Do no harm

I'm generally a fan of the Ilkley Moor Medical Practice. It's the epitome of what the modern medical centre (okay, in a prosperous town) should be. There are some very good GPs there. too, led by Dr French and the speedy Dr Summers. Provision of minor surgery, expertise in cardiology, dermatitis, all taking pressure off the hospitals. Justifiably it's rated as the top practice in the county. 

However,. there are two issues. One is the quality of the reception staff. Some are fine (lovely even), but at least one of the regular front of house team is famously surly and unhelpful. Saw some amusing tweets about them in the past few days. 

The other, of course, is *that* GP. 


Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Since the last blog on the Manor House Museum, things have moved on apace. Actually, that's a lie. We've had the usual succession of horror leaks from the local council (on the assumption that the final plan will be somewhat less bad and therefore be greeted with an enthusiastic sigh of relief), accompanied by ever more frenzied statements from the Friends of the Manor House.

After the original coverage, which suggested the need for a radical solution, under the title 'Bradford could drop Ilkley's museum', we rapidly moved to a point where the threat was upgraded to 'Ilkley's museum could be boarded up'. This followed a meeting between the local council and various groups concerned with the Manor House. With Labour Bradford facing cuts, and having no Labour councillors coming from Ilkley, the Manor House will be cut from the Bradford Museum service (leaving four remaining museums plus a gallery). Various next-step solutions could include re-opening as a commercial organization or arts centre. The problem for the 'Friends' would be the loss of professional museum support from Bradford services, and therefore its loss of accreditation (from the Museums Association). If the museum is boarded up, the objects could be lost in Bradford storage, say the campaigners. 

Following a further briefing, of Ilkley's councillors last week, another flurry of speculation was launched. On the one side, the Friends again suggested that objects would be lost, and people need to make their voices heard (quite correctly), while the blessed Anne called for more radical solutions. She (again quite correctly) splits the issues around the collection (the 'museum') from the building and its community use. 

Working through some of the issues: initial horror on the local town's talkboards  focuses on the impact on tourism. But, as I suggested in the last blog on the issue, it's highly questionable whether Ilkley IS a tourist town anymore. Certainly it seems incapable of supporting a top-end hotel unless the latter becomes a property developer on the side. Where we do have tourists, they're looking to the moors, the promenade and the restaurants, not to a tiny museum focusing only on our own history, alongside some fairly amateurish exhibitions. ('sorry the kids have left home darling, here are some paintbrushes...').

The harsh reality is that the Manor House simply isn't very good as a museum. It's far from well marketed, and I would guarantee that far more people will go to the Literature Festival and other events held there, rather than to view the oddball collection of items based around the town's history. Apart from my despair at the city's archaeologist and his views on the Panorama Rocks being promulgated through the museum, the Manor House collection is basically a Mike Dixon book in 3D. It's of interest to some of us, who love the town, but it doesn't justify major expense. Have a section of the library dedicated to Ilkley History (as happened form 1908-1961), and you're probably done. 

I've looked by the way, but can't find any stats on visitor figures, never mind demographic surveys of visitors. 

However, contrary to the Friends' horror, even if continuation of the museum was to be desired, the lack of city museum service support does not need to end in lack of accreditation (for what that's worth). Plenty of museums through the AIM are community run and accredited. Some of them are even rather good. A direct comparator would be the Ribchester Roman Museum, in a town far less blessed by tourism than Ilkley. Up to 2000, Ribchester was as dowdy and damp-smelling as the Manor House, but the Trust who ran it then put together a very successful HLF bid paying for a complete upgrade. And it's rather lovely now. Still independent. 

Back to the Manor House, the building currently also offers a venue for school groups and for community groups. The former will pay (what's the revenue received?), as should the latter. The blessed Anne is quite correct that the building itself (and its contribution to the town) is more important than the current use it's being put to. Seeing what's been achieved by the Otley Old Grammar School project should be an inspiration. The building will need support, of course, and I doubt the National Trust will take it on (it's ancient for a start, and the modern NT is only interested in industrial and celeb-associated buildings), but that doesn't mean they won't help. 

But it can't be beyond the art elite that occupy the town to come up with a use for the building that will both meet its heritage restrictions and actually provide a positive draw. The lack of a proper art gallery (I mean one that shows more than Joy Godfrey's work) in Ilkley is utterly bizarre. 

My prediction is that Bradford will agree a taper to funding, if there appears to be a genuine attempt to devise a new plan (saves an ongoing campaign against the council, and it's not that much money). That is, IF people are actually interested. Turn-out at public meetings, response to consultation might be crucial. 

Question, though. When Percy Dalton gave the building to the town and provided the money to convert the 'Old Castle'  in 1955, did he include any conditions or controls over future use of the building?

Also, if Bradford hands it over to a Trust/group, will they also give back the famed missing items from the original collections, now mixed in with the general Bradford collection. 

Finally, the Ilkley PC precept collects £120,000 a year. I can't be alone in thinking this would be better spent on the Manor House (and, yes, the collection) than on continuing to subsidise the Summer Festival?

But, remind me, why do we need Bradford Council again? Posts to follow...

And the winner was

Apologies for having only tweeted the result of the Labour candidate race. John Grogan was the winner, followed by 'Our Henry'. Cllr Berry came in third I believe and, finally, the only interesting candidate, Cllr Akhtar. Apparently asians need not apply to represent the party in Keighley. As, you know, there are no asians in Keighley.

It's a sensible move. Grogan got good reviews as a constituency MP in Selby. He's (a lot) older than Murison, has done it all before, won't be seeking high office (one assumes), has something of the whiff of Bob Cryer about him. He doesn't, however, live in the constituency, and has a certain past when it comes to expenses. Most interesting will be to see how UKIP handle this. Grogan is an ex-MEP and clear Europhile. Will UKIP stand at the risk of letting in someone strongly committed to Europe to win the seat? Or will UKIP's shambolic local presence means it's immaterial?

Biggest shock is Berry coming in third. The end of his national political ambitions? I guess if you preside over one of the worst education services in the country, you can't really expect to stand for a bellwether seat.

One of the major battlefields, at least in Ilkley, is going to be housing. It's an interesting one. Current incumbent Kris Hopkins is Housing Minister, so presumably is in favour of more houses (he's always taking credit for new developments on his twitter feed anyway). But Ilkley is dead against. Grogan's already released a 'plan' for housing that challenges his own party's plans for the area. We might even find him aligned with the blessed Anne.



And the final four are...

So, looking to that Labour shortlist...

First up is Cllr Ralph Berry, the current Bradford executive member for Children and Young People's Services (yes, that's his job) . He's an old-school Labour politician, sponsored by the Co-Op and (of course) the ultimate rulers of the Party, the Unite Union. Therefore, as you'd expect, he's about furthering the ends of the party's clients in the unions and the public sector. Oddly, despite being a councillor for Wibsey, he chooses to live in Saltaire. Which isn't in this constituency either. Basically, he's been looking for a seat for a while, getting on the shortlist for Bradford West before the Galloway explosion. 

His various messages on his website run through Labour policy at a rate of knots, and the impact the 'Tory-led coalition' (sigh) are having on his hopefully soon-to-be constituents. What he doesn't actually do, however, is talk very much about Ilkley. It's always an after-thought...

Keighley and Ilkley people just cannot afford another Tory /Liberal government.

schools throughout Keighley and Ilkley report their worries about the affect the recession is having on our children

Yep, bet the Ilkley ones are...(and, yes, he does mean 'effect', but I don't do grammar flames, even of someone who's in charge of schools)

Sorry, actually that's it. The only mentions of Ilkley.

So, he knows his core vote and he's pursuing it. But then, the Ilkley end of the local Labour Party isn't seemingly supporting him, so this might be sensible.

However, he does have a good story to tell. As Head of education, he's able to spin that Bradford schools have been improving on his watch. But they're still way behind the national average (and that local average is dragged upwards by the good schools in places like, you know, Ilkley), and not everyone agrees

The real problem for Berry, though, will be the Hamzah Khan story. Despite an 'independent inquiry' which basically came to the conclusion that no-one was to blame, and it would probably happen again, it's unlikely to rest there. While the council officer ultimately responsible for the department will be in the firing line, Berry's name will be mentioned in connection over and over again. Will the Labour party risk two years of that?

The man working the Ilkley end of the Labour Party is Henri Murison, described brilliantly in the Gusset as 'Addingham Man', and by the Ilkley Labour facebook page as 'Our 'enri' (note that common touch...). He's an interesting chap, our 'enri. Only 29 now (and, looking at his photos, in possession of only one 'country-type' shirt), he was, until recently, a member of the 'cabinet' at Newcastle Council in charge of 'Quality of Life'. There he led an interesting project on problem drinking, including introducing the first minimum pricing model in the country. And he also (hold your breath Ilkley) led on new house building, eventually giving way to NIMBYs and agreeing to prioritize building on brownfield sites first.

He;s no friend of the old-left though. His announcement of standing for the Ilkley seat led to some robust twittering from GMT union people in the North-East which put his claims to speak on behalf of the deprived into some context. Murison's recent career is also somewhat chequered. He declared he would run for Police Commissioner of Northumbria (a nice little earner), Then, mysteriously, withdrew. Then came the decision to leave the NOrth-East to follow his wife to Yorkshire. Which resulted in a rather plum job working for the West Yorkshire Police Commissioner (at £41,000pa), in which he lasted five months, before leaving for the 'private sector'. According to his current biog, he works in 'financial services', but that seems to leave enough time to accept donations in Ilkley on behalf of Churches Together, run a food bank (yes, in Ilkley) and campaign for a 'living wage' (aka the god-given right to buy a linen shirt, again in Ilkley).  Either all this is clever building of his position in Ilkley, or he's rather under-employed. (EDIT: Mr Murison has contacted me to say he has a full-time job with a mutual)

Mainly, though, he;s a New Labour drone. His twitter feed is a relentless list of re-tweets of the official party position. Still, we wish him well in his search for a job. And sure his disturbing resemblance to a certain shop owner from Royston Vasey won't be held against him.

And then there's John Grogan, ex-MP who more recently was 'persuaded by friends' to step forward. Grogan was MP for Selby from the Blair landslide until 2010, when boundary changes led to him standing down. During that 13 years, he seems to have done the square root of bugger all, though that he retained the seat in 2005 suggests a good local following. He's a classic modern NuLab illliberal, supporting the Iraq War, strongly supporting ID cards, top up tuition fees, the smoking ban, etc, plus being a strong pro-European (and being an ex-MEP). Currently lives in Burley (so outside the constituency). Interestingly, declared trips to Qatar (useful for a future World Cup), and was Chair of the all-party group on Mongolia (which does provide a small link to the constituency as the one-time home of the Wool Board which had strong links with Mongolia). He also campaigned for more transparency from lobbying companies. Grogan does talk a lot about the separate identities of the towns.

Grogan didn't escape all the expenses furore. He always had expenses in the top 10% in the country, and usually the highest of any MP in Yorkshire (yes, even higher than Ed Balls). To give him credit, his expenses were published by him rather than the Daily telegraph, but, still...he claimed for a tea trolley, a DVD player, and phone and website charges. The biggest expense, though, was the cost of renting a flat in leafy Bayswater, and travel back to the constituency. So £140-160,000 each year probably seems like good value. And, when 'retiring' he received a resettlement allowance (PDF) of £32,383. I assume, should he be elected once more, he will be paying this back.

He also, according to gossip, once confused the Spanish and Portuguese embassies.

And the rank outsider (and not just as the only woman and only Asian on the list, also the only one no longer on twitter) is Councillor Kaneez Akhtar. Not a huge amount to say about her, she appears to be a diligent local councillor for Keighley Central. Works in the Labour Party's client state in social housing. She was short-listed in this constituency (when it had an all-woman shortlist) last time out

She originally stood  as a councillor in 2004 as a LibDem, before changing allegiances and getting a (very small) majority in Keighley Central.

Nobody's taking bets on this as far as I'm aware...

An election foretold (P.1)

There's going to be a Labour Party hustings on Nov 23rd to decide their candidate for the next election, which we know will take place in May 2015, which makes for a lengthy and convoluted campaigning process. Currently, there are four hats in the ring, three of which could reasonably be described as strong.

Keighley/Ilkley is an interesting seat (hence why I'm writing about it, when I actually live a few hundred yards inside of Shipley's boundaries!). It's not an extreme bellwether, but broadly moves with the mood of the nation, going Labour in '64, '74, and '97 and to the Tories in 2010. The two townships dominate, of course, with a strong Labour majority in Keighley and a strong Tory one in Ilkley and surrounding villages. The trick is to pick up enough votes in the 'other half' to get a majority. And sometimes strong characters can help. I'd be willing to bet Ann Cryer got a fair few Ilkley votes because of her image, especially when she started banging on about immigration and forced marriage. And this tendency to look for strong MPs was, I felt, one of the reasons Karl Poulsen failed in 2005--not enough respect from the Ilkley twin-set and pearls brigade.

However, where once a brick with a red rosette would win Keighley votes and a paving-slab with a blue one would win Ilkley votes, things have grown more complicated. The Muslim population in and around Keighley itself, up to 25% of the populace, can't be taken for granted for Labour in the way it once could. The Iraq War's still fresh in the memory, and the rise (and then fall) of the Respect Party provided another outlet for Muslim votes.

Meanwhile, while the LibDem support has been growing over past elections (probably not likely to be reflected in 2015), fourth and fifth parties have also made themselves known. The BNP has put up candidates of the stature of Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons, and picked up 5-10% of votes cast, presumably mostly from the white proletariat and lumpenproletariat of Keighley (though when the BNP address lists were published, there were a few members in Ilkley and surrounds). BNP schisms and splits possibly make them less strong for 2015, and there has been less coverage of the racial issues that spark off their support. However, there are a solid 2,000 or more far-right votes across the town.

Meanwhile, over the other side of the Moor, Ilkley Tory votes will be split by UKIP. Likely candidate (giving his frenetic letter-writing to the Gazette) is Paul Latham. They lack a strong ground-organization, and Latham is given to sometimes difficult-to-understand-the-relevance-of rants. Key will be whether they can get some councillors in before the general election, to improve their profile and give them a base from which to work. Nevertheless, 2-4,000 votes aren't unlikely, unless Farage implodes. 

All of which makes it crucial that Labour pick the right candidate. Shore up the traditional votes, see off the threat from the extreme right and appeal to enough Ilkley-ites, to pull a coalition together. 

National issues we all know. The economy keeps expanding, unemployment keeps falling, a late 2014 tax cut, the Tories win. Bit of a no-brainer.

But local issues will play a part. Housing's going to be near the top of the agenda I would have thought for Ilkley. Bradford's council have just agreed a new Local Development Plan that will see 800 new houses built around Ilkley and 200 in Addingham. Bradford's Labour leaders are spinning this as slashing their previous proposals, but, still, it's not going to be popular. We're not NIMBYs exactly, but services are already strained. Schools are massively over-subscribed, IGS is way too big (and don't mention the sell-off of the Middle School site). So a Labour council will be imposing new building. Not going to play well. Except, possibly, to developers (what, you thought they might be 'affordable' houses? In Ilkley that means<£500,000).

Of course, the local Tory MP is, since the last re-shuffle, the Minister for Housing. So that's another twist to the debate.

So Labour will have to pick carefully. Last time out they had an All Woman shortlist. They've abandoned that this time, so we have three men and one woman standing. More details on them in the next post....


Happy birthday to this

It turns out, having actually checked, that the first post on this site was made on Nov 5th 2003. That makes us just over ten years old, and explains the itch I've been getting. So that's a lot closer to Peter Merholz's first use of the word 'blog' than it is to the present day. I is ancient



Electrifying tastes

Slipped past me, and all of the nationals, because of his utter irrelevance, but local MP Kris Hopkins also made some interesting claims for power at his London flat. 

Now it's not a huge bill, but it shouldn't be there at all. Love to know (it's not available) how much each MP makes use of the massively subsidised eating, drinking and whoring facilities in the Palais de Westminster (note: one of those is made up), but none of these extra payments should exist at all.

As pointed out elsewhere: bring together the twin issues of 'expenses in MPs' London homes' and 'empty second bedrooms incurring lost benefits'. There you go: MPs residing with 'real' people; those real people not losing benefits. 


A rat up where?

By the way, I have no intention of making any comment about the name of the new-ish Vicar of All Saints. Mr Patrick Bateman can rest easy.

I do wonder abut the quality of his business cards though