I’VE always quite liked Eric Firth, who until last Friday morning had been a Labour councillor for Dewsbury East since, oh, about the reign of Queen Victoria. He’s always been pleasant enough to me – to my face at least.
I don’t think Labour councillors hold Locky in much regard, generally speaking.
Considering the questionable stuff some of them have been complicit in over the years, and especially during Shahid Malik’s ‘colourful’ tenure as MP, I take that as a huge compliment.
I still chuckle at Eric Firth’s brazen denial of knowing who Tahir ‘Terry’ Zaman was when he helped muscle through a planning application from the disgraced businessman.
Planning officers had recommended refusal, but Eric – who worked for MP Malik at that time – and friends overruled them.
Despite Zaman owning the offices Malik and Firth worked in, being the MP’s landlord, and generally having the Dewsbury Labour Party on a string, good old Eric insisted he didn’t know Terry from Adam, hence not declaring an interest and absenting himself from that decision.
The councillor was livid when the matter got referred to the Standards Committee which predictably cleared him of any wrongdoing. Move along folks, nothing to see here…
Eric’s bluff and amiable countenance hasn’t changed much over the years – clearly, being a Kirklees councillor isn’t the most stressful occupation on planet earth. He had a face like a slapped arse last Friday though, as he watched the ballot papers stack up for his youthful political opponent Aleks Lukic.
At least Eric was dignified in defeat, shaking Coun Lukic’s hand and congratulating him in good grace, unlike new Batley East member Yusra Hussain, who refused to accept her rival Paul Halloran’s congratulations and handshake.
Don’t take it personally Paul, that could be for any number of reasons.
I doubt it’s of much consolation to the Batley businessman that his 1,959 votes in Batley West would have been sufficient to win any number of Huddersfield district seats.
He’s probably as irked as many candidates before him – and to come – at the 8,000 or so eligible voters in his ward who couldn’t be bothered dragging their backsides off the sofa to go vote.
I’ve always wondered about the wisdom of making voting a legal requirement. At least if there’s a ‘None of the Above’ option, people could actively dissent – and wouldn’t it be hilarious if that option actually won the count?
As it is, an overall Kirklees Council voting turnout of just 33 per cent shows how disengaged people are from the issues I’ve no doubt they bitch and moan about at home, but can’t muster the enthusiasm to do something about.
We tried to get a comment from Eric Firth, to give him the opportunity to thank his supporters and to show his good grace in public, but he was unavailable.
At least new Councillor Hussain has sent us a letter and I hope she’s good to her word and proves a hard-working representative.
I understand that Eric will be sore at The Press given how we’ve very much been a platform for independent voices like Aleks Lukic and Paul Halloran, while he and his Labour cabal generally prefer to patronise the Reporter Group newspapers, despite them having fewer readers than his election leaflets.
All I can say is that it’s nothing personal; I couldn’t care less about the colour of a politician’s rosette – it’s entirely about holding whoever’s in power to account.
Shabir Pandor was an approachable councillor until he got the top job at Kirklees and now he acts like a demagogue with something to hide.
Does that offend me as a journalist? Yes it does, frankly, and has nothing to do with his party affiliations, instead being all about democracy, transparency and answerability.
Kath Pinnock and Robert Light got the same scrutiny when they ran the council for the Lib Dems and Tories, but they at least engaged with our questions.
For some reason Labour leaders seem to think they’re above that.
PAUL HALLORAN'S frustrations expressed in his letter today weren’t just at the low turn-out but the unarguable Muslim bloc vote that explicitly benefitted Coun Hussain.
I don’t know why people are either surprised or disappointed by this realpolitik.
Communities of people with shared heritage or culture have always voted out of mutual self-interest, the world over; my Irish Catholic ancestors in Daw Green (Westtown) would have come out in force to support one of their own trying to get on the old Dewsbury Borough Council.
Belonging to a mosque is no different (in some ways) than belonging to a trade union, or for that matter a Rotary Club. I doubt you’ll have many Jeremy Corbyn fans down at the local Masonic lodge either.
For sure there isn’t the same explicit three-line whip involved, but the practice of biraderi – making lineage and kinship a priority over something as flimsy as political party affiliation – in south Asian communities is nothing new and won’t be changing in my lifetime.
If all the people complaining about it took a five-minute walk to the polling booth, they could do something about it.
Congratulations to all the victors – now get on with delivering on your promises.
IT SEEMS British summertime fell on an April weekend this year.
At least the glorious Easter bank holiday saw several consecutive days of unseasonably warm and sunny days. I can recall years when summer seems to have fallen on four or five odd Tuesdays and Thursdays, sprinkled between May and September.
Watching the rain turn the back garden into a pond on Tuesday, I was quite hoping it was one of those days when England’s right-on, leftie schoolteachers were encouraging their pupils to take a day off and go protest against climate change.
How sweetly ironic it would be, to see the little socialist Brownshirts-in-waiting getting drenched, frozen, and then having several days off school full of cold, all in the name of protesting against global warming.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in climate change denial and teaching our young people about the need to create more eco-friendly societies has its place in the classroom – certainly more than teaching pre-pubescent children about the minutiae of sexual acts.
But I do rather think it would be more responsible to organise their protests for Saturday or Sundays – or perhaps even during school holidays. I wonder why school staff don’t go down that route...? Not.
It seems perverse that parents are punished and dragged before the courts if they take their children out of school in term time, but it’s okay when the little sweethearts are being indoctrinated and doing the political bidding of their militant teachers.
I RAN out of space in last week’s column, but I wanted to pass on my regards to everyone involved in the Batley Town Hall vigil for the victims of the Sri Lankan massacres.
I understand that Imam Irfan Soni was the driving force behind the cross-community gathering that paid respects to the hundreds who lost their lives at the hands of Islamist suicide bombers. In its way it’s a small gesture, but hugely meaningful in its own way.
Well done, one and all.