How the constituency of Pudsey could decide the election - but with indecision rife, who knows who will win?

Standing behind the counter of his cafe in Pudsey, frothing milk for a latte, 49-year-old Paul Box isn’t sure who he will vote for on December 12 - and he isn’t alone.

Sunday, 10th November 2019, 12:44 pm
Updated Sunday, 10th November 2019, 12:45 pm

A lifelong Conservative voter, Mr Box - who only took over at Cafe Lux in Robin Lane four weeks ago - said he’d been turned off by the party and said the current situation was “a shambles” which left people who ran small business like him in unknown territory.

Unable to bring himself to vote for Labour, especially under Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Box was left politically homeless.

And while it is voters like Mr Box who will decide the fate of Pudsey - one of Yorkshire’s most marginal constituencies - at the polls next month, they could also predict the mood of the country as the seat has been a bellwether since 1979.

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Paul Box, manager at Cafe Lux in Pudsey. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Made up five areas - Pudsey, Farsley, Horsforth, Yeadon, and Guiseley - which vary from groups of pensioners to hands-off social housing, the seat, just outside Leeds, was a Tory stronghold from 150 through to Labour’s 1997 landslide.

But by 2010 it had been snatched back by the Tories who have held on to it ever since.

But Mr Box said: “With what’s happening they [The Conservatives] are making us look so silly as a country, so when it comes to it, who do you vote for?

“I think a lot of people who are Labour voters will not vote because Jeremy Corbyn is not liked but then because people are confused also, Labour are not saying what they would do on Brexit.”

Pudsey election candidates, from left to right, Ian Dowling (Lib Dem), Jane Aitchison (Labour) and Stuart Andrew (Conservative). Photo: BBC Radio 5 Live

He said it was uncertainty for all sides which was causing voters to lose faith in politics.

“And I do think more people will be swayed towards the Brexit Party, or they won’t vote at all,” he said.

The former was certainly true of Diana Murdoch, 82, and Marlene Blake, 81 - known as the Golden Girls the pair were having their lunch at Cafe Lux on a dreary weekday.

Mrs Murdoch said: “A few years ago I would’ve given anything for Farage and it was so close and he didn’t quite make it. I would vote for him.”

Yorkshire Party candidate for Pudsey, Bob Buxton. Photo: Bob Buxton

Both women wanted the UK to leave the EU, and Ms Blake said it was along Brexit lines which decided for her which way to vote.

“I’m going to vote for Brexit,” she said: “England, we ruled the world, wherever you go in the world you find something that comes from England. I’m sure again in a few years we will be able to do it again.”

Mrs Murdoch said for her it was also issues like crime, which she said had risen in the area, which was influencing her decision. She said: “We need someone strong like Winston Churchill, we had Margaret Thatcher but Theresa May, she lacked a backbone. Boris, well, if somebody has not got any morals I think they are the dregs of society and he hasn’t got any.”

The problem for the candidates standing in Pudsey will be convincing people unsure of what to do that it is worth voting at all, amid fears a combination of the fragmentation of votes, election fatigue, and the dark and cold weather expected in December will mean people will not turn out.

Reg Francis, 73, who lives in Farsley, won’t be voting. He said: “I’m just sick of them all [politicians], they don’t keep any of their promises.”

Four candidates have been announced in Pudsey so far - Stuart Andrew is hoping to retain his seat for the Conservatives, but with a majority of just 331 at the 2017 election, he is facing stiff competition.

Labour has selected Jane Aitchison, Ian Dowling will stand for the Liberal Democrats and Bob Buxton will be trying to bag votes for the Yorkshire Party.

The Brexit Party is yet to say whether they will stand in the seat.

Mr Andrew admitted his slim majority had “kept [him] on his toes” as MP. But he said: “You can never make [voters] happy all the time but I try to be approachable and available.

“Again we will be in a key battleground this time around.”

Although Brexit was on the minds of voters in Pudsey, issues such as job security and transport also loomed large.

“Taking the Brexit thing out of it, here in the North we’ve not had the investment we need, we’ve got to get the transport situation in place but it is going to take time. When I first came it was if Leeds got something Bradford would say why have we not got it but that’s changed now, people are working a lot better together now,” Mr Andrew said.

However Ms Aitchison echoed Mr Francis’ views that the constituency had “lost all trust in politicians”.

She said: “And I’m not a politician, I was a public sector worker, I worked for the DWP, I helped people with benefits.”

She said the different parts of the constituency had their own identities.

“It’s a very hardworking constituency,” she said. “It’s 51 per cent Remain and I feel that on the doorstep, I think it’s more than 51 per cent now.”

But she said people simply “want change”.

And if the former Conservative Party chairman in the area, Dr Jason Aldiss, gets his way, change would be on the cards.

Dr Aldiss unusually is encouraging people not to vote Tory in Pudsey.

He said: “I regard Stuart as the finest constituency MP in the country, supported by the hardest-working councillors anyone could wish for. However, in Boris Johnson, I’m afraid they are led by a vapid, immoral, dishonest, vacuous buffoon.

“I am forced into recommending any action that deprives him of a Commons majority which will require a loss of seats in marginal constituencies.

“Pudsey is a splendid place full of wonderful, industrious people whose livelihoods depend on a thriving UK economy. The town has boomed over the last few years but its many hard-earned gains are threatened by Brexit.

“The financial consequences of the UK leaving the EU will be much worse than a Corbyn-led Labour Government which, unlike Brexit if it is forced through, can be swept away.

“Pudsey is home to many public sector workers who had had a tough time because of austerity imposed by the Conservative Government.”

While Liberal Democrat candidate Mr Dowling was confident he would be able to secure the votes. He said: “I think some people would say if you look at the 2017 results I’ve got no chance but so much has changed, if you look at the European election results, in this constituency in that context I think there’s all to play for.”

The Yorkshire Party, set up in 2014, is also standing a candidate in Pudsey. Their man Bob Buxton said: “Pudsey is a place of great contrast, culturally, economically and politically, but there are some things we can all agree on: transport and housing are inadequate.”

He added: “I believe I can convince more people than ever to vote for the Yorkshire Party, due to the failure of Westminster to deliver anything and the constant infighting of Labour and the Tories. I also predict that public anger will lead to a high turnout, despite the time of year.

“For all that needs improving, people still love living here. It’s a friendly place to raise your children or enjoy your retirement.”