(edit after I realised I'd got the order wrong)
It took a while for the Tories to select a candidate. First twe thought there was Simon Cooke, Deputy leader of the local council. He lost out in the selection and then made the unfortunate mistake of making a seig heil gesture at an opponent--if only he'd done it a year earlier, he'd have been selected for sure. Not necessarily for the Tories though.
Selected instead was Robert Collinson, who'd previously lost rather badly in Crosby in 2001. Nothing like backing a winner. So he starts the usual business of writing bland letters to the local press full of fairly meaningless statistics. And then he withdraws from the contest. No-one knows why, though it was rumoured to have something to do with not being able to win the site.
Then they tried to get Cllr Anne Hawkesworth involved. Now our Anne, known affectionately here as no pasaran for her oppostion to almost everything in Ilkley, is very well respected and would have put up a fierce fight. But she didn't want to get involved (possibly the confusion over Ann vs Anne would have been a bit much for some Ilkley-ites).
And then came Karl Poulsen, the ultimate Tory Boy. Youngest Tory regional chairman, blah-de-blah. He's very young. He has few opinions of his own. He sends letters to the local press basically run off from Tory Central Office.
Now, the people of Ilkley would vote for a monkey if he represented the Tories (just ask funky Gibbons). But will they vote for owr Karl? Hawkesworth would have been a shoe-in, she's late middle-age, rather tough, a Thatcher manque (did you see what I did there?). Poulsen, well, isn't. Some of the locals might think, 'ah, what a sweet boy' and vote for him.
But he's up against Ann Cryer, who's been twice widowed, is silver haired, is late middle aged, is outspoken, and who actually has a lot in common with many of the local bluerinses as a result. There's just a bit of me that feels that Cryer could do better in Ilkley itself than anyone expects, if she campaigns here.
Otherwise, we've got a muppet taking all the votes (thanks to KC and Elvis for this):
They long for hospitals that are clean. I mean, how hard is it to keep a hospital clean?
Well, it's a lot easier if you haven't out-sourced the cleaning contracts because of PFI agreements supported by Labour but originally introduced by the Tories.
People long for more police on the streets, to enforce respect, discipline and the law. People long for their children to be taught in disciplined schools...
Discipline, respect. The age of Miss Whiplash is back.
The choice at the election is simple--it comes down to whether you want simply to be grabbed, dominated and butt-fucked, or whether you'd prefer someone to grin mindlessly at you and drop some Rohypnol in your drink first? It's a tough old choice.
Mr Blair's been in charge of our immigration system for eight years. And it's been eight years of chaos. Surely it's not that hard for an island nation to control its borders? People are longing for controlled immigration, a fair system that stops the abuse of our country's generosity.
Are people longing for it? Has their been a sensible debate on the subject? The racism isn't even subliminal. It's just out there. Dominant metaphors--battling, fighting, war, discipline (hmm, Karl Rove has a lot to answer for).
Control of our borders?
Jeez, this is 2005. I wrote an essay once comparing the development of Star Wars in the US (the missile defense, not the film) with the psychological trauma of AIDS--ie defending our 'real' space because we couldn't defend our internal space from invasion (and, no, it wasn't an original thought). We're back there again. Fear of contagion, need for order, discipline.
Mein Kampf anyone?
I feel dirty. I need a drink. The only thing we know is that Labour's will be worse.
The three main parties now have their local websites up and running. The LibDems looks and feels the best, both effective but yet with a local tinge--though when I went, clicking on 'policy' delivered an empty page. The forum also is at least slightly humorous. LibDems seem to be the most tech-aware party, with people like Richard Allan in the last Parliament actually understanding what we were complaining about over the EU software patent legislation. Tory Boy's is a simulacra of every other Tory bloody site in the country.
But woeful in the extreme is the Keighley Labour Party site, which looks like something done on the first version of FrontPage back in 97. Only the fact they don't understand html prevents them using the <blink> tag, one suspects. The original forum was taken down after an assault by stormfront people. So there's a new one now, which is very clunky (pop-ups, always a great idea---especially when they're for casinos...hmmm), and helpfully reveals the IP address of everyone posting. Now, I'm sure somebody could abuse that information.
I'm doing posts on the Tory and BNP candidates which, I'm sure, will get finished some time this week. In the meantime, some idle speculation.
Ann Cryer will not come fourth in the this election. She's regarded as a good local MP. Her stance on race (ie bigot) will gather her some support, or at least admiration, even in Ilkley. Her stance on the war will mean her support won't haemorrhage from her heartlands. Really, the BritAsian vote has nowhere else to go. They'll know a Tory government would be worse than Labour. Moving to LibDems? Possible, but to let in the Tories? For similar reasons, and because no supporters of the top three parties wants to see the BNP do well, it's possible that LibDem support will be squeezed in the more affluent areas. I have a sneaking feeling that if Cryer's team put some work into Ilkley, they'd gather some support--she's up against the ultimate Tory Boy and her reputation for plain-speaking and 'Yorkie-ness' will pick up votes amongst some of the Tory bluerinses. It's a question whether local or national attitudes win out.
There's some national speculation that the mood is swinging towards Howard and, maybe, the public is ready for a grim reaper type (the old matron's knee cringing attitude of the English that worked so well for Thatcher). We shall see, and the campaign will show what's happening fairly quickly.
The BNP will not get the 4,500 or so votes they got in the last council elections. Many trad Labour supporters will go back to Labour. It's also the case that every time they're out on the streets, they drive up the likelihood of a high Labour turnout. It may be bias from the media, but there is real fear. Every new BNP poster drives five BritAsians back to Labour, while there's no reason for Tories to support them (and risk losing the seat?). Of course, the BNP aren't interested in winning the seat, only embarassing the sitting member. If they were interested in a slow growth, they'd have had a local representative. Griffin being an in-comer really doesn't help them. Yorkies may be racist, but they're happier with brown Yorkshiremen than white non-Yorkshiremen. Anything less than 2,000 votes for the BNP will be a disaster, and will probably mean a Lab hold. We shall see. In a seeming deal, UKIP will not be standing against the BNP, so there will not be an effect on the Tories similar to the one the BNP have had on Labour.
The real interest for me (okay, apart from who wins) is how the LibDems will do. They've been taking industrial working class votes from Labour around the country, they tend to take the long perspective, they were opposed to the Iraq War (though Kennedy really didn't make a good impression on many of his members), and they've been doing fairly well in the rural areas of the constituency. If they get some placards out early, get their legendary foot-teams working, they should build substantially on the 10% last time. And, potentially, mostly from the Tories as well.
End of first week prediction (and this is a real punt just before the National starts): Cryer by 2,000.
I'll give you a tissue.
So out on those mean streets, what are the big issues likely to shake the populace of Keighley and Ilkley into voting one way or t'other, given that the manifestoes have yet to fully appear (unless someone's been hiding them from me)?
Well, mostly it's about fear. Fear of crime, fear of the unknown (whether race, creed, or dress), fear of poverty, fear of falling house-prices. It's going to be a nasty election, fought with increasingly nasty tactics, and a pre-requisite for anyone standing (with the possible exception of Nader Fekri), will be being as nasty as possible.
In Keighley, there's a feeling of helplessness amongst many of all communities, a feeling that nothing's being done for them, while much of the rest of the country basks in economic sunshine. This frustration has been re-cast by some as an issue of immigrants taking away resources. When the BNP talk of resources used up by 'Asian' communities in a failed multi-cultural experiment, they're criticising a Tory-led Council, but there's no doubt they're receiving a hearing, and that anger's being directed at the government. Three of the parties will fight over this ground--bigot, bigoter and bigotest. This will be one area where Ann Cryer is very much in tune with Labour HQ. Labour's 'controlling our borders' campaign is about as uncoded as it gets, as Guido has pointed out.
Four years ago, much of the campigning in Keighley was about lighter local issues like whether the town should break away from Bradford Council. I don't see that this time. It will be local reflections of the nastier bits of the national debate. Which is a pity, because it's the fact that the Tories have run Bradford Council on and off for the last couple of decades, that the Tories get support from the rural areas, that means that money is poured into those areas and not into helping the poor inner-city areas. It's not multi-cultural schemes that divert cash from Keighley, it's funding Ilkey in Bloom
In Ilkley, racist issues are hidden by a veneer of respectability. I don't see the BNP getting much of a vote, but the Tories will be campaigning in coded language. Rather than immigrants, we'll see the return of the 'asylum seeker' shibboleth. Number of asylum seekers in Ilkley? Well, I can think of one.
And alongside that, there's crime. Keighley's situation is tied into economics or race depending which side of the political platform you swing from, while Ilkley and the rural areas are all about fear. They're all very low crime, but it's necessary to build the threat in order to provide a solution. Ilkley's aged population loves getting the fear--it gives them something to talk about in Betty's.
So far, no-one's mentioned the NHS, even though Airedale PCT is hardly in a rosy financial situation. There's MRSA, of course, but it's hardly a killer (ha ha) issue, even if it does demonstrate the sort of lies the Tories are willing to tell to scare people into voting. And, of course, the hunting ban will convince people to vote Tory who, uhhr, would have done so anyway.
Equally, given its importance over the next few years, Europe's so far off the agenda you'd think the whole continent had sunk. Domestic little Englanders, that's us.
Nothing, either, about despoilation of the Dales.
More important will be maintenance of income. Council Tax re-valuation next year will hit householders hard (and so the LibDems might have an in with their local income tax, given many Ilkley residents are retired), while IHT is already doing so. The Tories banging on about controlling costs will be important. Almost whatever Labour do will not be seen as enough.
There's also the ishoo of Blair himself. Not mentioned in Ann Cryer's own literature, she will be seeking to distance herself as much as possible from the Prime Minister. Her best (probably only) chance of winning is to fight as a virtually independent candidate. Her vocal opposition to Iraq gives her a chance with her supporters in Keighley--support for the war would have already condemned her to a hefty pension.
And, finally, there's all the self-referential stuff that's happening. Will BNP street activity drive the middle-class towards Labour? Will the fear of a national Tory victory re-build Cryer's support? Will genuine disgust at the bigoted policies of three of the parties help the LibDems? And how will the national effects play out here? But that's all for another post.
I'm easily confused. I think I mis-took the 2nd April anti-facist rally that's been cancelled at the request of Ms Cryer with the union anti-fascist action planned for this Saturday. I have no idea whether the latter went ahead. If it wasn't for the confusion, I would have been reporting on it. Can someone give me a report if it did (even from our far right correspondents...)?
Unfortunately not standing in our constituency. Craig Murray is the ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan who resigned over our connivance in the use of torture. He's standing against the strawman (a Rebus reference there crime fans) to draw attention to British hypocrisy in foreign policy.
Blackburn, where he's standing, is a typical Lancashire mill town. Gorgeous Victorian architecture, some of the best municipal art collections and otherwise a complete hole. The sort of place that should be swept from the Earth. G'luck Craig!
Waking up to the Today programme this morning, we had Digby Jones of the CBI telling us we had the most successful economy in the western world (after eight years of Labour rule--doubt he'd have predicted that in 1997) and the Tories gently suggesting that they might have intervened more to save Rover. Has the world gone mad? Or just been turned upside down (ah, the Diggers, where are you when we need you?)?
ALso to hear the chutzpah of Tories talking about Labour destroying industrial jobs--in the four years leading up to 1997, the Tories created 200,000 manufacturing jobs apparently. And how many were destroyed in the decade before that then?