Tag Archives: Harrogate

Labour’s 100% in North Yorkshire

Until October last year the bulk of my political activism was in Harrogate and North Yorkshire. A huge swath of blue, with a few spots of yellow.

But Harrogate and North Yorkshire have not always been so fruitless for Labour. True, Harrogate Borough has not seen a Labour councillor since the excellent Andy Wright lost his Knaresborough seat in 2002. Also true is that at the last County elections four years ago the Labour delegation to County Hall was reduced to just one solitary councillor in Selby, Brian Marshall.

North   Yorkshire County Council Composition 1997-2009
2009 2005 2001 1997
Conservative 48 42 41 40
LibDem 11 16 17 19
Independent 11 7 4 4
Labour 1 7 12 11
Liberal 1 0 0 0
Sources:   BBC News (2009) and North Yorkshire LibDems (2001).

However, in no small part due to the resilliance of the County Party (or Local Government Committee, or Local Campiagn Forum as we are now required to call it!) organised by the fantastic Roy Hutchings, this year the ONLY party to be fielding candidates in ALL 72 seats being contested for North Yorkshire County Council is the Labour Party.

In true-blue North Yorkshire, Labour are standing in 72 out of 72 seats. The Tories have managed 71, the Greens a respectable (for their size) 25 along with the usual 30 or so Independents. But, the other story in North Yorkshire must be the collapse of the opposition. The LibDems have managed to find candidates in less than half the seats, just 35 out of 72. Even UKIP can find 46 candidates.

Fellow activists will know what the majority of voters will never know – the reality of fielding candidates in majority Tory or LibDem areas. First, finding members to put their name forward can be difficult. But the hardest job, especially in a rural authority like North Yorkshire is collecting the nomination signatures. Having done this almost single-handily in Harrogate Borough for a couple of years in the past; I congratulate all involved in North Yorkshire. It is the sign of a party on the rise and enthused when you can relax on nominations day knowing that every vacancy has been filled. Conversely, parties that fail in this are sending a message out that they are deflated, disillusioned and are lacking in members and organisational structure. I have long championed the need for Labour to field a candidate in every vacancy and at every election, and I am delighted that we have done it this year.

North Yorkshire is often written off for Labour, but there are pockets of strong support, not least in Scarborough and Selby but also Knaresborough and even some wards in Harrogate. Thirsk has also returned a Labour county councillor within the last 12 years. It is worth noting too that both the 1993 and 1997 elections saw the Tories in a minority administration and a sizeable contingent of Labour councillors. With the LibDems in apparent meltdown in the County, by standing a candidate for every vacancy Labour are sending a clear message to the voters of North Yorkshire: you can vote Labour here, Labour can win here, Labour are the only serious alternative to this government of Tories and LibDems.

For the Tories in North Yorkshire, 2013 should produce few shocks. They will retain control of the Council. UKIP may perform well in some divisions, but are unlikely to unseat many (if any) Tories. Labour are in a strong position to take back seats in Scarborough and Selby that were lost in 2009, and perhaps a few others lost since 2001. The big losers will be the LibDems. Despite their national poll ratings, they should be looking to hold onto their seats in North Yorkshire. They face a huge challenge in Harrogate, where they won Oatlands division against the odds in 2009 and also in Knaresborough where a strong Labour challenge could oust the remaining LibDem in that market town. LibDems ought to wake up on 3rd May with their status as the second largest party at County Hall – if they don’t then these elections will have been the biggest disaster in their history within North Yorkshire.

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Thatcher – One thing to thank her for

I was in two minds whether to contribute to the expected rush of articles and blogs on the death of Mrs Thatcher. I have certainly resisted the temptation of instant tweets or Facebook posts. However, a tweet from Ian Lavery MP (Wansbeck) persuaded me that we should all record our experiences and thoughts about this woman. He ‘tweeted’ that it would be “cowardly” not to comment.

I grew up in the 1980s with parents who were far from political at the start of the decade, but who ended the decade as two of the most active members of the local Labour Party – candidates at every local election, branch and GC officers, conference delegates and so on. It was in this environment of the late 1980s, on a council estate in Tory Harrogate, surrounded by boxes of Labour Links, crumpled rosettes, ‘knocking up’ pads and canvass cards that my own interest in politics and specifically socialism developed. Once of my earliest Labour Party memories is of my sister and I hand-writing thousands of envelopes for the free mailing in the 1987 general election. I was only 6!

It pains me to say it but Mrs Thatcher did have one positive effect on my family and I – she politicised my parents (both of whom used that political passion to read, study, return to college and qualify as teachers), which was instrumental in making my own politics what it is today.

History has a habit of ignoring the facts, as I can see from my Twitter feed or Facebook timeline. I will not be celebrating the death of Mrs Thatcher, not because I look back with rose-tinted glasses like so many do, but because of what she made me. She made me compassionate about fellow humans, something that she was not. Going with my parents on protests and rallies in the late 1980s, seeing the effect the Poll Tax or rising rents and fuel bills had on my family convinced me that this Thatcherism as it was being named did not work. Even at that early age I could see that this wasn’t fair. Watching news reports about the homeless, visiting London in 1988 and seeing (for the first time) rough-sleepers, watching the unending greed in the City, reading about good communities in the north being decimated in the name of Thatcherism; all these things made me realise that what should shape politics is compassion. The reverse of Thatcherism – that there are enough resources in this world for all of us to have a decent standard of living.

Watching John Gummer pay tribute just now on BBC News; he stated that “even more people would have been worse off” if it wasn’t for Thatcherism – thereby accepting that Thatcherism did make SOME people worse off (presumably the millions and their families who lost their jobs in our industries). How can it be that this goes unchallenged? Thatcher taught me that any ideology that makes SOME people worse off is wrong – instead we need an ideology that gives EVERYONE a decent home, a decent job, a decent education and decent protections.

So tonight, I am not celebrating. I have never celebrated the death of anyone, in fact I feel distinctly uncomfortable when the world celebrates the death of ‘terrorists’ or ‘brutal dictators’. Instead, I shall remember the harsh reality of the 1980s and today – the facts of Mrs Thatcher’s legacy; huge inequality. I will be hoping, more than I have hoped for anything, that the true legacy of Mrs Thatcher can be a Labour government in 2015 which is proud of ideology (just as she was), but an ideology that is built on compassion and socialism. As a compassionate human being I have never celebrated the death of anyone no matter how lacking in compassion they were in life.