Comment: Marginal Pudsey constituency already creating General Election headlines

7 November 2019

It’s been a little over a week since the starting gun was fired in the race to win the 2019 general election on 12 December 2019, writes John Baron.

Labour’s Jane Aitchison is bidding to replace Tory Stuart Andrew in the uber-marginal Pudsey constituency, where Mr Andrew had a narrow 331 majority as MP in 2017.

This is the kind of seat Labour need to win, if they’re going to have a successful election.

But both Labour and the Tories have already suffered blows in their campaign.

Ms Aitchison was in Farsley’s Sunny Bank Mills this morning to speak to the BBC’s Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 Live, alongside Mr Andrew and Liberal Democrat candidate Ian Dowling.

She was questioned whether Labour Coventry South candidate, Zarah Sultana, should be allowed to stand after social media posts were unearthed where she said she would “celebrate” the deaths of Tony Blair and Israeli PM Benjamin Nentanayu.

Ms Aitchison said:

“People say things that are very, very passionate, and they say things that are wrong, but I don’t think that what she’s saying there is necessarily worse than looking down on the people of Grenfell who died in a fire which is what we’ve experienced.”

She admitted the comments were “not good”. When pushed by Ms Barnett on whether Ms Sultana should be allowed to stand, Ms Aitchison remained silent for 12 seconds before answering:

“I think I’d like to talk to her and see what she was really trying to say and if she is apologising, if she’s apologising then, I think that would be okay.

“People do celebrate death sometimes. It’s not good. Is it? Is it really good to celebrate that? It’s not. But people do sometimes because they feel strongly about whatever that person represented.”

Asked whether she was defending celebrating the death of former Prime Minister Mr Blair, Ms Aitchison said: “No, I’m not, what I’m saying is that people for instance, they celebrated the death of Hitler.”

Have a listen to the exchange here and make your own mind up:

Ms Aitchison has since apologised for any offence. But both the right leaning Yorkshire Post and Daily Express and the normally left leaning New Statesman have both picked up on the story.

Jason Aldiss

Pudsey’s Conservatives have got their own problems.

Back in July, long-standing Pudsey Conservative Association chairman Jason Aldiss resigned from the party, saying Boris Johnson ‘is not fit to be Party Leader and UK Prime Minister’.

But last week Mr Aldiss urged residents to vote Labour in the general election to stop Brexit.

In the Yorkshire Post, Dr Aldiss described Mr Johnson – and “acolytes” like the PM’s chief of staff Dominic Cummings – as “insurgents, chancers and double-dealers” rather than “true Conservatives”.

Urging people to vote tactically, he warned that Brexit – for them – is “about personal advancement and, for some of their number, the misguided pursuit of ideological purity. It will all go horribly wrong”. 

Dr Aldiss, who opposes Brexit, had been a member of the Conservatives since 1995, but criticised Mr Johnson, highlighting what he described as the new Prime Minister’s “band of power-hungry saboteurs”.

“The hardline Brexiteers in Conservative ranks, hellbent on a no-deal departure, claim to be patriots.  I see nothing patriotic about willingly risking untold damage to our economy, to jobs and to our global standing for decades to come. “

It’s not been a good week for either of the big two parties. Both will be hoping for better fortunes moving forward in this marginal constituency.

The result is too close to call as voters prepare to go to the polls in a few weeks.

Check out more about Pudsey Constituency results over the years here.

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