Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A letter to my dead father...why I am voting liberal democrat tomorrow.

Dear Dad,

I think I need to explain publically why tomorrow Thursday 3rd May 2012 you are going to turn in your grave, as I your only daughter am going to VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT in the local elections.
You brought me up in a fairly left wing working class household; my roots have always been deeply embedded in the ethos of socialism, unions and the labour party and that’s all thanks to you. And although you wouldn’t have said anything I know you would be deeply hurt even now if I betrayed those guiding principles that you have brought to my life, from childhood to now entering my middle years aged 50 and a grandma. (you would be so proud she is called Melody and has curly hair like me)
But I now have to put those feelings aside, because if you lived where I do dad, you wouldn’t vote labour either. I am very fortunate,  I live where I do by choice, and if I decided  to could  up sticks and move pretty much anywhere I fancied within reason. I have a good job, decent income and only myself to really worry about.  I don’t even think as yet I am in what the “labour party” call the “squeezed middle”, I probably spend more a week on coffee and lunch that many families in my area have to exist on in a week.  But every day in East End Park in Inner East Leeds I witness poverty, deprivation and despair! And the thing is when I naively voted in the past two local elections for labour candidates it was with the belief and optimism that they would fight for change and improvement, not allow my community to fall further into decline. Oh how I got that one wrong, big style............
You would be pleased to know that I am as you always taught me to be, active in the community in which I live. In the past four years I have attended every local community forum meeting and every Inner East Area Committee. Which is more than any of our current or past councillors can say! And watching and participating in those meetings has opened my eyes wide to the lies and lengths the two existing labour councillors Ron Grahame & Asghar Khan will go to, to keep the labour party happy, toe the party line and not give a toss about their constituents or understand the effect their collective actions will have on the ordinary people of Burmantofts and Richmond Hill.

You were a fireman dad, a Fire Brigades Union member and very proud to be one – so I shall start by explaining why I won’t vote labour because of way Ron and Asghar treated my local fire fighters.

In October 2011 I read the fire authority’s business case for the closure of Gipton and Stanks fire stations resulting in the loss of 24 full time posts and massive cuts in cover and provision. It stank (no pun intended) to high heaven so I got in touch with the Fire Brigades Union and asked their opinion. It was clear that the decisions made by WYFRA were calculated on the basis of reducing costs and not on the saving of lives and property. Cllr Grahame and Khan met with the FBU and by happy accident I attended that meeting. They both swore blind they would oppose the cuts and indeed the labour controlled inner East Area committee vigorously opposed the cuts in provision too.  But when D day came – Ron who was a WYFRA member came casually up to the FBU guys, said “ I have been whipped” and didn’t even have the decency  to abstain. You might be shocked to hear Dad that the conservatives congratulated COVEN on the thoroughness and quality of their opposition document, but Labour never even said Thank You or Well Done and then the labour controlled authority voted through the closure of 10 stations plus 100 job losses of front line fire fighters, and you as well as me know that it is these blokes who actually do the work saving lives and property and it’s a hard and dirty job.  
Actually Dad I did give Ron Grahame the full and frank benefit of my opinion in the foyer of the training school afterwards for which of course I am now paying the price. It’s a topic for another blog but these local politicians and their cronies really sink to some amazingly dirty depths to keep their overrated egos afloat!  
So that’s the first reason – the second is planning.   My local pub in LS9  – the Spring Close Tavern was subject to a planning application to be knocked down and turned into 13 flats. This would have resulted in a payment by the developer of £22,000  to Leeds City Council of Section 106 money, it’s sort of reparation for lost facilities.  Some would call it a financial incentive, I prefer the B word myself but as I am currently subject to an allegation of defamation (I will tell you more about that in the next entry).  So 13 flats divided by £22k is £1692 per unit.  Just across the road from my local – which fortunately is still standing and serving gin and tonics btw, a property developer has bought a local church and is to be allowed to knock the majority of it down, build 176 flats and can you guess how much  106 money they are to pay............................... NOTHING. This planning application was recently extended by the labour controlled plans panel east and they didn’t even query why no money was requested. By my reckoning labour have lost  about £300k for my area.
I go to a fair few plans panels and further up York Road – near Colton Village (v posh) a housing development was rejected because the 106 money offered was insufficient.  They wanted £1.7 MILLION for a development of only 86 houses.  The developer offered much less and the application was refused. Plans panel east again, labour controlled has the same councillors for both areas – and they treat us so differently – it’s a crime.  If you do read this blog take a look a bit further back at how the council  sold a beautiful grade 2 listed building to a property developer called Jason Butler for  £17,000 when it was worth at least £300,000.

And finally the third reason I am voting liberal tomorrow. And this is the main reason.................. several years ago the liberal /conservative council decided that they needed a solution to getting rid of the city’s waste instead of landfill. It’s not environmentally friendly and cost are going up all the time.  By 2010 it was becoming very clear to us that the solution that was going to be chosen as an alternative was incineration.  Burning waste is wrong on so many levels and I wont bother you with the technical details but ALL of the COMMUNITY was adamantly against it. Ron Grahame was elected and ousted the liberals on an anti incineration ticket. All of the labour councillors on the inner east were against it. Cllr Graham Hyde even HELPED US SET UP No2 INCINERATOR. And in 2011 Asghar Khan assured us all loudly in both in public and private meetings that he was avidly against incineration as a method of waste disposal. When in 2011 labour took control of the council one of their first tasks was to continue backing incineration, and they have even had the audacity to propose building the monstrosity less than 200 metres from housing and a local park. The liberal councillor RALPH PRYKE proposed a vote to allow a referendum so the citizens of Leeds could have a say in the proposed method of waste disposal – labour voted against this and our two labour councillors did  not have the courage to vote against their party and with their constituents. They committed the ultimate act of betrayal and left the council chamber.  I like you dad, prefer my politicians with spines.
Ralph Pryke has a spine – he regularly gets insulted and berated in meetings by the labour lot. He even tried to get a scrutiny panel to review the community consultation  saying it was inadequate. I attended that and spoke on my communities behalf. What did I get for my trouble? Well Cllr Mick Lyons (labour as you may have guessed by now) is threatening me via a posh London solicitor with legal proceedings for defamation......... see reference above to the depths they will sink to.  Labour will ruin my already damaged and poverty ridden community but a local councillor will pursue a local community campaigner via the courts because she basically spoke passionately in her communities defence at a meeting. No members of the public were there, or press – just lots of labour councillors feigning outrage and shock. Actually dad I called myself a community political prostitute in the same sentence and they didn’t even raise an eyebrow.

You will be probably disappointed to read that although being 50 I am still inside that hot headed, bad tempered 23 yr old I was when you died. And (pardon my language) Cllr Lyons can do what the fuck he likes, because even the poorest most deprived member of my community has more idea of what reality is than he does.   And if the sad bloke gets his kicks from intimidating middle aged ladies, well bring it on.
Actually dad and I know that you won’t understand a word of this having died when pocket calculators were still the size of house bricks........... but I have a secret. There is one thing politicians are terrified of. It’s called social media......... websites, blogs, twitter, and face book to be precise. It gives power and influence to the masses and it scares them witless. Labour might win Burmantofts and Richmond Hill tomorrow, Cllr Lyons may sue my arse off for every penny I haven’t got, but the price they will pay for their sad and silly ways will be much higher. Seems there is nothing a politician values higher than their reputation. But without votes from people like me - they are nothing.

Anyway  - hope you are OK ( wherever you are) ,  and sorry for not getting in touch sooner. Love to Mum and Paul

Your loving daughter



  1. Sarah,

    I really liked this post and thought it was very moving.

    I understand completely your disgust at the way these Labour councillors have behaved and continue to behave. They are by no means the exception to the rule, and in fact are a fairly good example of the party as a whole.

    However, whilst totally understanding your choice not to vote Labour (a choice millions are making,) out of the whole post there are just two sentences which explains why you are, instead, choosing to vote Lib Dem. ("Ralph Pryke has a spine – he regularly gets insulted and berated in meetings by the labour lot. He even tried to get a scrutiny panel to review the community consultation saying it was inadequate.")

    I'm sure you have other reasons but I can't believe that you really have true faith in Ralph Pryke, let alone his party - which has pursued cuts and attacks on the working class at an unheard of rate, alongside their Tory bedfellows.

    At the moment, so many people across the country are feeling like you. They want a party that stands up for working-class people against the ravages of the Con-Dem government. They have totally lost faith in the Labour Party (with, as you show so well, good reason.)

    This is the perfect time to build an alternative. In the same way that the Labour Party was created to supposedly be a working-class party, we now need to create a GENUINELY working-class party. There are many initiatives across the country that are involved in this as we speak. Not only are they doing the day-to-day work on the ground, fighting the cuts as you yourself do, but they are also trying to use that action to bring people together into a united force.

    Just last weekend, there was a national meeting in London to discuss the building of an Anti-Capitalist Initiative nationally, linking up and building on the many local groups that are already fighting on the ground.

    I know that Leeds has many activists pursuing these aims, and the support of somebody like yourself would be invaluable. It's not a quick fix, and it's only the beginning. But it is the only route to a true solution to the working-class' problems, in East End Park, and across the country.


  2. I agree with you entirely and i was going to stand as an independent BUT we were concerned about splitting the vote and labour getting in.

    Ralph and i know the measure of each other - this time last year i was trying to get him repremand by the standards board. But for now he will do and we have two years to build a strong opposition to Labour. Thanks for responding and please send this post as far and wide as you can. Not because of Ralph but because i need Mick Lyons to be outed as the bully he is.

  3. HI Sarah, I totally agree with you. I, myself, although a long time Labour supporter and Ex FBU rep won't be voting Labour either. They have shown repeatedly that they are no better than the Greed mongering Tories. Unfortunately I can't bring myself to vote for the "Wishy Washy" Lib's either. I see you called yourself a "prostitute" (not in its entirety), but my opinion is that they are no better, they have shown that they will jump in bed with anybody for a price! I don't have much choice left, so will be voting for the English National Party (Oh no I hear you cry) This is only as a protest and I hope that they do not actually get elected (or do I?). I can empathize with "Sedition", The Labour party need to be reborn, to re-represent the working classes. I was proud when my Union voted to withdraw funding for the Labour party several years ago, this is a lesson that all union members should tell their leadership! On a final note, against my better judgment, I will also be voting in the referendum for an elected mayor. If only to see if the said elected person can do a better job (And reduce the number of expense claiming councilors!)

    1. Good for you Hooch, seeing Hyde ousted would certainly cause a stir.

    2. Graham Hyde is an asset to our area and works hard

  4. I am very lucky in my ward to have a Labour Councillor who works for the people and while I understand his party nationally is confused and without focus I still count as a member of a community he serves well. The main problem will be getting people to turn out at all. My polling station has had 5 people up to now we will never change things if we waste a vote. Maybe if your local politicians served the people who elected them instead of putting so much energy challenging you and coven every time they make a a statement they might just reconnect with the local people which is after all what they are supposed to do

  5. The labour party in your area are not only guilty of letting down the community but also the firemen and women who risk there lives everyday. What makes it worse is they stand up and tell you all publicly they will vote one way and clearly vote another or in case of incinerator just clearly walk out and of this they are all guilty not just Cllr Khan

  6. It appears that people today are so disinterested and disconnected from politics at all levels. This is a very worrying trend because for democracy to work properly both the politicians and the electorate have to participate fully. It seems that unlike ancient Rome whose people were kept happy with bread and circuses our population is kept quiecent with reality TV, celebrity culture and tabloid news.
    You have only to travel on a bus, stand in a queue in the supermarket or join a group at the schoolgates to hear people complaining about everday issues that materially affect their lives but if you suggest that they get involved, attend meetings, lobby the people in power and put across their point of
    view you can see them backing away. For some reason moaning is more to their taste than rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in - yes the system is very unfair, yes it needs fixing, yes modern politicians, of all parties, are out of touch with their core supporters but where is their motivation to change to come from if we just let them get on with it and don't try to force them to change?
    GO OUT AND VOTE show the politicians that you are in control not them.

  7. I agree, being a community activist is like being a goldfish repeatedly hurled into a bowl of piranhas. But when you succeed the feeling of elation is beyond compare. The day COVEN heard we had successfully overturned the conversion of two back to backs to flats was amazing, we followed it up by ensuring via scrutiny panel that the same bloke did not get a council contract for housing and the icing on the cake was again getting the same person (Jason Gary Butler) forced to put a temporary roof on the old library on York Road.

    Ordinary people can change the world, its about sheer bloody mindedness and persistence. I am known in many circles as "that woman" and wear it like my FBU badge with immense pride - cos if they called me "only Sarah" i would have most likely failed.

    i am lucky in having supportive colleagues in COVEN who fight alongside me, wipe my tears away when i am upset, celebrate when we win and most importantly of all when i am wrong say " i told you so" - then smile and say "what's next?"

    And the next few months are going to be a very rough ride for COVEN several people and organisations have marked our card quite clearly including the labour party, but together COVEN will will persist and battle through. And hopefully fingers crossed little by little things will change.

    It only takes one grain of sand to turn an oyster into a valuable pearl. And COVEN are six dedicated individuals who can and will stand up and be counted.

  8. there is an alternative.....and i'm not talking about any ring wing trash either, spoil your ballot paper thats the ONLY way to register your anger at the main parties....sorry sarah, i can't ever, EVER vote tory or lib dem.....

  9. forgot to say, never, ever vote for an elected mayor....look what happened in Doncaster. people can't be bothered to vote on a general election for their PM what chances have you got getting them off the settee to vote for some obscure person wanting to be's playing right into the hands of the right wing groups

  10. Saw your comment and please do let me and all of us you know in Harehills Socialist Workers know about your situation.

    I understand why you do this but I agree with not to rely on the Liberal Democrats any more than Labour. Best thing is to rely on your self and rest of COVEN being your own campaigning force to try and get any change for the better.

    I am setting up a Leeds public meeting for New Climate Jobs and I hope that can start or contribute to (like Bez's Anti-Capitalist thing) a process (even a movement) of people fighting for themselves and their communities to ensure they have a future.

    I have emailed details to Sarah already but will also share among COVEN.

    Its on Tuesday 15 May and at Leeds Broadcasting place starting at 7:00pm

  11. Thanks Simon - i am not ignoring you but life aint too great at the mo - i will send you an email to explain. As it stands tonight i feel like a small goat tied to a tree as bait waiting for a bloody big crocodile to come and snap me up. I am praying that somebody his hiding behind the tree with a huge shotgun.......... and its crock sarnies for tea.

  12. The Green Party has been consistently against the incinerator. We believe in people before profit. It can take a lot of work to make people consider not voting labour, libdem or tory.

    For instance our two green councillors tried to reduce councillor allowances, the only Leeds party to do so.

    All the best, and yes we will carry on fighting against the incinerator.

    1. You need to be better at publicising your stuff. I have never seen any of your publicity and i live in EEP. And cllr blackburn was there when i allegedly defamed Lyons. What does he think of all this?

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