How Independent is an Independent Candidate for Hebden Royd Town Council?
Posted by Pete Keal,
Comment was made during the recent Hebden Royd Town Council elections that there were an unusual number of so-called Independent candidates standing. In Cragg Vale Ward, we had an independent candidate called Joanna Spencer - she's now been elected as a town councillor. She produced an election leaflet which was hard to disagree with and at the same time was somewhat thin on policy. On the back page was a questionnaire, which on reflection reminded me of Liberal Democrat Focus questionnaires I've seen in the past. What is interesting is that according to the List of Persons nominated for Cragg Vale Ward, Joanna lives at the same address as Liberal Democrat candidate for Cragg Vale John Beacroft-Mitchell. Indeed John nominated our Joanna as a Candidate for the election and in return, she nominated him! The Liberal Democrat election leaflet for Cragg Vale explains that John lives in the Cragg Vale Ward with his wife Jo. Surely this cannot be the same person as Independent candidate Joanna Spencer?
Something similar seems to have been going on in Caldene Ward. The candidates there were 3 Independents and one locally well known Liberal Democrat - Christine Bampton-Smith. One of the Independents was nominated by a fairly prominent local Labour party member. The other two were nominated by somebody called Jane F.L. Brown. Can this possibly be the same person as Calderdale Liberal Democrat Councillor Jane Brown? One of the candidates Jane nominated was the current Deputy Mayor of the Town Council - Mrs Leone Murty. In her leaflet, Mrs Murty was honest enough to tell us that she had the pleasure of being Deputy Mayor to Councillor Christine Bampton-Smith for the past twelve months.
The same cannot be said for the other Independent candidate that Jane Brown nominated - one Dr Michael Alfred Smith. Now, Dr Smith just happens to live at the same address as Christine Bampton-Smith; indeed they are rumoured to be married to each other! A somewhat glaring omission from Dr Smith's election leaflet is the fact that he is the Consort to the Mayor of the Town Council (his wife!), but then again, that might have rather given the game away.
There are curious similarities in the layout of Mrs Murty's and Mr Smith's election leaflets and both candidates end their leaflets with the claim that a vote for them is a vote for common sense. Mr Smith's leaflet also urged people to vote for candidates who live in Caldene ward. This Independent Candidate, who claims he will vote on the merits of each issue brought before council, wouldn't really have been urging people to vote for his Liberal Democrat wife would he?
While this isn't quite the stuff to call for ballots to be re-run, I think we really do need to know whether these Independent Councillors are really Independent or whether they are actually card carrying members of the Liberal Democrat Party? If they are the latter, it would have been more honest if they had made this clear on their nomination papers and in their election publicity.
The Lib Dems election leaflet referred to Your Liberal Democrat Led Town Council. Does this mean that the Liberal Democrats were the majority grouping on the Town Council prior to the recent elections? Or does it mean that they led the Council together with a number of Liberal Democrat leaning Independents? In the elections, Liberal Democrats won six of the Town Council's eighteen seats. Six other candidates describing themselves as Independent were also elected. A majority grouping on the Town council would need ten seats. Will there be enough not so independent Independents to enable the Lib Dems to justify continuing to describe our Town Council as Liberal Democrat led?
Posted by Joanna Spencer,
First of all can I thank Pete Keal for his kind comments about my leaflet. He asks some valid questions which I think deserve some explanation and clarification.
Firstly as to my identity. I am indeed married to Cllr John Beacroft-Mitchell of the Liberal Democrats, which explains the fact that we share the same address. However, I'm afraid the conspiracy theorists will find the explanation for my sudden change of surname rather mundane. The fact of the matter is, John and I got married only 6 months ago and I had forgotten to change my details with the electoral registrar - as I only decided to stand for council a short period before nomination forms had to be in I was therefore left with no choice than to stand under my maiden name - an oversight which I can assure you will be rectified shortly as this use of two names is as confusing for me as it is for everyone else !
Secondly as to my independence. My husband is, and always has been a Liberal Democrat, he believes furvently and passionately in their policies and world view and I love and respect him for it. On the other hand - I do not 'do' party politics, particularly at local level, LOCAL government to me should be about local individuals acting in the best interests of their local area, and the colour of a persons 'banner', as far as I am concerned ought to be irrelevant. This is an opinion which I have often expressed to my husband (often fairly loudly !) and it was one such conversation which led my husband to eventually stamp his feet and say 'well if you care about it that much why don't you stand and do something about it' so here I am.
I cannot speak for other candidates who are married to Lib Dem councillors but I can assure Mr Keal and everyone who voted for me that I will be acting according to my own opinions and those expressed by the people in my ward on individual issues - this may mean that I occasionally agree with my husband (probably to his great surprise !) and it may mean that I agree with Labour, Green or other independents - all I can say is that I will stand for what the people of Cragg Vale tell me they want, and what I believe to be right, no matter what anyone else tells me.
Thirdly, I agree with Mr Keal that my leaflet was a little policy light - again there is a simple explanation. I am completely new to this political stuff and I'm just finding my feet - I have some strong views on what needs improving in our lovely corner of the world, but as yet I don't know enough about 'the system' to be able to say exactly how I will put those views into action, all I can assure those who voted for me is, that as I learn I will work constantly on the issues which concern them, yes I did 'borrow' the idea for the questionnaire on my leaflet from the similar one on the Liberal Democrat literature, because I thought it was a good way to find out what people expect of me. I am also going to post my email address on Hebweb and Mytholmroydnet, and if anyone has any issues which they would like me to look into I will be more than happy to do so, I'm actually looking forward to it !
So thank you to Mr Keal for giving me this opportunity to clarify matters, I can assure everyone who voted for me that I will be doing my best to represent you and I will vote according to your views, not the views of any particular 'gang', What you will never get from me is any finger pointing or name calling just because someone wears a different colour badge, we all live in this community and we should all get on with improving it, regardless of our individual likes and dislikes.
Posted by Rebecca Yorke,
I write in support of Pete Keal's letter regarding the alleged political leanings of several of the Independent candidates in the recent local elections.
In the weeks leading up to the election, I too became increasingly frustrated by the number of Independent candidates who had been proposed and seconded by prominent members of the Liberal Democratic Party. Perhaps our local Lib-Dems were aware that the electorate of Hebden Royd was becoming tired of their complacency and ineffectiveness and decided that the Independent route was a more secure way of winning seats? I only hope that those so-called Independents who were elected will be more direct and honest in their role as Councillors and representatives of the people of Hebden Royd.
I was also disappointed by the coverage of the election by our local paper. While several column inches were devoted to the success of Lib-Dem Michael Elder who, thanks to a disputed ballot paper and the luck of the draw, clinched the third seat in Birchcliffe ward (after two Labour candidates), the paper failed to highlight the fact that three additional Labour Party representatives have joined re-elected Councillor Stewart Brown on the Council.
Of course, as the wife of one of these newly-elected Labour Councillors, I am bound to be biased - but at least I have the honesty to admit it.