After 18 years, Leeds Tories scent a chance to win in opposition stronghold


Businessman Simon Wilson believes he can tap into the feelings of disillusioned Jewish voters next month.

The Conservative candidate in the Leeds North East constituency hopes his experience of winning a council ward which was once a Labour stronghold will prepare him for capturing a seat held by Ed Miliband’s party for the past 18 years.

Working with the Tories’ Alwoodley councillor Dan Cohen, Mr Wilson has been attending events in the Jewish community including fundraisers and synagogue question-and-answer sessions.

He said residents had been raising issues relating to the expansion of the Brodetsky Primary School and concerns about rising antisemitism. A hustings is due to take place at Street Lane’s Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue next week.

“I’ve had a lot of support from the Jewish community. We regularly have people coming out to help us campaign,” Mr Wilson said.

“People I speak to are concerned about the Labour Party’s stance on Palestinian statehood. I do think it will have an impact. Previous Labour supporters are moving away from the party because of the stance.

“I was at the Conservative Friends of Israel lunch at which David Cameron spoke at Chanucah. Hopefully no one in the Jewish community in this country is in the slightest doubt how supportive the Conservative Party and Prime Minister are.”

The 48-year-old, who came fifth for the party in a parliamentary by-election in Rotherham in 2012, said he had met voters who felt Fabian Hamilton had “struggled to satisfy everyone” while working to represent the constituency’s diverse communities as MP.

The Labour politician has had steady mid-range majorities since he was first elected in 1997. But his victory by 4,545 votes five years ago was his narrowest, and Mr Wilson believes it provides an opportunity this time around.

“It will be difficult, but I think that there are a number of issues. People who live in the poorest part of the community are still in dire straits.

“Lots of groups are telling me they do not feel represented and supported by him now, plus the economy is strengthening, plus the Israel situation.

“Disaffected Labour voters could go to Ukip on the right and the Greens will take votes on the left. Add it all together and hopefully the election will be very close. I don’t care how many votes we win by, so long as we win.”

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