General election: Who will win in Edinburgh North and Leith?
Seven candidates in seat stretching from New Town to the sea
FROM the New Town to the sea, Edinburgh North and Leith takes in contrasting parts of the city including Stockbridge, Inverleith, Pilton, Granton, Trinity, Broughton and Leith itself.
It was traditionally Labour territory until the SNP’s Deidre Brock won it in 2015 with a 5597 majority. She retained the seat two years later, but with a reduced majority of 1625.
The three main parties are fielding the same candidates this time as in 2017, but will the outcome also be a repeat?
Ms Brock says. “I’m meeting a lot of moderate Tories in despair at his takeover of their party. Even Brexiteers don’t seem to trust Boris.
“And a lot of Labour voters seem to think Corbyn is incompetent and that is affecting their vote as well.”
The seat had the second highest Remain vote in the country at 78 per cent. “Brexit is the number one topic on the doors,” says Ms Brock. “People are unhappy at their loss of EU citizenship and they’re concerned about EU citizens living here now and the lack of certainty they have.
“And because of Brexit, some people are starting actively to consider independence.
There is a shift. People who were No voters before are considering that possibility and some have said they would vote Yes in another referendum.”
Climate change is another issue voters want to talk about, she says. “I think our record on that is good, but we can always do better.”
A YouGov poll has predicted second place this time will go to the Tories rather than Labour.
But Labour’s Gordon Munro, a long-serving Leith councillor, says that’s what people claimed the last time and it did not happen. He says he has met lifelong Tories who say they are “politically homeless” since Boris Johnson took over. “Some Tories are taking that vote for granted without realising how much it has been alienated.”
Mr Munro says for lots of people Brexit and independence are not the most pressing issues. “North & Leith has 24,000 people in in-work poverty. That’s a quarter of the people in the constituency and an increasing number are using foodbanks.
“An aspect of the campaign no-one has picked up on is just how angry the under-40s are - they have been let down on private rented sector, let down on employment because it’s precarious, let down on student fees. When you talk to them about the manifesto issues, they do want rid of zero hours contracts, they do want the living wage of £10 an hour.”
Mr Munro was a firm No voter on independence and a Remain supporter on the EU. “I understand why people want societal change, but you don’t get that from constitutional change.”
Tory Iain McGill, fighting his fourth general election in this seat, claims he is the main challenger and says the bookies agree. “Folk are sick of the referendums,” he says. “They have other priorities - health, education, the environment - but it is all overshadowed.”
He argues if all the unionists get behind him he can beat the SNP. “Ruth Davidson was more popular than Boris Johnson but Boris Johnson as prime minister is more attractive than Jeremy Corbyn propped up by Nicola Sturgeon.”
Ex-Marine Bruce Wilson, now a project manager with Standard Life, is standing for the Lib Dems.
“After Brexit, climate change is the biggest thing for people - when I talk to people it’s what am I leaving for my kids and what’s going to be the state of the environment in 30 years time.”
He says people are open to a fresh vote on Brexit but he opposes Indyref2. “The idea of being able to stop Brexit but then have another independence referendum is a bit ridiculous. If you manage to solve one constitutional crisis, to raise the prospect of another one will just be exhausting for people.”
Green candidate, city councillor Steve Burgess says Brexit and independence are on voters’ minds. “But people absolutely get the Green point that we’ve only got ten years left to act on the climate emergency so the next UK Government and their attitude is going to be crucial. This election is voters’ opportunity to send a clear message that they demand action on the climate emergency.”
Businessman Robert Spiers, standing for the Brexit Party, is arguing for “a clean break Brexit” but admits it’s an uphill struggle in a Remain area. He also wants to stop Indyref2. “I dont’ think another referendum is going to be any good for anyone.”
Heather Astbury, who runs her own PR company, is standing for the Renew Party. “We’re all people from outside of politics who are disillusioned with the established parties - and it’s clear we’re not alone in that view.”
She says inequality is one of their key focuses and describes the increasing use of foodbanks as “an utter disgrace”. “Edinburgh is a rich city,” she says. “There is no excuse.”