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....


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 Model Councillor

Now this is nothing personal, even given the ludicrous campaign to get cctv in the town to protect the new Christmas lights, but what is happening to Cllr Marshall?

Both his official twitter and his facebook page now have him resident in London, as his modelling career takes off. The official council list still has him in Rupert Rd, but that's clearly not the case. What's his attendance record like? Is it possible to be a long-distance 'local' councillor? And why is someone living in Ruper Road a councillor for *south* Ilkley?

Ironically, the next time we see him might be as Ilkley's only living celebrity, turning on the Christmas lights he organized and installed.



The caring face of conservatism

Hmm, so Cameron visits Keighley (not really prime Tory country, but one assumes the news reports meant the constituency.) and gets a story on Newsnight out of it. Unfortunately, not the one they wanted. What have we here? Seriously un-Cameron-like behaviour from our local grande dame Mrs Hawkesworth's consort, John. An email calling opponents 'reptiles'? 'Cripples'? Now I'm not much of a hypocrite, and I've abused enough people on this blog so I'm not in a position to criticise. Course, if I start flinging around terms of abuse about the blessed Anne now, its going to be a tad harder for her or her husband to complain. But its not exactly that new face of conservatism that Tory Boy has been promoting is it--and one assumes the Labour spin doctors will be keeping it running to keep the arrest of one of their aides for perjury out of the public eye ? (btw, the recipient of this email, Kris Hopkins, who is seeking to appear whiter than white (a Jade Goody reference there), is of course only leader of Bradford Council because of a rather sordid power-sharing deal with the LibDems after the voters comprehensively trounced his party in the 2006 local elections, is also now the local Tory candidate for the constituency (and will need the Hawkesworths' help if he's to stand any chance against t'other Ann), and was heavily involved in the scandal over the failed sell-off and leaseback of public buildings, protecting Simon Cooke over his 'interesting gestures', the scandal of Bradford's failing schools, etc....) The email runs--
"My brother Peter met the Cripple (our unPC name for Mark Taylor) this afternoon, and he, the Cripple, was pumping Peter about the selection for the PPC. "I would trust that reptile less than a barrel of monkeys."
One wonders whether that 'our' includes the less-than-sainted Anne? (btw, love the image used to accomoany the piece at politics.co.uk--is that really Mr Hawkesworth? Hope he hasn't got one of those exploding Sony batteries)

Just get her out 2

I said at the last election we should just get her out, but you lot didn't listen. The glaring hypocrisy of our MP was shown up on Wednesday. She signed the EDM on the conduct of the war in Iraq, demanding an enquiry. And then, when the chance came, she voted AGAINST. Way to go Ann. Nothing like consistency. (sorry, by way of that man over there)

The best solution

So, after all that, the Moor remains in Bradford's hands. But selling off Silver Well Cottage to finance improvements? Why? It smacks of selling off the family silver. What happens next time, in a few years, when Bradford still hasn't provided the money the moor requires? Retaining ownership is fine, as long as they start increasing the amount of money spent on it. Most cultural institutions over the past ten years have produced audits reflecting their impact in terms of cash, and other instrumental effects (help with social inclusion, etc.), in order to make their case for increased grants. Given the amount of tourist money the Moor brings into Bradford, the £10,000 per year provided by the Council was shameful. Given also the agenda around health, there are probably other funds and grants that can be applied for, without selling off local assets (and without re-introducing shooting without any consultation as happened last year). Actually, talking of other funds, our research elves dug up this story from a couple of years back--how the moor and other areas had received £850,000 of extra support back in 2003. So where's the moor's share of this money gone? Also note Danny Jackson suggesting the new group then created--SCOSPA--was the vehicle to receive a lot more money from European and other sources. So was the local trust ever needed?

From the Councillor

This was a comment left by Cllr Hawkesworth. While I have criticised and name-called in the past, some things (like our beloved moor) are too important, so I completely endorse all comments. I'm going up there later, had looked forward to spending a few hours on the moor (it being my birthday and all), but, now...
May I please trespass on your hospitality to give visitors to your blog some news about the Moor? Although you cannot see from the town, 30% of Ilkley Moor is burned out and dead. This includes the most ecologically important sites, the best grazing for sheep and a good proportion of the grouse habitat. I am meeting English Nature and DEFRA tomorrow to discuss what I fear will be a long road to recovery. All who love our town and moor must work together to assist this goal. I may not agree with all that is said to me, I may not act on all suggestions put to me, but I do listen. I am very happy to listen now. The only thing I am not interested in is points scoring. We all value the work of our Fire Service, but I must in addition record our grateful thanks to our own Council staff, the employees of neighbouring estates and the farmers for the huge efforts they put in to contain the fire. I am sorry to have taken up so much space.

Demonocrats

Someone claiming to be Cllr Hawkesworth has responded to my previous post. What I love is the imputation that I'm holding her commments back because I'm unwilling to listen to criticism. Councillor Hawkesworth accusing someone else of not listening to the public, and not answering questions? I think we have a definition of irony.

While Ilkley Moor burns

...Councillor Hawkesworth plots. It seems that the fires currently 'raging' (and well done Maisie the sheepdog) are just the excuse the power-mad old harridan needs to suggest changing the rules governing access to the moor. Apparently, it being common land simply isn't good enough. These fires show the need to give Bradford Council the right to close down free access. So much for the proposed trust giving control to the 'people' of Ilkley. The Trust will contain the usual great and good, who will use their new powers to close down access whenever they feel like it, or whenever they and their friends fancy something like a bit of shooting. and any excuse will be good enough to concentrate more power in their hands.