I’M not one to teach my grandma how to suck eggs. Heck, I’m not one to teach any woman to suck anything, because I know my subservient place where the Sisterhood is concerned.
I do however have to take issue with our campaigning warrior queen Paula Sherriff, righteous MP and firebrand voice for Dewsbury, Mirfield and a couple of villages in outer Huddersfield.
So this is less about sucking eggs Paula, more about sucking up to voters with a massive portion of sour grapes.
The redoubtable Miss Sherriff was beating her Amazonian chest in thunderous anger again this week at those wicked, vile, child-starving, OAP-murdering Tories.
This time it was Dewsbury – surprise surprise – that the sadistic Conservatives had turned into a veritable ghost town. Reading between her furiously Tweeted lines, they had decimated the marketplace, turned the streets into litter-strewn, lawless havens for a multi-cultural mix of druggies, alcoholics, burglars, robbers and vagrants.
The description at least happens to be painfully true. And those vindictive Tory bar-stewards – they have done it to Dewsbury deliberately, cruelly starving it of much-needed cash just because it’s a Labour redoubt!
(Well, apart from when we had a Conservative MP from 2010-2015 – although given that Simon Reevell couldn’t find his way round town without a satnav and was in favour of shutting the hospital, that’s not saying much. In his case, Paula has a point).
But of course that isn’t Paula’s point, not at all. It’s all about Tory cuts, punishing the Labour poor.
At which point, actually, it’s time for a reality check and a history lesson for Miss Sherriff who, lest we forget, is very much a relative newcomer to our streets.
Paula Sherriff sees Dewsbury town centre today pretty much as she first saw it four years ago, except a bit more tatty, with more empty shops, a market more resembling an eastern bazaar by the month, and a depressing absence of shoppers/users or people that anyone in their right mind would want to invite round for dinner.
In fact good luck actually seeing someone you might even know, unless it’s one of the diminishing numbers of town centre office workers on their lunch break.
Not much has changed while she’s been MP and certainly not for the better, excepting a few shiny new shop signs and the impending Kirklees College Learning Quarter (and ‘amen’ to that by the way).
It’s sad, it’s desperate, it’s a social and economic blight, and for those of us brought up looking forward to and enjoying our days and nights in a vibrant, bustling, thriving, friendly town centre, it is a bloody tragedy.
People with decades invested in this town have earned the right to that frustration and anger; their aching nostalgia is very real. What they, see is not what we all once knew – and what, with respect, Paula Sherriff MP couldn’t possibly know.
That’s why her predictable angst about ‘Tory cuts’ isn’t just politically meaningless, but actually plain wrong.
I’m looking at a Kirklees Council Environmental Audit from 2001, rating the conditions of 27 streets in and around Dewsbury town centre on a wide range of factors. Impressively only one (Crackenedge Lane) received a ‘negative’ score for the condition of its buildings.
The survey results were a little bit down on 1999’s audit, but not bad. Unrecognisable from now, that’s for sure.
Do you know why that was, Paula?
In the mid-1990s Dewsbury received tens of millions of pounds in public funds under the government’s Single Regeneration Budget, just as Batley had similarly received fortunes under City Challenge. So let’s see, which government was that? Oh, that’s right – those wicked Tories, Maggie Thatcher and John Major.
And where did the ‘evil’ Tory money go? Well Batley got their infamous stone bats and some new cobbles in the market place, mostly. Dewsbury got the town centre concreted over a bit more and generally tarted up a bit.
For the rest though?
Well, how about central heating, insulation, double glazing and massive home improvements throughout districts like Ravensthorpe and Savile Town – ironically now the community with the highest outright home ownership in West Yorkshire.
Dewsbury town centre was beginning to tire by 2001 because the Tory money had run out and the new government that took over in 1997 was too busy selling off our gold at rock-bottom prices, strangling the nation’s schools and hospitals – particularly Dewsbury District Hospital’s eventual owners – with sky-high private finance debt, and finding a reason a suck up to George W Bush and start an illegal war in Iraq.
Who was that again (my memory really is going!) Oh yes, Labour. And during their 13 years in power, frittering away the full public purse they inherited what happened here? Dewsbury went to the dogs, that’s what.
But neither is it fair to blame everything on central government either.
For decades Kirklees Council has had its own fortunes to dispense. You only have to see Huddersfield to appreciate that. And who, apart from a brief Lib Dem and even briefer Tory administration, has always run Kirklees?
Well slap my thigh and go to the foot of Paula’s chamber steps – it’s Labour again!
In fact there’s more, far more, to Dewsbury’s demise than just the political game-playing of people like Paula Sherriff and friends. I don’t have room for them all here today, so tune in some time soon for another lesson.
(PS: I should charge consultancy fees for this, don’t you think? And if I was a cross-dressing ethnic minority with a gammy leg who calls itself Salome every Saturday, I’m sure ‘skint’ Kirklees would give me one).
‘EID Mubarak’ to my many Muslim readers, no doubt sitting this morning on full and heavy stomachs having finally broken their final fast in the holy month of Ramadan on Thursday night.
To those of questionably devout nature in Thornhill Lees, who claimed the latest piece of local territory for the Prophet’s followers with a violent attack on innocent citizens last Thursday night, I hope your guts turn septic.
We can argue the toss about whether the concerted decision to drive a family circus off the Lees Holm playing fields was inspired by insult at a ‘western’ entertainment encroaching on their turf during Ramadan, or drug dealers who ply their trade in the nearby community centre car park being inconvenienced.
The police have already got in swiftly with their lame excuse: ‘Incident, what incident? Nothing to see here, move right along please…’
Where this race war still exists, Kirklees Police surrendered decades ago. The sooner the remaining white residents of Thornhill Lees sell up or die off, the happier the law will be.
Locals say they have complained at length about the plain-sight drug dealing in that specific location – as with many others across the valley – but until guns are involved (which increases weekly) and the cops get to put on their body armour and kick down doors with 20 of their paramilitary mates, it’s anything for a quiet life.
So whether last week was about religion, drugs or just a declaration of territorial ownership, the outcome is the same.
Firstly and in the short term, local families, young children – of all faiths and none, as the modern mantra goes – are deprived the opportunity to share and enjoy a fun and friendly event. Thornhill Lees doesn’t get a lot of those, if you hadn’t noticed.
And it won’t get any more now, because as with the claiming for their own of Savile Town’s sports fields all those long years ago, this was another flag in the sand.
Our turf, our territory, stay away or face the consequences.
I’m pleased to see Councillors Masood Ahmed and Gulfam Asif condemning the incident and the perpetrators, which they should, but which hasn’t always been the way with community leaders. It won’t make a difference though, because the damage has already been done.
Literally and figuratively, the circus has left town.