerk messsengers Wilf Lister (left) and Peter Sharpe.''The pair have spent most of the time leading up to polling day in the Belgrave House storage room, getting the boxes ready to serve the city's eight constituencies.''About 50 of the boxes have needed repairing after suffering damage at the May local councilelections, but this is put down to wear and tear.''The most common problem with the boxes has been damaged locks, but som eof them have seen many years of election service, said Mr. Tom McCarthy, deputy elections officer.''Each box is equipped with notices, stamping equipment, and pencils.''More than 600,000 ballot papers were handed out to presiding officers when they were sworn in on Tuesday to give their declaration of secrecy, said Mr. McCarthy.
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Things are decidedly quieter than usual at Leeds Civic Hall at the moment.

You might have heard there’s the little matter of a local election on. I wonder if that has something to do with it!

BALLOT BATTLE: Leeds goes to the polls next week - but was electioneering more polite back in the day?

BALLOT BATTLE: Leeds goes to the polls next week - but was electioneering more polite back in the day?

But while the usual histrionics at council HQ have calmed down, they seem to have magnified outside of Leeds’s seat of local 
democracy.

Is it just me, or was the whole business of campaigning and electioneering a politer – and yet eminently more effective – game back in the day?

Or am I just wearing rose tinted glasses about the past?

I wasn’t old enough to vote in 1983, when the picture above - showing Leeds election staff hard at work behind the scenes - was taken, but my political awakening did happen sometime in the nineties.

And it seemed people were just not as vicious to each other then.

Don’t get me wrong, the pricking of pomposity in politics is absolutely correct.

And where there is bad behaviour by those hoping to represent us, we should expose them and put them in their place.

But the tone of electioneering both locally and nationally has become nasty, petty and at times absolutely vicious in recent times.

And, most disturbingly, it has become blatantly dishonest.

I’m sure the advent of social media has something to do with it.

And a wider public disillusionment with politics generally is no doubt also part of the problem.

But that doesn’t have to mean we forget our basic decency.

My view is that just as an erosion of trust over the last few turbulent decades has disillusioned voters, this toxic, petty form of electioneering will do absolutely the same.

My advice to all the candidates hoping to be elected to Leeds City Council on May 3 - more than 330 people are standing across the 33 Leeds wards - is to focus on the facts.

If you’re not happy with how the previous lot have run things, present the evidence – and nothing else – to the voters and let them make their own minds up.

But don’t waste precious campaigning time bad–mouthing opponents just for the sake of it.

It is unbecoming of the job you are ultimately hoping to do – and it is deeply hypocritical.

Some of the comments I have been reading on social media forums in recent weeks have bordered on libellous - others have probably crossed that line.

I came across one post this week where candidates in one particular ward claimed to have been subjected to threatening and aggressive behaviour from individuals supporting their opponents.

Their volunteers,it was claimed, have been called “scum” and worse. It was also claimed that violence towards individuals was intimated, if not encouraged.

I know politicians are not a thin-skinned bunch. If they are, then they are in the wrong profession.

But this kind of behaviour by anyone – campaigners, supporters or opponents of any party or candidate – is simply unacceptable.

If you or your supporters are resorting to this kind of behaviour, get a grip.

And let’s face it, ultimately it’s not this that is going to help win you votes.

It’s cold, hard facts.

Let those speak for you, and the voters of Leeds will definitely listen.