By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
LABOUR in Kirklees may not have enough candidates to fight local elections in May.
That’s the view of a party insider, who says Labour members want answers over the General Election “stuffing” in the two months before polling day on May 7.
But Labour group leader Coun Shabir Pandor has sought to assuage concerns with a bullish rebuttal.
“We have never struggled to find candidates,” he said. “We are not going to be in a position where nobody is going to stand in a ward.”
Seats in all 23 Kirklees wards are up for grabs this year. Town hall insiders say the Conservatives, fired up after trouncing Labour in the General Election, are hoping to make as many as six gains.
And among the seats they are targeting is Coun Pandor’s ward of Batley West.
A Labour member who spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service criticised the Labour Party Local Campaign Forum (LCF), which is in charge of running council candidate selections for the local elections.
Asking to remain anonymous, they said they had been “left stunned at the state of the Labour Party not just in Huddersfield but in the whole of Kirklees”.
They said: “We feel pretty fed-up after December. We got quite a stuffing.
“However there’s always another election and we’re looking forward to May. But from the way we’re going we don’t have the numbers to stand. There aren’t enough people putting themselves forward and there are going to be wards where potentially we don’t have any candidates.”
They added: “There needs to be some steer from the LCF. That’s what it’s there for. We are a few months away from the elections and they are still shrugging their shoulders and scratching their heads.
“Members are wanting answers but they are not getting them.”
Alongside Coun Pandor, other senior Labour figures are up for election this year. They include Cabinet members Graham Turner and Naheed Mather, and chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, Steve Hall (Heckmondwike).
Coun Pandor described the Labour group as “pretty upbeat” and flatly denied it faced a shortage of candidates.
He said the General Election campaign had led to the temporary postponement of candidate selection and that all parties faced the same delay.
He said: “We always field candidates in every single ward. We are not finding it a problem.”
Asked to address the risk of Labour losing its majority he said: “I take the elections very seriously. I’m not complacent. I don’t take anything for granted. But we always fight for ordinary folk and do the best we can.”
The Lib Dems’ Kath Pinnock (Cleckheaton), a veteran councillor and former council leader, said there was “a general weariness” among politicians following the tussle over Brexit and multiple elections.
She commented: “Labour know they have a hard fight on in the elections in May and that they might lose. I know they always struggle to find people to fight Cleckheaton.
“That’s part and parcel of finding it difficult to find candidates because people know they don’t have a chance (in some wards).
“After the General Election the Tories will have a headwind behind them. But from what I’m picking up the cloud of Brexit has disappeared and voters are looking much more at local issues.”