Voting, York Central: a quandary

Election leaflets, 2015

As previously mentioned, it seems important to write about the forthcoming elections. In particular, about the election of a new MP for York Central. We already know that it won’t be Hugh Bayley, as he’s standing down after many years as our (Labour) MP. And this, I realised some months back, has left me with quite a quandary. Perhaps I’m not alone in this. In fact I know I’m not, from talking to friends about it.

The consequence of a long period of thought on all of this is that I think I won’t be voting Labour in York Central. This might not seem particularly shocking news, but I’m quite troubled by it, as I’ve voted Labour in every general election since I was first old enough to vote, in 1987.

It all seemed very simple then. It isn’t now.

One of the questions I’ve been pondering recently, thinking about the forthcoming election, is whether it would seem simple now, if I was 19 now, if one of the political parties would speak to me so clearly and seem like an obvious choice.

But I’m not 19, I’m in my forties, and I’ve seen and lived through Conservative governments and Labour governments and the present government. And have seen Prime Ministers come and go, and somehow they seem less and less interesting, and more and more often I find myself turning off the radio when the Prime Ministers and party leaders are speaking. The adversarial bickering on party lines becomes more and more tedious. And many other aspects seem baffling and alienating. For example …

I was baffled and troubled when I heard that York’s Labour candidate was to be selected from an all-women shortlist. It has felt difficult to admit that, as I am a woman myself, and – it seems important to point out my feminist credentials/feminist awareness – have a shelf full of books on feminism and gender studies, including a copy of The Female Eunuch bought when I was fifteen. But that was thirty years ago, and things have changed a lot. Dividing things on gender seems odd, these days. A bit 1980s/1990s. When I look around I see many powerful and influential women, and I’m not convinced we ladies needed this ‘assistance’. It seemed really strange to me, in 2015, to force an all-women shortlist here in York for the candidate to replace Hugh Bayley.

And with all other things considered too? I’m certainly not an expert but I would imagine that the Labour vote will decrease dramatically anyway because many voted for Hugh Bayley in particular, as a local MP with a long track record of serving the city in that role? So to then limit the choice of his potential successor by removing half the population from consideration based merely on gender – I found it totally baffling.

So the selection process brought in Rachael Maskell, someone most of us had absolutely no knowledge of, and Labour voters like me are expected to vote for her. We’re expected to vote for her presumably because of a) a devotion to the Labour Party and its principles b) because she’s passionate about saving the NHS. And she certainly is passionate about the NHS, I’ve seen her speak about it, and she’s very impressive.

I’m afraid I don’t think I can vote for her, and I’m sad about this. But it’s not 1987, or 1992, or 1997, or all the other elections I’ve voted in where I’ve put my cross in that box next to Labour. It’s much more complicated now, to me, to many of us.

I had a leaflet through the door, as many people reading this will have, from Rachael Maskell – or rather, from the Labour Party, promoting Rachael Maskell. It included one of those sections that’s supposed to look like a personal message from the candidate. It referred to ‘our great city’.

I don’t want to sound like one of those ‘You’ve got to have been born in York and have family links stretching back 500 years at least to be able to be a proper York person’ commentators, but this phrase was very jarring. As I understand it Rachael Maskell has lived in York for about six months. If I moved to another city and almost immediately tried to lay claim to some kind of understanding of it, to the extent of claiming to represent it, and having a handle on ‘we’ and ‘our’ with its residents, I’d expect the residents to find that a bit weird. And I did.

This city – our great city – has changed so much. In some ways, in some areas, it’s barely recognisable, and many residents don’t feel like they’re part of it any more in the way they used to be. This needs addressing. Cultural shifts and other changes are inevitable, and some of it is good. In other ways I see half the place being left behind. Should our York Central MP have an understanding of place and represent its people? Or should I just be thinking along the Lab/Con lines of old and therefore just vote Labour. Sorry, I can’t. It’s more complicated than that.

Election leaflets, 2015

Party politics always seemed tedious, and now as I get older it seems even more so. Strange and contrived and stage-managed and essentially dull, all those confrontational adversarial goings-on as part of the election campaign. But I do have faith in our democratic processes, and I’ll always go to the polling station and do my best to make an informed choice. And everything I’ve seen is sending me towards putting my cross in a different box this time. I’m not happy about it but I feel that, all things considered, I’ve been left with no choice.

I saw most of the prospective parliamentary candidates speak at a pub hustings at The Volunteer Arms, near Holgate Bridge, last week. This tended to confirm what I was already thinking, and have been for months, that this time in York Central I would vote for either Nick Love (LibDem) or Jonathan Taylor (Green). Probably Nick Love.

It was an excellent event, well-attended. The Volunteer Arms is a pub I’ve never been to before, a really nice place, I’d recommend a visit one of these fine spring or summer evenings when all this election stress is over.

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  1. Unfortunately the LibDems supported their coalition partners in voting through the Health & Social Care Act (and much other nasty legislation like the Bedroom Tax) which has made a complete bollocks of the NHS and cost a fortune. As a party they also support the Transatlantic Tade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as Hugh Bayley also did against what is now the Party line – this is not a trade treaty but an attempt by multinational big business to make a mockery of democracy and much else.

    Think globally act locally!

  2. Sadly the Lib Dem lies that Nick Love’s been feeding the electorate don’t quite stick. The new Labour candidate’s never lived in London, as far as I’m aware, and the All Women Shortlist, although controversial, was decided upon by the local party. It wasn’t forced down on them.

    In other shocking news, he doesn’t stand a chance, because even if he took a hefty chunk of the Labour vote, the Tories would still win, if Labour don’t. He’s on 10% at the moment. And the Tory candidate really is flown in. But it is nice that he’s helping out his coalition partners.

    The reason All Women Shortlists exist is that often parties will inherently choose men over women, regardless of ability. The fact that we live in a patriarchal society means that it simply isn’t a level playing field unless those structures are put in place. There’s a reason we’ve never had a female MP in York before.

  3. Nigel Ayre
  4. This is a very poor attempt at muckraking. It’s not suprising that:

    – The Local Labour Party selects a person that is not from York. Hugh Bailey was a councillor in Camden and after very a short time at York University was selected as a PPC in 1987. Unfortunalty their are many MP’s (from all parties) that are not “from” or have links to their selected constituency.

    – The Labour Party decided that after having a male MP serve the constituancy for 23 years the next selected should be a woman.

    – The selected candidate for the Labour Party is a high ranking UNITE official that has strong interests in protecting the integrity of the NHS.

    – That you are not going to vote Labour.

  5. stephen

    When voting,consider these mistakes,before chosing the same again.

    Food Banks/Bedroom Tax/Private Railway
    Subsidy/Electric,Gas, Water in
    Wrong Hands/800 Unelected
    Lords on £300/Day Benefit
    MP Expenses/Fractured UK/
    Unsavoury Banking/
    privatising our stuff/
    National Debt/
    etc etc etc

  6. I am also in a quandary about who to vote for in the General/local elections, i can’t vote for Danny Myers (not right that he was falsely represented as a “Clifton business man” , he continues to evade the question of exactly what his and Kate Pilling’s business is. Also, a private business couple describing themselves as “Unite the Union Campaigners”?(since been removed from twitter account, And Pilling removed herself from twitter rather than answer 3 questions from Gwen , 1, how long in York. 2, what does she do for work? 3, what is her Unite connection.) As a member of Unite myself in the workplace, this just doesn’t add up…

    So my quandary, do i vote Ken King local?
    AND no idea for second vote had no info from Tories, so possibly Lib Dems

    And its Tory/Lib Dem or UKIP….. just still undecided now :(


  7. I’ve voted Lib Dem in the past but I could never do so again. It’s not just that they provided lobby fodder for some brutal changes to the welfare system pushed through with little debate, changes that even Thatcher felt were too inhumane to countenance. It’s also that they stayed silent. They stayed silent while the poorest and most vulnerable in society were castigated, demonised and dehumanised. Apart from a few brave and principled souls like Andrew George (who I’d vote for without hesitation) they said nothing. There was a majority in the commons to stop them if they’d stood by the principles on which they were elected. But they didn’t.

    I wonder if Nick Love would have spoken up for those people ? He’s not said so far. Neither has he condemned the welfare changes that have resulted in countless desperate situations like this ;

    The UK suicide rate has risen year on year over the past five years. It’s not difficult to work out why. I notice that Nick Love makes a great play at some of his local campaigning work on mental health at the same time his party was demonising people too ill to work.

    I wondered this time about voting Green. But a letter in today’s Guardian signed by a number of professors of Social Policy including Nick Ellison of the University Of York clarified things for me. I really, really fear what those extra 12bn of promised welfare cuts that another Tory/LibDem would mean. We’re losing our humanity and the Lib Dems provide the cover.

    Attitude surveys over the past five years have shown a society that is growing less caring, less willing to share, less willing to want to help people who are struggling. Disability charities report more and more people being spat at, abused and told they’re skivers.

    All due to the welfare changes that Nick Love’s party supported.

    I’ve no illusions about the Labour Party but another five years of the current regime is chilling. I don’t care where Rachael Maskell is from, her gender or what union supports her. All I know is that she’d be extremely unlikely to support further attacks on the most vulnerable, including those in York (who we hear so little about). I’m not too sure about Nick Love.

  8. Hi Martyn

    I suspect you have not attended any or enough of the many York Central hustings to hear me speak on the NHS. You would have heard me disprove most if not all of your statements about me.

    If you want to know about how the Lib Dems have punched above our weight in trying to get the very best for the NHS and the sincerity of our concern for its future you would do well to watch this very good NHS debate courtesy of The Guardian at which Norman Lamb was not vilified by NHS professionals but rather listened to with respect and praised for what he has tried to achieve.

  9. Nick

    I don’t doubt your sincerity but my other half is a senior mental health worker and within the bounds of confidentiality I hear enough about the real effect of the welfare changes to know what’s really happening.

    Norman Lamb has made a lot of good noises about mental health but it’s meaningless if you don’t address the causes. My other half and her colleagues are having to ameliorate some profound social dislocation being based in one of the poorest estates in Leeds. It’s terrifying how we are losing even the most basic level of support for people in desperate conditions.

    How can people expect to get better if their poverty isn’t addressed. Your party has supported some brutal attacks on poor people

    I want to know whether you would support further cuts to the benefit system or whether you would try and finesse them away with warm words and rhetoric like your colleagues ?

    You’ve made no firm promises.

  10. Thanks for all the comments above. We now know of course that Rachael Maskell was successful, and I’m pleased that York has a Labour MP, and wish her all the best in this role.

    I assume (hope) that Mats’ comment above, in its reference to ‘muckraking’, meant the external link posted in these comments, rather to the page content above. If my piece had been an attempt at muckraking it would, I agree, have been a very poor one. But it wasn’t, it was a series of thoughts, from a personal point of view, on the campaign.

    I’d been very interested to read an earlier article, some months back, in York Mix: and I think Richard Bridge expresses clearly one of the things I was trying to articulate, the wish for “a working-class candidate who could cut through prevailing political apathy and regain the trust of many politically disenfranchised and disenchanted people within the city.”

    Feelings about the LibDems and their recent record were clear in the above comments and in the election results. I have to say that I remember some troubling things happening when Labour were in power, that essentially I have no great faith in any political party, and on this occasion decided I’d vote for the person, based on what I heard them say, rather than the party.

    Much more could be said, but perhaps another time. Thanks again for your comments.

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