Constituency profile: Politicians flock to marginal Pudsey

Comedian Eddie Izzard on the campaign trail with Jamie Hanley (left), Labour candidate for Pudsey
Comedian Eddie Izzard on the campaign trail with Jamie Hanley (left), Labour candidate for Pudsey
  • It is one of the closest marginal seats in the country, with polls calling it neck-and-neck between the Tories and Labour. Lindsay Pantry visits Pudsey.
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Sitting on a bench outside Horsforth Library on a Spring Monday morning, the sounds of children playing at St Margaret’s Primary ringing through the air, it’s hard to believe you’re in the centre of a political battleground.

But the well-kept shop fronts and beautifully presented flowerbeds of Town Street are in demand - as everybody seems to want Pudsey.

The constituency contains Horsforth, along with neighbouring towns Farsley, Guiseley, and Pudsey, as well as a collection of affluent villages. Over recent months, politicians have been flocking to Pudsey.

First, in December, came Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who visited St Margaret’s with current Pudsey MP, Conservative Stuart Andrew, who took the seat from Labour in 2010 with a majority of just 1,659.

For Labour, it’s a crucial seat to take back if it want to win power come May 7, so they too have sent troops to battle there. In February, Shadow Policing Minister Jack Dromey visited Horsforth and Pudsey, where he met local officers at the police station.

Ed Miliband was also in the constituency last month, with a visit to Guiseley with Labour candidate Jamie Hanley. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that he wants the seat for Labour - he spent some of his childhood in Horsforth, attending Featherbank Infants.

Perhaps the most high profile visits came from comedien Eddie Izzard and Boris Johnson, who brought Farsley to a standstill when he visited in January to show his support for Mr Andrew, and pop into The Fleece pub where he was presented with a bottle of Black Sheep beer.

Although they probably won’t admit it - politicians view Pudsey as a bellweather, if they can win here, they can win in the north.

But walking down Town Street on a spring Monday morning, the only sign of a political battleground is Mr Andrew’s constituency office. So what are the issues that matter to the people of Pudsey?

Popping into Lloyd’s Bank is Jo Hanson from Guiseley.

She’s recently moved back to the area after 20 years abroad and was shocked at the scale of change.

She said: “They keep building houses, across Guiseley and Menston, the traffic is already so bad that you can’t get out of your house. They keep on building, the airport is getting bigger but there’s no infrastructure - it’s a real concern locally.

“I know we need new housing, and it’s easy to say ‘not on my doorstep’, but that’s really not the issue, it’s about building the infrastructure to cope with these houses.”

But her real concern ahead of the election is how local issues are being lost among the “Americanisation” of British politics.

“It’s all about bashing the other party,” she said. “They are all as bad as each other. But that jaded feeling, that so many people seem to have, concerns me.”

Speaking to people up and down Town Street, similar issues crops up again and again - congestion and over-development.

“There is some quite bad traffic where I live,” Nicola Byford, of Horsforth, tells me. “Congestion is an issue for me, the amount of roadworks seems to be so high at the moment.”

Jean Jackson also believes too many houses are being built in Horsforth. “There’s no extra schools or doctors being built, even shopping at Morrison’s is horrendous. There are 550 being built down the Ring Road, with the dearest being £800,000 - they will have three cars and the others two - it’s too much for our roads.

Adam Lowe agrees. “Where I live is over-developed, we have to park on a side road where cars park on both sides of the street and you struggle to get through. They are spending money developing the wrong areas. There are are derelict areas that are ripe for development but they’re tearing up fields and moving onto greenfield sites.”

Back to the bench outside the library, I meet Keith Gresham, 75 and his dog Tess.

“I don’t want it to become a concrete jungle,” he tells me. “Restrict building on greenfield sites unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Nationally, he wants a stop to health service tourists and sensible limits on immigration.

“It’s getting a bit out of hand. I’m not anti-everybody that doesn’t speak the same language, but something should be done,” he said.

Whichever party will be ruling over Town Street - and Downing Street - come May will hope their support is a little more solid.