‘This time students really do hold the power’
Politicians across Leeds are battling it out this week in a last ditch attempt to charm voters like you to support them in Thursday’s Council and referendum elections.
There’s over 5,000 council seats across the country that are up for grabs, and in 12 cities including Leeds, voters will be deciding whether to sack their council leaders and replace them with directly elected Mayors, choosing a system similar to that in London with Boris Johnson.
In Leeds, 33 or a third of all council seats are up for grabs, with the Labour party hoping to build on huge gains made last year after the historic landslide which swept Labour into power for the first time since 2004.
After a difficult year for the Coalition and a recent budget that hasn’t gone down well with some voters – Labour will be hoping to capitalise and give the government a bloody nose with good wins across the country.
Likewise, the Lib Dems and Conservatives will be hoping that Ed Miliband’s sluggish start as Labour leader will mean that many voters are still on side.
At the top of every party’s hotlist will be student ward Headingley currently held by 28-year-old Lib Dem Councillor Jamie Matthews – a key ally of Leeds Student in our fight to bring Virgin Media up to speed.
It’ll be the fight of Matthews’ political career, and his first big test since the tuition fee backlash last year – something Matthews acknowledged in an interview with Leeds Student: “I hope that students will stick with me because I have done things on a local level that interest them. I’m not just a one trick pony. Recently I’ve been leading the Virgin Media campaign to crack down on the way they have ripped off loads of students in the area, I’ve been working on improving local cycle routes, student housing and huge issues with burglary in the area”.
But Matthews will face the fight of his political life if he’s going to get his hands back on Headingley for a second term.
One of those he’ll be going up against, Labour’s Janette Walker, made clear she was prepared to get personal and blasted the Lib Dem for “making promises that are a little bit dangerous – the only thing I can see is the Virgin Media story about students”.
Walker also pledged to work for a “safer ward, reduced bus fares, better services and a cleaner and greener ward”.
But whilst the seat is likely to be a straight up fight between Walker and Matthews, the Greens, the Conservatives and Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts have also put up candidates.
Whilst in another student ward, Hyde Park and Woodhouse, the student vote could hold the balance of power as current Lib Dem Councillor Penny Ewens stands down.
Standing for Ewens seat is another Lib Dem, a Conservative, a Labour Party candidate, a member of Alliance for Green Socialism – Save NHS Party as well as another independent.
Students who haven’t yet registered won’t be able to vote but some landlords and most student halls of residences automatically register students to vote but you can check by calling 0113 222 4411 and visit www.leeds.gov.uk/elections to find out where your nearest polling station is.