Around 60 people descended on Bramley Community Centre for a general election hustings with candidates from the Leeds West constituency.
Candidates answered questions on a variety of topics including the NHS, education, greenspace, air quality and devolution at the hustings, which was organised by a team of five local residents.
In attendance were:
Mike Davies – Alliance for Green Socialism
Ed Jones – The Yorkshire Party
Alisdair McGregor – Liberal Democrats
Andrew Pointon – Green Party
Rachel Reeves – Labour
Mark Thackray – UK Independence Party (UKIP)
Conservative candidate Zoe Metcalfe was absent due to a family funeral.
Candidates introduced themselves and outlined their aims and ambitions for the Leeds West constituency, which includes Armley, Bramley & Stanningley, Farnley & Wortley and Kirkstall wards.
Vision for the future
Labour candidate Rachel Reeves said she had achieved ‘a huge amount’, including protecting Bramley Baths and opening hours at Armley and Bramley Libraries from Tory cuts, securing flood protection following the Kirkstall floods and a new station at Kirkstall Forge. She said there was more still to do wanted to see better schools and hospitals.
UKIP’s Mark Thackray said the lack of jobs in a manufacturing area was his main concern. The creation of more jobs and prosperity was a priority for him.
Liberal Democrat Alisdair McGregor talked about ‘prosperity, freedom and openness’ and said the country needed to be open to investment and European trade or the country will be ‘broke as a nation’. He added:
“If we continue on this path we are going to ruin the future of this country for our children.”
Andy Pointon, the Green Party candidate, said his aim was to ‘create better jobs we can create a life on’ and reducing cuts to education. He also called for the creation of more affordable housing and tackling high rents in Leeds West.
Ed Jones from The Yorkshire Party spoke about the importance of devolution and the region ‘having a stronger voice in Westminster’, which would lead to a more democratically engaged population and a stronger economy.
Alliance for Green Socialism candidate Mike Davies spoke about tackling an ‘unfair and uneven’ society and his worries about ‘the society our children will inherit’.
Candidates also tackled about how they would tackle the thorny issue of transport in the Leeds West area.
UKIP’s Mark Thackray said he wasn’t sure how to improve the situation, unless houses were pulled down to make way for new roads. He said investment in green technology for buses was expensive – around £7,000 per vehicle.
Alisdair McGregor, from the Liberal Democrats, said the railway line from Leeds to Manchester which passes through the area should be electrified to help ensure a higher frequency of services. He also advocated the use of green technology on buses and to explore options for mass transit tram and trolleybus systems.
Green Party candidate Andy Pointon said his party was calling for the scrapping of the HS2 scheme and called for more regional investment. He also called for
Yorkshire Party’s Ed Jones said the region was under-funded by Government compared to places like the South East:
“Leeds is one of the largest city’s in the UK without a tram or underground, we need to think about that and put the emphasis on that.”
Alliance for Green Socialism candidate Mike Davies said he’d bring rail and bus back into public ownership under one integrated system.
And Labour’s Rachel Reeves also said she’d re-nationalise the railways – and said Amen Corner in Armley would be ideal for a new railway station for commuters into Leeds. She added:
“Kirkstall Forge is the first new railway station in Leeds for 30 years, let’s not wait another 30 to build another.”
A live feed of Tweets from last night’s event can be found here under #voteforwestleeds.
Candidates also discussed the importance of younger people having a voice, which led to one 16 year old addressing the hustings to call for the legal voting age to be lowered.
Guess what? A 16 year old in the audience just stood up and told us why 16 year olds should be able to vote. Big round of applause!
— BramleyHustings(@bramleyhustings) 31 May 2017
The hustings started with a tribute and a round of applause for former Bramley and Stanningley councillor Ted Hanley, who died earlier this week.
The Conservative Candidate didn’t attend. Funeral. Yet this wasn’t announced before the meeting – indeed several candidates including the sitting MP remarked on this unexplained absence during proceedings. It drew comment on Social Media. Why was no substitute provided? They could have sent Theresa May since she’d ducked out of the National TV debate with the other party leaders so she was certainly available. I haven’t had an election leaflet a visit or a phone call from the Conservatives and I don’t know anybody else who has.