Page last updated at 06:48 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 07:48 UK

Could Ed Balls face his own 'Portillo moment'?

By Danni Hewson and Mike Chilvers
BBC News in Yorkshire

Ed Balls
Ed Balls says he does not want to second guess the electorate

The West Yorkshire constituency represented by Cabinet minister Ed Balls is considered a safe Labour seat, even after recent boundary changes.

However, his Conservative opponent Antony Calvert said he was aiming to cause an upset to rival the 1997 defeat of the then Tory defence secretary Michael Portillo.

Portillo's loss of the Enfield Southgate seat symbolised the extent of the Conservatives' defeat to Tony Blair's New Labour.

Antony Calvert said he believed there was an increasingly likely chance he would be the architect of Ed Balls' own "Portillo moment" in the new Morley and Outwood constituency, a possibility which he referred to in a recent campaign video.

"The Portillo moment quote is just a reflection of the fact that this is a high-profile seat with a high-profile Labour incumbent," he told BBC Look North.

"It's very similar to the one Michael Portillo lost in 1997.

"There was, on paper, quite a substantial majority, the candidate is high-profile, but the difference between then and now is that the Conservative Party actually liked Portillo back in 1997."

Antony Calvert
Antony Calvert says he detects a mood for change

He said his growing confidence was borne out of the fact that his campaign team had spoken to thousands of people and "there is a real air in the town [Morley] for change".

"I will be giving 100% for the area I was born and brought up in. I am not a candidate who's been parachuted in."

Asked whether he feared falling victim to a so-called Portillo moment, Mr Balls said: "These things are decided on general election day by the voters - all I'm going to say is 'this is who I am and this is my record'.

"In the end it is for the voters to make the decision, not anybody else.

"What I need them to know is the person on the TV screen, the cabinet minister, is also knocking on their door talking about what matters to them, to their community.

"Over the last two years here in Morley, and across the Leeds side of the constituency, I have talked to thousands of people on jobs, immigration, local schools and hospitals."

Mr Balls also emphasised his family's local connections.

"Our children were born in Pontefract, I've been to the GP only in the constituency, we've been to A&E here in Wakefield many, many times.

"This is where we work, enjoy our weekends and this is where we are fighting for other families across this constituency."

James Monaghan
James Monaghan says he can exploit disaffection for the main parties

The Liberal Democrat candidate James Monaghan said he also believed there was a chance that Labour could be toppled in Morley and Outwood.

He said: "We were in a very good third place at the last election and we have seen in other seat that we can come from third place to win.

"I think, given the general frustration with the main parties this is really a very good time for the Liberal Democrats across the country.

"I think people are fed up with Labour and the Labour government and I am not sure the Tories offer much of an alternative.

"Politicians don't have the best reputation at the moment and what I want to be is a good constituency MP for Morley.

"We have one Liberal Democrat MP in Leeds [Greg Mulholland] at the moment who has an excellent reputation for standing up for his constituency and the city."




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