Leeds decides: More than 700,000 voters who could help seal the fate of the nation head to the polls today

More than 700,000 voters across Leeds can head to the polls today to cast their vote for the candidate they think will best represent them in Parliament.

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 5:45 am

Battling against challenging weather the city and surrounding areas will put their faith in elected officials to act in their interest - and advance causes the city cares about.

But how the votes lie will depend on how well the different parties have got their message across, and also on the priorities of each area.

The 10 constituencies covered by the Yorkshire Evening Post are Leeds Central, West, East, North East, North West, Morley and Outwood, Elmet and Rothwell, Wakefield, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, and Pudsey.

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Stock photo of Leeds. Photo: JPI Media

Just three of those seats returned a Conservative MP in 2017, and if polling is to be believed the result would stay the same except for Wakefield, which would go blue.

A combined electorate of 721,735 at the last General Election makes the area a powerful voting force in the polling booths today.

With six out of the 10 constituencies voting to leave the European Union in 2016, Brexit will surely be on the minds of many voters.

Harold Knight, 76, from Seacroft said: “The Brexit thing is a huge problem for me. Why hasn’t it happened? People voted and there was a result yet it has been left in a mess for too long.”

His friend David Barfoot, 72, from Thorner, agrees: “We voted in the referendum to leave. Brexit should have happened by now. It was three-and-half years ago. This country has never been in such a state. I can’t remember it being this bad before.”

But for others, there are more pressing issues.

Kirstie Cale, who runs Art and Flowers in Leeds East said: “I will be voting. But I have real concerns as a small business owner about the hike of the minimum wage. I am not sure where they, the Government, expect this magic money to appear from? I would love to pay my staff more, but it simply won’t be possible.”

There are also concerns over flood defences, which after the 2015 Boxing Day floods have still not been completed despite Government commitments. And the student vote could also hold a lot of swing at the ballot box.

Others, such as Crystal Kay, will not be voting at all.

The 30-year-old from Whinmoor, who has a young child, said: “There is no way I will be voting. I am totally confused by it all. I don’t know who to vote for. As a mum I am worried about the NHS and what is happening to it.

“I also think that Brexit should have happened when people voted for it three years ago. I mean what is going on? Why hasn’t it happened? I’ve just lost track of it all.”

The Jewish vote is also likely to play a large part in the election, especially with a scandal around antisemitism in Labour continuing.

At husting organised by the Leeds Jewish Representative Council this week, tensions were high as members of the community felt they could not back Labour.

With a Jewish population of around 10,000 people, Leeds is the third largest Jewish community in the UK and facing a dilemma.

In Leeds North East, home to most of Leeds synagogues, the Conservative candidate Amjad Bashir has been suspended for antisemitism while Labour's Jewish candidate Fabian Hamilton is facing criticism over the party's handling of antisemitism.

Jewish voters will of course be voting on a myriad of issues, but with hate crimes against Jews more than doubling in 2018, the issue is at the forefront of many in the community.

Three Leeds MPs elected in 2017 were Jewish themselves. However, only one MP so far, Mr Hamilton, has publicly signed up to the Board of Deputies of British Jews manifesto.

An argument echoed by many Jewish voters in Leeds was to vote by ABC, which stands for anyone but Corbyn. Although with a number of safe Labour seats in Leeds, it is unlikely to massively impact the election of MPs.

Some in the community in Leeds North East had even been considering a mass spoiling of ballots to show how disappointed they were by their voting options.

With such a big swing of the vote Leeds and the surrounding areas are likely to play a major role in the results seen overnight and into tomorrow.

Leeds is so key for politicians this election not just because of the number of voters, but also because constituencies like Pudsey act as a bellwether for the rest of the country.

This means the result there often predicts who forms the Government.

In 2017 Tory Stuart Andrew won, but with a tiny majority of just 331.

The biggest majority in the area is in Leeds Central, where Hilary Benn grabbed a stonking majority of 23,698 in 2017.

But Alex Sobel (Leeds North West), Mary Creigh (Wakefield), Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) and Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) won with fewer than 5,000 votes, putting them at risk this time around.

However do not expect results to roll in straight away, the first constituency expected to declare a winner is Leeds East at 3am on Friday, with the final results expected around 5am from Leeds North East, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, and Pudsey.