We should never give up our democratic principles
Letter of the Week: Garry Kitchin, Batley
I write as the only local candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election.
The campaign ends soon, and by the early hours of Friday October 21 we will know the result.
The votes haven’t been counted, so we don’t know for sure, but it would be the biggest political shock in living memory if Labour didn’t win by a huge margin.
My concern is the lack of a competitive democratic contest. By-elections are won by spending a lot of money and having lots of foot soldiers on the ground.
You could add up the people hours available and money spent by the nine non-Labour candidates, and I suspect it would not even be 10 per cent of that available to the Labour Party.
To try to balance the situation, I and other candidates contacted the Labour campaign to try to arrange a hustings, but I received no response to the request.
This prevented the people of Batley and Spen from hearing all the candidates respond to voters’ questions fairly.
I don’t blame Labour because the current situation was created by the other mainstream parties wishing to gift the seat to Labour.
At the time I was an officer of the North Kirklees Green Party that within 24 hours of Jo Cox’s death was subject to heavy pressure from the national party to not stand a candidate, and from the national press demanding a quick decision. We were all raw from the shock of Jo’s death, and quite frankly being pushed for a decision was indecently hasty.
We would have preferred to have mourned Jo, and allowed her to be buried prior to making a decision. I know the other parties faced the same pressures.
Giving one party a free run following the murder of a sitting candidate is clear breach of established conventions. A constituency votes for the person, not the party, and on every previous occasion a sitting MP has been murdered in the last 90 years, a full contest has occurred.
A deceased MP’s mandate does not carry on to the next candidate of the same party. Given this democatic deficit, it’s quite obvious the void would be filled by other candidates.
It is unfortunate that a number of far-right extremist candidates, none of whom are connected to the area, have taken their chance.
These people seek only to bring division to Batley and Spen, something the community I am proud to live in does not need.
Thankfully, the tragedy that struck Jo Cox is a very rare type of incident. I can only hope that this type of incident never happens again.
Also, I hope the mainstream parties that did not stand think very hard about their well-meant gesture, and realise that if they shortcut clear and well understood democratic principles, there can be terrible unintended consequences.
Holding firmly onto our democratic principles is vital, and we should never give them up.
Who am I left to vote for?
From: Linda Harrison, Birstall
I have received my postal vote for the forthcoming by-election and I am not amused at the options I have to choose from.
It may have seemed the respectful thing to do at the time when the Conservatives, Lib Dems and UKIP agreed not to field any candidates, but where’s the respect for the voters?
I don’t and won’t be voting Labour, so what am I left with?
Well, to me the obvious solution is to vote for a candidate that actually lives in the constituency.
Just how many are there? One! Garry Kitchin is from Batley and standing as an independent candidate so he should at least know the area and its problems, hence he is getting my vote.
What annoys me is that anyone thought it was fair or respectful to the constituents to let someone have an easy ride into the vacant seat.
I have no personal issues with Tracy Brabin, only that she does not represent my views.
So those who do not want to vote Labour have been left with a mish-mash of candidates to choose from.
Well, maybe a Batley lad representing his home town wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.
But please remember one fact that so often seems to be overlooked. Birstall may not be included in the official constituency name, but our votes do count and we don’t forgive or forget easily.
Museum needs a covenant
From Alex West, Dewsbury
How sad that Dewsbury Museum is scheduled to be closed.
If this is inevitable and the building is sold, then a covenant must be put in place that the building cannot be used as either a mosque or an Asian banqueting suite.
There are enough of these in town already. That building, in its iconic setting, must be preserved for the use of all members of the community.
I’ve only got two options
From: Ian Fitton, via email
Whilst we all condemn the abhorrent, cowardly and despicable attack which sadly cost Jo Cox her life, I feel that the decision by the main political parties not to field candidates in the upcoming by-election is totally wrong.
Although I admired Jo Cox for her commitment, passion and hard work for her constituents and her various causes I did not agree with her political doctrine.
By not standing, the main parties have robbed me of a choice of a viable alternative to the Corbynite Labour Party and also raise the profile of the extreme elements by giving them a platform far larger than they deserve.
They have left me with the choice between the extremists from both ends of the political landscape or the one-issue independents.
Surely as a champion of democracy and rights of ordinary people, Jo Cox would not wish a shoo-in of an MP as her lasting legacy, rather a fair contest with all major parties taking part.
I feel my only option is to either spoil my paper or for the first time in my life, not take part in this election.
New scheme is troubling
From: Mr Wood, ‘Annoyed Pensioner’, via email
I have just received a directive from NHS Kirklees telling me that I can no longer order my repeat prescription through a local pharmacy as my practice, Calder View Surgery, has been instructed to only accept prescription requests “directly from patients only”.
If I have a computer I can nominate a pharmacy and have my prescription sent electronically to them.
Thereby saving me ringing up and doing exactly the same thing I do now on the phone.
Or I can get on the bus, go down to the surgery and put my prescription in a wooden box to be emptied at the end of the day.
Then I can go to the surgery in a couple of days’ time and pick up my new prescription, if it is ready, and take it to the chemist next door for filling while I wait.
If I am lucky enough to still own a car I can repeat all the above and use a gallon of petrol going round and round the inadequate car park looking for a space.
I will still end up with the items on my prescription that I require after the doctor has checked they are necessary, but only after a great deal of trouble to get them.
The present system has one phonecall and one delivery.
Does the NHS North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group have so little to do, that to save them money, they put patients through unnecessary hoops spending their own money to save a few pills locally?
Or is this a ploy to shift my medical information to a readily accessible electronic form?
Cost-effective cuts to NHS
From: Christine Hyde, Dewsbury
At the North Kirklees CCG ‘engagement’ last Wednesday, participants thought about spending NHS money.
One question getting 54 per cent of the vote was that the NHS should only provide treatment that is cost-effective.
No-one asked what ‘cost-effective’ meant. It means the lack of NHS dentistry in Dewsbury and Bradford will spread to other places.
Everyone in West Yorkshire, even Denby Dale, travels to Leeds for A&E other than stroke victims who maybe go to Pinderfields.
In addition we’ll travel anywhere in our CCG area for a GP appointment, eg Cleckheaton to Mirfield.
People with rare conditions are not ‘cost effective’ to treat so are likely to be refused.
Why? In excess of 10 profit-making companies work in the North Kirklees and Huddersfield NHS.
Why are their healthy shareholders more entitled to NHS revenue, than patients for treatment?
Why should profit-driven management consultancies make decisions for the NHS? Be careful what you vote for.
New boss is different
From: David Honeybell, Heckmondwike
I attended the Mid Yorks. Hospitals NHS Trust (MYHNHST) Annual General Meeting at Dewsbury District Hospital.
There was a good turnout of local people, who like myself, wanted to know what the plans were for the future of the area covered by the MYHNHST, and in particular, the future of DDH.
The meeting was chaired by Dr David Kelly, a GP in Heckmondwike, and also the chairman of North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group. (NKCCG).
Both the MYHNHST chief executive officer Martin Barkley and chairman Jules Preston gave their reports, highlighting in their opinion events that had been successful in the last year.
It was a shame more of the public didn’t ask questions, but at least, they were there, unlike any of the candidates in the upcoming by-election in Batley and Spen, or indeed any of the North Kirklees councillors.
I apologise to any of them who did attend, but they must have been very quiet to have gone unnoticed all evening.
Martin Barkley is a very different CEO to the previous one, Stephen Eames.
Martin actually listens to other board members and never cuts them off half-way through a sentence if he doesn't agree with their point of view.
The board is now democratic, as opposed to the autocratic way Eames did things. Indeed, North Korean president, Kim Jong Un could learn a thing or two from Stephen Eames about autocracy.
Banks are vital to high streets
From: John Appleyard, Liversedge
I listened to a very interesting edition of BBC Radio Four’s ‘Money Box’ recently, which asked the question “do we need high street banks”?
More than half have closed over the past 25 years in the UK, with over 600 closing in 2015.
Speakers from small businesses said dealing over the counter in the local bank is essential to them.
Bank closures mean having to drive to the next nearest one, which could be a few miles away, finding a car park, carrying heavy money which could be a 5-10 minute walk to the bank.
Banks in town centres are vital, their closure effects the footfall of other businesses in the area.
Post Offices are closing down and the ones that are open only offer a limited range of services.
Critics say there is an increase in telephone and internet banking, but a number of people, particularly the elderly, feel vulnerable to scammers and would prefer to speak to a human being where they can feel safe and secure.
The Money Box programme invited representatives from all the main banks to take part and answer questions, but they all declined.
Between rock and hard place
From: R Spreadbury, Liversedge
The UK is really caught between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand we have America so keen to keep us in Europe because with our “special relationship” they can have backdoor influence and insight into the very heart of the EU.
This greatly benefits their push for free trade globalisation dominated by their corporations, who pay minimal tax and syphon income back to the USA.
It works well for them, Apple has £250 billion in the bank.
On the other hand we have Germany who desperately wants to cling to the failed EU mafia state which it both economically and politically dominates.
Perhaps the answer is to forge trade deals with Russia, Vietnam, Iran, N Korea etc.