Election 2017: May and Corbyn bring battle direct to Leeds

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Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both hit the election trail in Leeds earlier today (Tuesday) as the two main political parties turned their attentions to one of the country’s tightest election battlegrounds.

The Prime Minister visited a factory in the Morley and Outwood constituency - where Conservative Andrea Jenkyns snatched the seat from Labour’s Ed Balls just two years ago by a tiny 422 vote margin.

I'M LISTENING: Prime Minister Theresa May takes part in a Q&A with staff at Express Bi-folding Doors, a family-owned business in Morley, Leeds earlier today (May 9).  Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire

I'M LISTENING: Prime Minister Theresa May takes part in a Q&A with staff at Express Bi-folding Doors, a family-owned business in Morley, Leeds earlier today (May 9). Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire

Mrs May took questions from workers on everything from NHS funding to the impact of Brexit, and helping young people get on the housing ladder to high childcare costs.

The visit to family-run firm Express Bi-Folding Doors at the Millshaw business park was in stark contrast to Mrs May’s last trip to Leeds less than two weeks ago, after which she faced criticism for not engaging directly with voters in the inner city suburb of Harehills.

Asked by the YEP why she had chosen to visit Leeds again so soon, she said: “I’ve got a very simple message. Every single vote in this election counts. The votes of people across Yorkshire will count. Every vote for me and my team will strengthen my hand in the Brexit negotiations to get the right deal for Britain from Europe.

“Every vote counts, every person counts and every community counts. So I’m very pleased to be back in Yorkshire, and you never know, you might see me back again before June 8.”

Among the questions put to Mrs May by factory staff was concern about high childcare costs affecting working families.

“Jeremy Corbyn says he will put [minimum] wages up to £10. That’s the only thing that’s going to help us out,” one worker told Mrs May.

Mrs May responded that “extra support” was now available for families, but acknowledged that “we have to ask ourselves whether it is having the impact we want it to have”.

She added: “This is why it’s so important to have a Government that ensures you have a good economy.

“Whatever Jeremy Corbyn says about the levels he would like to see pay being at, the plans he has got would wreck the economy.

“It would mean less money for our NHS, fewer jobs, businesses going under.

“Absolutely fundamental to everything is making sure we get the health of the economy right.”

Just hours after Mrs May’s visit, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also arrived in Morley, holding a rally in a supermarket car park ahead of further campaigning in the city tomorrow (Wednesday).

The Labour leader was loudly cheered by supporters, having hours earlier officially launched Labour’s General Election campaign in Manchester.

There, he had attempted to counter Conservative suggestions a victory for Labour could lead to efforts to remain in the European Union, declaring in his speech: “This election isn’t about Brexit itself. That issue has been settled.”

Mr Corbyn will launch his education plans in Leeds tomorrow (Wednesday) but will face renewed questions over his approach to Brexit.

In an indication of the key battleground Yorkshire is, Mr Corbyn will promise higher school spending at an event in Leeds before embarking on a campaigning tour across the region

At Leeds City College, Mr Corbyn will set out Labour’s education plans, including restoring student grants, free meals for all primary school children and the return of the education maintenance allowance.

Labour will insist the commitments can be paid for by its plans to reverse cuts to corporation tax and levying VAT on private school fees.

Richard Flint is chief executive of Sky Betting & Gaming.

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