Small ads

Election debate now cancelled

From Sue Mee

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

How disappointing that we won’t be able to quiz our candidates on 30 January. I do wonder whether it was wise to cancel as my guess is that Steph Booth won’t show her face in Hebden this side of the election. I may be wrong but why get a Labour Party employee to phone through apologies? Perhaps Jason would re-consider along with the other candidates. The Labour party could always put up someone else on the night.

From Chris Reason

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Let’s face it, Steph Booth was inept at the last debate. I’m not remotely surprised she’s ducking out now. Why not just carry on without her? The world won’t fall in. And who in Hebden would consider voting for her anyway?

From Jason Elliott

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

According to Matthew Baker, Steph Booth’s campaign manager, the main reason for her not wanting to participate in any debate I organised was my bias, and that they "don’t want a repeat of the Big Green Weekend farce". To quote: "Although you strongly object to my view that you are politically biased you have said nothing to convince me otherwise. Your close connections to a site that is actively campaigning against Steph in Heb Web, your Twitter comments about your own campaigning against people in the Labour Party and general feedback from a number of sources rightly sets alarm bells ringing."

The irony, of course, is that I had decided to chair this debate myself precisely because Steph had been given such a rough ride at the Big Green Debate and intended to run it firmly, (with no booing or hissing).

I had made it quite clear from the beginning that on this occasion there were to be no questions of a personal nature and only on policy, (although under normal circumstances, voters would be entitled to expect the right to examine the personalities on offer) precisely to protect Steph from any of the lingering bad feeling resulting from the deselection of Janet Oosthuysen.

Mr Baker also attempted to rope my daughter into this fiasco with comments about the photograph of her with John Prescott as proof of my anti-Labour bias.

Maybe my "well known political allegiances" that caused him to decry my impartiality as a moderator would be my visible and vocal support in the Hebweb forum of John Rhodes, the trade unionist Labour candidate at the Hebden Royd bye-election. Or would it be my support of Chris McCafferty when the expenses scandal was embroiling those in Westminster? Maybe it could be that I posted "Go Greens" on my twitter feed at the time of the European elections when they were in with the slight chance of scraping into a seat at the expense of the BNP? Could it be my support of the hard-working Liberal Mayor of Hebden Royd, John Beacroft-Mitchell, well documented here?

At this point I must confess to publicly "tweeting" my horror at the idea of Tony Blair becoming President of Europe.

Considering all of the above, and that I have never made a derrogatory remark about Steph Booth thusfar, the only person who should feel at all entitled to question my impartiality is the Conservative candidate, Craig Whittaker.

The reality of the situation is that Steph needs to engage with the people that she wants to represent and this, in Hebden Bridge, will mean coming out and speaking to them whether she likes it or not.

As the campaign unfolds, the Booth camp may yet realise that Mr Baker’s successful efforts to scupper this debate constitute an error of judgement resulting in the possible alienation of a large chunk of the local electorate and the frittering away of Chris McCafferty’s legacy.

I could be wrong of course…

From Cllr Janet Battye

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

That’s a real shame ! I wasn’t able to get to the session during the Big Green Weekend but I went to a question time in Tod during the European Elections and was really impressed by the quality of debate between all the candidates.

These events give us a really good, live opportunity of being directly involved with the General Election and it’ll be a really pity if it doesn’t happen in the end. I do hope that Steph Booth reconsiders …

From Anne H

Thursday, 14 January 2010

I’m not surprised Steph Booth isn’t returning after the way she was treated last time - mainly by members of her own party. I thought it was appalling - very rude and just plain nasty. If I’d gone along to the BGW debate with the intention of voting Labour at the next election (which I didn’t) I would have been put off not so much by the things she said but by the behaviour of other local Labour party members. She probably stumbled and was unclear because she was feeling intimidated as well as suffering back pain on the day.

But I don’t agree with Chris Reason that nobody in Hebden will vote for her. A lot of people still vote for the party not the individual candidate. So the outcome will probably have more to do with what Gordon Brown does in the run up to the election than with Steph Booth.

Then there’s always the ‘well, they are better than the other lot’ vote.

From Ian Appleby

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Sorry, Anne, but if Steph Booth can’t cope with antagonism from within her own party, what’s going to happen when she encounters the opposition?

I’d agree that we do need a change from the macho political culture in this country, and that having more female MPs would be likely to help change things for the better. But Steph Booth wasn’t the only choice.

If she was preferred over locally active politicians like Susan Press or Janet Oosthuysen, then surely she must have scintillating qualities? So why is she hiding them under such a comprehensive bushel?

The only conclusion I can draw is that she feels a sense of entitlement to the seat through her family connections, and won’t condescend to actually meeting her potential supporters. It’s not a good look.

From Graham Barker

Friday, 15 January 2010

Whether or not we vote for a party and ignore the fact that its candidate is unfit for purpose will depend on how willing we are to insult our own intelligence.

From Jacob Jones

Friday, 15 January 2010

As a relative newcomer to the area I have been amazed at the disarray within the local Labour party.

How is it that somebody that has publically poured scorn over their party leader (see Guardian article) gets parachuted in.

I agree with Ian that she must feel a powerful sense of entitlement to be so unwilling to engage with the voters

I found this passage revealing!: "We applied to come to conference and it was all going swimmingly until we had to give our names," she said.

"Then we kept ringing up about it and they said they would get back to us but they never did. In the end I mentioned to Tony that we weren’t going to be able to go because we couldn’t get accreditation.

"He couldn’t believe it. ‘You’re joking?’ he said. Then he called some people, who called some people and eventually we got our passes, but we only got the ok about 10 days ago.

"Of course, in previous years we were part of the [leader’s] family so we never had to queue up and always got a good seat."

Shame she wont have such an easy ride this time!

From John Rhodes

Friday, 15 January 2010

Of course there is a local Labour backlash against Steph Booth. The Labour Party leadership trampled all over the local party to get her selected and disgracefully defamed a thoroughly decent woman in the process. I resigned in protest at that and the underlying democratic deficit that permitted that sort of behaviour. The only letter Labour Party HQ replied to was the instruction to my bank to cancel my direct debit; all other letters were ignored.

It is a measure of their arrogance that they believe they can return Steph Booth without engaging with voters in Hebden Bridge. Their real ignorance of the local scene is betrayed by their stated belief that Jason Elliot would demonstrate bias. I’m pleased that Jason has been straightforward enough to expose the rubbish about competing appointments.

Looks like those of us who intend to engage with our candidates will have to travel to Brighouse to see Steph Booth.

From Kate Sweeny

Friday, 15 January 2010

I too am very disappointed about the cancellation of the debate. I suggested we go ahead without Steph, but since Labour is the party in government this wouldn’t have made much sense. I don’t know Jason very well, but my impression is that he was sincere in wanting a fair, civilised debate.

However… don’t despair folks! I’m in the process of writing to the HBT to ask Steph to commit to another debate in the Upper Valley. It wouldn’t surprise me if the other candidates did something similar.

It should be said that a small number of people did behave badly towards Steph at the Big Green Debate, and I said at the time that I found this unacceptable. In the short term we Greens may benefit from Labour’s travails, but the long-term effect may be to turn more people away from the democratic process, and no-one will benefit from that! Except maybe the BNP…

From Margaret Boyle

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I am at a loss to understand the role of the Labour Party’s campaign manager in all this. Faced with a candidate unwilling to face her electorate because some of them might be nasty to her, should he not have either organised some training in public speaking and told her that the best public speakers relish heckling and can turn it to their advantage or suggested that she toughen up and grow extra skin because this is the House of Commons she wants to get into, not the Brownies?

We surely have a right to see how those who wish to represent us conduct themselves and where they stand on the big issues. It is bizarre that the Labour Party doesn’t want it’s candidate to face the electorate, but if the other candidates are still free, I think Jason should go ahead with the meeting. Who knows they may have a last minute change of mind and if not they could follow the example of Have I Got News For You when Roy Hattersley failed to turn up and put a tub of lard (or some SB themed object) in place of the missing candidate.

From Jason Elliott

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Thank you everyone for your comments and support.

The reason I didn’t press on with the debate using a Hatterslyesque prop (and it should be noted that like Margaret, a vast number of people have suggested to me that this should have been my course of action) is that my reason for holding it in the first place was to create an open forum where residents could actually find out what the candidates stood for, and what the fundamental differences between the parties were.

Whatever Steph Booth’s motives for not wishing to participate were, to have gone ahead without the Labour candidate would not have allowed those differences to have been aired in a public forum.

It has also been suggested that another Labour party representative (of her choice) could have been used as a stand-in, but, imagine this, if Craig Whittaker had said he couldn’t make it due to recently discovered personal committments, and that he was sending another Yorkshire Conservative called Billy Hague, this end of the valley would have been up in arms crying foul.

The hard truth is that without all of the candidates a full, fair and equal debate was impossible to hold.

However, there is a debate, organised by Churches Together, between all of the candidates in Lightcliffe on Tuesday 2nd February 2010 at 7.30 p.m. at Lightcliffe C. of E. Primary School.

Adding a little spice into the mix will be the prescence of an independent, former Calderdale Mayor, Chris O’Connor.

So, on the positive side, I have spoken to the organisers, and they are very happy to welcome Upper Valley residents to the audience. As a result of these conversations, I have gone ahead and ordered a 55 seater coach to take people, at no charge, from outside Ken’s Kabin, opposite Hebden Bridge Memorial Gardens, to and from the debate.

The bus will leave at 6.30pm and, if anyone would like a seat, they will need to email me with COACH as the subject line and the names and contact numbers of those people they want seats for.

I acknowledge that this is no substitute for a real debate here, after all, 55 seats isn’t really very many compared to those who would have gone Riverside School, but I’m afraid it’s the best I can come up with under the circumstances…

Please put the word out to non-Hebweb readers too. It would be good to see a broader cross-section of the area as possible represented.

Thanks for bearing with me.