How will constituents in Leeds West vote in the General Election 2019?
“We have a really good working relationship - but it is the one thing we have never discussed.”
The General Election 2019 is set to be one of the closest, most divisive, most controversial in recent times and in Leeds West from the workplace to pub banter - it is almost a taboo subject.
It is a straight-forward enough question on paper - who are you voting for?
But the answers range from angry, dismissive, apathetic, logical and ingrained due to upbringing. It is hard to answer the question without Brexit being a factor and in some cases, people are reluctant to say in case they offend, are ridiculed or start an argument.
In the office at Bramley Elderley Action Aid, Fran Graham mused: “In Bramley, the MP is very good. I won’t be voting for austerity. That has waged a war on communities in areas like this.
“This is so much of Brexit - it is a dog’s dinner and that is being polite. I think there should be another referendum.”
One staff member thought the House should just get on with Brexit while another said Brexit was not the first manifesto point she would be checking.
Joanne Hartley said: “For me, it less about Brexit and more about the NHS and the potential impact of losing the NHS. This election feels really like we need to stand up and be counted. If the outcome is representative of the country then I will live with it, even if it is not my view but, if it does not represent the country - it will be a tragedy.”
Ms Graham added: “This is the first time we have had this conversation. You don’t want to have this conversation with people with whom you have good relationships.”
Armley is one of the most deprived yet varied areas of the Leeds West constituency.
From a high street that could be considered thriving, compared to other suburbs, it has a range of shops from independents to national chains.
Among the rows of terraces and back to back houses there are security bars over the doors and windows but there are also modern apartments and affluent semi-detached houses with sprawling driveways and gardens and neat, colourful flowers adorn graves in the local cemetery.
It has been a Labour safe seat for decades. The current Labour candidate, Rachel Reeves has held it since 2010. Only once since 1923 has it been anything else and that was in 1931, but is the tide turning?
The ‘who are you voting for?’ question to a group of young student volunteers working in a charity shop, and the subsequent answer, evoked a scathing response from a customer who overheard.
They said they didn’t know much about politics and wouldn’t vote for Boris Johnson because “they didn’t like him”.
Polish Renata Mani, has lived in Armley for ten years and is backing Boris. She said: “Think about what he is doing. It is not about if you like him. I vote based on what is in front of me. I am sick of hearing about Brexit. The majority of people decided.”
Personality v Politics
Businessman Mustafa Jamali has run a DIY business on Armley Town Street for clocking up 20 years but is torn over personality and politics.
He said: “I usually vote Labour. I have always voted Labour. The way the Conservatives have gone, I don’t think I will vote for them so that is basically it. I don’t like Corbyn but the policies are there or near enough. But for the country in general it is the age old story - the Conservatives are there for the rich and Labour are there for the north and south divide.”
Meanwhile, Adrian Wood of Daisy Fisheries on Stanningley Road at Bramley will be voting Tory so Brexit can go-ahead, despite uncertainty over what would happen to businesses like his.
He said: “I will be voting Conservative because I so want it to go through. I always vote, especially the national ones but I feel more strongly about it because I want to come out of the EU. I did not have a choice about going in but I want out.
“It is uncertain and I don’t know what will happen with fish prices, my costs will have to go up but ideally we go with a deal.”
In one of the local pubs at Armley the majority were reluctant to talk about it with the response, ‘I am not voting, none of them can be trusted’, being uttered more than once.
But for one group of friends catching up over a pint in The Malt Shovel, it was a conversation they were happy to have.
Kay Holdsworth, 44, is a yoga teacher from Bramley and whilst a member of the Labour Party she admits she is not “massively political”.
“I will be voting Labour. I think Jeremy Corbyn is the best option. It is for the policies that they have. They are looking at higher taxes for the super rich so they have more money to spend across the services that we need.”
Nicole Robinson, 44, unemployed, stressed the importance of making sure people, especially women, used their vote.
“I love Jeremy Corbyn but I don’t think there is any chance he will be the prime minister. He is great but old-fashioned socialist.
“As a female I will never not vote, even if I don’t like the options it is our duty.”
Ian Cowling (Yorkshire Party)
Mike Davies (Alliance for Green Socialism)
Mark Christopher Dormer (Conservative)
Phillip Mars (Brexit Party)
Rachel Jane Reeves (Labour)
Victoria Helen Smith (Green party)
Dan Walker (Liberal Democrats)
Daniel Paul Whetstone (Social Democratic Party)