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Local Elections 2019: West Leeds battlegrounds

Of all the sections of the city, West Leeds probably has the biggest political mix, writes local democracy reporter Richard Beecham.

The likes of Armley and Bramley are as solid Labour as you can get, and Kirkstall is strongly coloured red – but this side of the city is also home to not only the leader of the Conservatives on Leeds City Council, but also a Conservative MP in Pudsey’s Stewart Andrew.

However, Mr Andrew sits on one of the smallest Conservative majorities in the country, and this is reflected in some council seats at this end of town – so expect candidates from both main parties to be wearing away their shoe leather and knocking at your door, especially if you live in Pudsey and Calverley & Farsley wards.

Pudsey

A seat high on the Conservatives’ wish-list. The blues took two of the ward’s three Labour seats in last year’s all-out elections.

It leaves the area’s one remaining Labour councillor Richard Lewis defending a tiny majority of 75 votes. The Tories would see Coun Lewis’s seat as quite a coup, as he is currently the authority’s portfolio holder for transport and planning.

However, with the current Conservative government receiving such a kicking on its handling of Brexit, it’s difficult to call whether this ward will return a third Conservative councillor.

Another boost for Labour could be the fact that the Yorkshire Party, which took a respectable 570 votes in the ward at last year’s locals, will not run this time around. The Labour group’s support for region-wide devolution could help them win back some of these votes.

But, as with so many other marginal seats, it also depends which voters turn to the fringe parties, with For Britain and UKIP also fielding candidates and turnout.

Farnley and Wortley

One of the quirks of Leeds City Council is its semi-suburban seat which, until last year, boasted three Green Party councillors.

This was up until Labour newcomer Matt Gibson took a seat from the Greens at last year’s all-out elections.

This left husband and wife team David and Ann Blackburn as the ward – and the city’s – only remaining Green Party councillors.

Mr Gibson is the one defending his seat this year, and Greens leader David Blackburn tells me it is one of the top targets for his party.

However, Labour will be encouraged by the impressive 8.5 per cent swing it received in the ward last year, and will also be wanting to build on Gibson’s 160 majority.

Calverley and Farsley

A battleground seat if ever there was one.

Despite having had three Conservative councillors for decades, Labour pulled off the shock of last year’s all-out elections by taking a seat from the Tories.

It may feel like only yesterday that Labour newcomer Peter Carlill was celebrating such an unexpected victory, but he now has the challenge of defending a majority of 47.

The Conservatives will have been embarrassed at losing the seat, with group leader Andrew Carter also one of the ward’s incumbent, so expect door-knocks aplenty from both sides before May 2.

Check out West Leeds Dispatch’s local election coverage here and lists of candidates for each ward here.

The Dispatch has contacted all candidates from all parties and will be printing candidate profiles from all wards in our patch early next week.

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