Liberal Democrats to target two Yorkshire seats in next general election

Labour are set to avoid a major upset in Hull, as the Lib Dems target only two seats in Yorkshire at the next election.

Analysis of the new electoral wards in the seat of Hull West and Hessle show the Liberal Democrats came first in five of the eight parts of the constituency in the most recent local elections.

Despite this, the party will only realistically be targeting Sheffield Hallam, held by a slim Labour majority, and Harrogate and Knaresborough, which has a large Tory majority they are hopeful of overturning.

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Two new wards have been added to the seat from the East Riding, while it loses one Labour-voting ward to Hull North.

The Lib Dems could target Hull West and Hessle in the next general electionThe Lib Dems could target Hull West and Hessle in the next general election
The Lib Dems could target Hull West and Hessle in the next general election

Emma Hardy, the Labour MP for the seat since 2017, has a majority of 2,856, with pollsters telling The Yorkshire Post that if the new boundaries had been in effect in 2019, she would have lost the seat to the Conservatives.

The Liberal Democrats took Hull Council from Labour in the 2022 local elections after 11 years in opposition and this year increased their majority.

However, despite local gains of councillors, Lib Dem sources suggested that the seat is not one of their targets for Yorkshire.

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Hull Labour sources acknowledged that although the party had gone backwards locally, when the general election comes around, it will be a fight between Labour and the Tories.

One Lib Dem source noted: “If you take the vote across Hull and East Riding, it’s clear we’re on the up, and the other two parties are in decline.”

They added that David Davis’s new seat of Goole and Pocklington was similarly one for future elections, with next year set to see the party gain ground at the very least.

Tom Gordon, who is standing for the Liberal Democrats in Harrogate, said the changing face of the area could see the party take the seat from the Conservatives.

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“The pandemic has seen people move out of the cities and out of the south and London, we’ve got a direct trainline with six trains a day to London,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“It definitely feels like it's getting younger with a combination of people moving out of the cities, and a decent number of new housing, with young families who want to be in the area because the schools are fantastic.”

Building homes, especially affordable ones, will be one of the key issues at the next election, particularly in many more well-off Conservative seats where home ownership is looking more difficult than the party’s middle class base is used to.

“There are lots of people who were born or raised locally who might have to rely on family members for childcare who are absolutely priced out of living here,” said Mr Gordon.

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“There is an element with the Conservatives that just want to be NIMBY and endlessly say no houses anywhere, and I think we’ve got to be sympathetic to people wanting to live near their family and loved ones,” he added.

Andrew Jones, the incumbent MP with a majority of almost 10,000, said that despite the inroads the Lib Dems are making nationally, he is best placed to champion the local issues important to the constituents.

“I’ve known Harrogate all my life, I’ve lived here since the last century, I did two terms as a councillor and that is marked contrast to my Lib Dem opponent, who by the time he was selected at the time of 28 had fought two parliamentary constituencies, had been a councillor in two further parts of the country, was the office manager for the MP for North Shropshire and has worked down in the House of Lords,” he said.

“That’s a lot of geography to cover by the time you’re 28,” he added.

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In South Yorkshire, Labour could see further repercussions from its handling of the city’s tree-felling scandal, with the party defending a 712 majority after taking over from Jared O’Mara, who was sentenced to four years in prison earlier this year.

When the damning report into the scandal was published earlier this year, Ms Blake released a statement to “personally reiterate” her apology, after serving as deputy leader on the council.

Speaking to The Mirror in 2019, she had said that the tree scandal which this year led the national Labour Party removing the leader of Sheffield Council after a series of other failures, comes up “every now and again”.

The chequered history of the party in the city has left it open to allegations that is taking Sheffield for granted, with the Lib Dem councillors in the city capitalising on it.

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In last month’s local elections Labour dropped 3 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats increased their vote share by nine per cent, getting more votes in all of the seat’s wards but one compared to 2022.

“Thousands of people vote Liberal Democrat across the region and it’s about having a Liberal voice for our city regardless of who is in government, an alternative voice that will stand up to government,” Shaffaq Mohammed, the Lib Dem candidate for Sheffield Hallam, told The Yorkshire Post.

“We obviously didn’t see this during the Brown and Blair government when big issues such as ID cards and the war in Iraq, Labour MPs kept their heads down.

“For us it wasn’t just about the trees, it is generally about how Sheffield has been taken for granted by the Labour Party,” he added.