Theresa May laid bare the Conservatives’ ambitions to capture some of #Labour’s most historic seats in England in a speech on Thursday night, telling voters in #Leeds to put aside their traditional allegiances and vote “in the national interest”.
The prime minister told the rally of Conservative campaigners that she needed every vote as a mandate for the difficulties ahead in the Brexit negotiations, citing the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, on the UK’s “illusions” about the process.
“We can see how tough those negotiations are going to be at times,” she said. “We need the strongest possible hand, the strongest possible mandate and the strongest possible leadership as we go into those talks. Yet our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations – at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us.”
In a sign of the Conservatives’ bullishness about their chances in Labour’s northern heartlands, May told voters in Harehills that it was the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on the ballot, not the traditional party. The inner-city suburb was once the seat of Denis Healey, the former Labour chancellor.
“I know this city is one of the places that people call a ‘traditional Labour area’,” May said as she arrived at the rally, wearing the same tartan suit that she wore to announce her Tory leadership bid. “But here – and in every constituency across the country – it may say Labour on the ballot, but it’s Jeremy Corbyn that gets the vote.”
Four Labour MPs have seats in the city, many with sizeable majorities above 7,000. In Leeds East, the constituency that May chose as her venue for the speech, the shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, a key Corbyn ally, is defending a 12,533 majority.