MP Who Campaigns Against Second Jobs Holds Second Job

Here’s one for those who like the stench of a politician’s hypocrisy in the summer months.

Paula Sherriff was elected as MP for Dewsbury in May. During her election campaign was that she pledged not to hold a second job as an MP and there is even a page on her website dedicated to a petition to stop MPs holding second jobs. So what is she currently doing? You guessed it.

Sherriff has not resigned her role as district councillor for Pontefract North since winning her parliamentary seat. This would trigger a by-election for a seat that’s up for election in May next year so, I suppose, the idea is just to not bother. However, are the people of Pontefract North getting a fair deal out of this? I somehow doubt it.

What would be the defence? That because each ward has three councillors that it doesn’t matter if one of them suddenly does a disappearing act on her constituents? Well, then, the logical question is whether each ward needs three councillors. If Sherriff is adamant she won’t resign her post (at least until after the point where it would trigger a by-election) then I think we need a fundamental discussion about what our councillors in Wakefield are actually doing to represent their wards.

Alternatively, Sherriff could stick to her promise not to hold two jobs and resign with immediate effect. That would be the sensible and democratic thing to do.

EDIT: Paula Sherriff has just responded to one of my Yorkshire First colleagues on Twitter saying that she no longer draws an allowance for the role nor acts as a councillor for Pontefract North. Still unclear whether this means Pontefract North is being under-represented though…

Mary Creagh Standing for Labour Leader

The news that Mary Creagh, my local MP, has thrown her hat into the ring for the job of Labour leader didn’t exactly surprise me. In fact, reading back over a post I wrote in November about the bizarre decision to move Creagh from the transport brief, I’m wondering if I stepped into a time-machine for a little while. I certainly made some apt predictions:

Well, as a Wakefield resident, I believe that Creagh will be re-elected on an increased majority because of the split in the vote caused by UKIP standing against the dedicated Eurosceptic Tory. They didn’t stand in 2010 and he was only a few thousand votes away from taking the seat. I can see it being messy this time. Equally, I think Miliband needs to worry more about his own seat and that of his shadow chancellor. The other possibility is that Miliband sees Creagh as a threat – don’t discount that one. Finally, it could just be that Miliband’s incompetent. Place your bets, folks. Place your bets.

So Creagh did increase her majority because of the UKIP/Conservative split (though the Eurosceptic candidate I expected to stand did not) and Miliband should’ve worried more about Ed Balls’s seat (if you listen to news stories today, it seems he might’ve seen it coming but that’s a thought for elsewhere). Did Miliband see Creagh as a threat? Well, I’m still not sure given his loose grip on reality in the last few months. However, it’s pretty obvious that she saw herself as one and that she certainly considered the top job.

As I wrote in that post in November, I have respect for Creagh as a hard-working minister, whether I agree with her policies or not. I also do admire her recent support for the family at the inquest of the two Wakefield children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Corfu in 2006. She’s articulate and dedicated but, despite that, I don’t feel like I ‘know’ her.

I’ll have to think long and hard about the pros and cons of all the candidates in the coming months. I have to say, though, I’m not sure I can see the benefits of having a Labour leader as my local MP. I don’t think it’s done a lot for Doncaster in the last five years.

Yorkshire First Results in Wakefield

There’s plenty to be digested on both a local and national level and I aim to do that gradually over the next few weeks. However, I thought readers might be interested in how Yorkshire First performed in Wakefield.

I stood in my home ward of Wakefield North which is a bit of a battleground for UKIP these days. The results over the years have shifted in favour of the UKIP candidate (who is a thoroughly nice chap), though obviously Wakefield is a Labour stronghold. 54 seats out of 63 are currently held by Labour with the Conservatives having 6, UKIP 2 and 1 Independent sitting on the council. The lack of opposition is something for a future post though. In the meantime, here are the results from my ward:

Green Party – 395 (6.3%)
Yorkshire First – 161 (2.6%)
Conservative Party – 1495 (23.9%)
Labour Party – 2666 (42.6%)
TUSC – 216 (3.5%)
UKIP – 1319 (21.1%)

For me, 2.6% is a great start. With it being something of a three-way battle, it’s heartening to know that over 150 people put a cross next to my name instead of the big three. It’s also a varied field with 12.4% of the vote going to the three smaller parties.

Next, my colleague Martin Roberts stood in parliamentary, district and parish elections. This is the result from his parliamentary seat, Hemsworth:

UKIP – 8565 (20.2%)
Liberal Democrats – 1357 (3.2%)
Conservative Party – 9694 (22.9%)
Yorkshire First – 1018 (2.4%)
Labour Party 21772 – (51.3%)

To get over 1000 votes is phenomenal and I’m really proud of Martin. He’s been a very active campaigner in the last few months and I think that dedication showed here. Labour were always going to win the seat but to take 2.4% of votes in a parliamentary election is brilliant. In the district council elections he stood for the ward of Ackworth, North Elmsall and Upton:

Labour Party – 3437 (45.7%)
Conservative Party – 2081 (27.7%)
Yorkshire First – 493 (6.6%)
UKIP – 1507 (20.0%)

Again, this is excellent and there are definitely lessons to be taken from that result. As for the parish ward of Ackworth – Moor Top, I won’t list the results of all 16 candidates (voters get up to eight choices per ballot paper) but here is Martin’s result:

Yorkshire First – 591 (5.2%)

There were 8 Labour candidates on the ballot paper, 6 of whom were elected and, indeed, many of the ballot papers I saw voted primarily for Labour candidates above all others. In parish council elections that’s certainly a consideration for the future. Nevertheless, that’s another good result for Martin.

Our final candidate in the Wakefield district was Arnie Craven who stood in the parliamentary seat of Morley and Outwood (this seat is half Leeds and half Wakefield). Now, if that seat wasn’t famous on Thursday morning it was by Friday afternoon. The incumbent Labour MP (and Shadow Chancellor) Ed Balls lost his seat and there’s something very interesting about this result:

Labour – 18354 (38.0%)
Yorkshire First – 479 (1.0%)
UKIP – 7951 (16.5%)
Green Party – 1264 (2.6%)
Conservative Party – 18776 (38.9%)
Liberal Democrats – 1426 (3.0%)

So Ed Balls lost by 422 votes and Arnie got 479. I’m not saying that people who voted for him may have otherwise voted for Labour but it’s a compelling figure nonetheless and it shows how smaller parties can chop into the vote share of the mainstream.

Those are the results for our district. Plenty to chew over and may I say a personal thank you to Martin and Arnie for standing alongside me as Yorkshire First candidates in this election.

The SNP’s Latest Command

I know I witter on a fair bit about democracy and accountability, call it a bug-bear. I don’t believe, for instance, that a coalition agreement should be implemented following the 2015 election without being put to the voters. You can sense, then, what my attitude on Nicola Sturgeon’s latest comments about the possibility of an SNP-Labour coalition might be.

Sturgeon has said that the SNP would be prepared to join forces with Labour, even if they didn’t have more MPs than the Tories following the election. It’s not a rule that the party with the highest number of MPs form the government, but it’s a standard that hasn’t been broken since the 1920s. Of course, this comes with a price – at the moment that’s a £180bn spending spree, though I expect that to increase the more desperate Labour look as the election nears. Whatever your view on austerity, it’s a pretty neat subversion of democracy on the part of the SNP.

The trouble with Labour at the moment is that they simply reek of desperation. That means the SNP can name their price (don’t be fooled, they’re aiming for independence either via another referendum or by the back door) and the Lib Dems too. The prospect of a Labour/SNP/Lib Dem coalition is terrifying, not least because it will have no legitimacy in the eyes of much of the country. We’ve had five years of back-room deals between the Tory-Lib Dem ‘quad’ and it’s left a sour taste. If anything, it’s served to distance the electorate further from their MPs – after all, does it matter who we all vote for if they decide what’s ‘best’ for us in the end? It stinks, and the stench is only going to get worse until May.

Politics Has a People Problem

The figure Harriet Harman draws attention to of 9.1 million women who didn’t vote in 2010 is alarming but not at all surprising. However, I don’t think political engagement has a ‘woman problem’ as much as a ‘people problem’. The public are disengaging – from the major parties at least – and, while I can understand the urge to drag them back kicking and screaming into the fold, I don’t think Labour’s ‘pink bus’ is going to do the trick on the women front.

The word being bandied about is ‘patronising’. I’d agree with that. I don’t think seeing a pink bus in my town centre would encourage me to vote Labour. In fact, I’d just be asking why they’re making so much effort to appear colourful when, really, the way to win votes is to create effective and economically literate policies. Those seem to be the things that women pay attention to. There was a lot written during the Scottish Referendum about how women were thinking with their heads while men were more focused on their emotional reaction to the prospect of independence. I don’t know how right that analysis is but, surely, the best way to achieve an election victory is to fight on both of those fronts?

For me, this pink bus is a gimmick, and one that’s been ridiculed pretty comprehensively already. This close to an election, is this really Labour’s strategy?

Musings on the Debates

The furore over the televised debates rolls on like the distraction technique it quite obviously is. So much time is being spent wittering about who should be included that politicians are avoiding many of those difficult questions they should be facing a hundred days before a general election. It’s ingenuous really – and rather pathetic.

David Cameron initially said he wouldn’t take part without the Greens present. Blatant selfishness as facing Nigel Farage with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg sucking up to each other across the way would’ve been tricky for the PM. I can’t decide whether Cameron expected the broadcasters to roll over and include the Greens or cancel the debates altogether. In the event, they pulled a rabbit out of the hat and said, yes, they’d include the Greens along with the SNP and Plaid Cymru. After which, the DUP, quite rightly, become irritated that they, with eight MPs, are excluded. It’s all shaping up to be a right old mess but I have a few points.

1. On recent polls, if that’s what we’re using for this, the Lib Dems are trailing. Why should they be included?

2. Regional parties have a limited appeal. By all means, have separate debates for them to participate in but they’re a little surplus to requirements in a national debate.

3. However, if regional parties are included then the DUP should be too. It’s only fair.

4. The large, unruly debate that this is shaping up to be will be useful to nobody. Perhaps that’s how all major leaders would like it.

Mini-Reshuffle Madness: Creagh to International Development

My local MP, Mary Creagh, was moved from her post as shadow transport secretary last night to take up the role of shadow international development. To be honest, I was astounded then more than a little irritated.

Most of the time my views don’t exactly correlate with Creagh’s. I’ve discussed that on this blog before so I won’t go into detail but one thing I will say is that, aside from perhaps Andy Burnham, Creagh is one of the hardest working and most knowledgeable members of the shadow cabinet. She fully immerses herself in her portfolio and, while I sometimes regret the fact that since she’s a part of the inner circle she won’t utter a word of dissent, I respect her hard work and dedication.

When she knocked on my door a year or so ago it was just after Miliband’s energy price freeze promise and she was shadow environment secretary. While I didn’t agree with the policy, her championing of it, both on the doorstep and through other mediums, was high profile and involved. Then, in a move I found bizarre at the time because she was working hard with that announcement, she was shifted to the transport role.

In the last year she’s made it her own. I read a very interesting interview last week (no links since I have the memory of a goldfish) where her enthusiasm for her job shone through and she’s just launched an initiative on buses. In fact, yesterday she was hosting a ‘bus summit’ at Westminster. Then…suddenly she’s been shifted again.

Of course, this is how modern politics works but I can’t help but feel it’s counter-productive. I’ve got no doubt that she’ll throw herself into her new role as enthusiastically as she has the others but, given all her talk of how transport links could prove pivotal in some seats, it seems stupid to move somebody obviously so immersed in her brief a few months before an election.

I suppose there could be a couple of ‘reasons’ alongside the actual necessity for a mini-reshuffle to free Jim Murphy up for his Scottish adventure. It could be that Miliband’s concerned about Creagh’s meagre majority collapsing at the next election and thinks transport is too important to be sucked into that. Well, as a Wakefield resident, I believe that Creagh will be re-elected on an increased majority because of the split in the vote caused by UKIP standing against the dedicated Eurosceptic Tory. They didn’t stand in 2010 and he was only a few thousand votes away from taking the seat. I can see it being messy this time. Equally, I think Miliband needs to worry more about his own seat and that of his shadow chancellor. The other possibility is that Miliband sees Creagh as a threat – don’t discount that one. Finally, it could just be that Miliband’s incompetent. Place your bets, folks. Place your bets.