In a year’s time the General Election campaign will be in full swing across the North. So it’s crunch time for people hoping to be candidates. Each selection has its own little dramas particularly in those constituencies that carry a job for life because of their large majorities.
So as you enjoy your Easter eggs and hot cross buns, I thought I would look at a few of the interesting choices facing party activists before they present their candidates to you the voters.
We must start in the Ribble Valley where Nigel Evans wants to continue being the MP after the next election following the conclusion of his court case.
He seems to have the support of the chairman of the Ribble Valley Conservatives, constituents speak of his hard work and a number of MPs spoke up for him at his trial.
Now he needs to get the Conservative whip restored at Westminster, be readopted as the Conservative candidate and then win the election. All these things are likely to happen but you always have to be cautious in politics. What people say publicly and privately can be two different things. Nigel Evans will certainly be a less trusting man following his recent experience.
So let’s wait and see if the Tory Whips, Conservative Association and then the voters do support Mr Evans.
Meanwhile the acquittal of Evans has raised a number of issues, not least for Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s Chief in the North West. No shrinking violet he has been the subject of a full personal profile on the BBC and has been dubbed a “witch finder general” in his fearless pursuit of celebrities who may or may not be guilty of serious sex crimes. There is a perception that the police and prosecuting authorities are trying to make up for past failures in relation to people like Jimmy Savile.
It is certainly true that life can never be the same again for people arrested for sexual offences. A later acquittal can be small consolation when accused people have had to give up key posts because their reputations have immediately been damaged. In Nigel Evans case he stood down as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.
Perhaps this is the price we pay for allowing people who have suffered in silence to finally come forward. Perhaps anonymity for accuser and accused is the answer.
Evans has called for consideration to be given to a time limit for historic offences. That wouldn’t be the right thing to do.
EUAN BLAIR AND JOE BENTON.
Some MPs just don’t know when to call it a day. Apparently Manchester Gorton MP Gerald Kaufman intends to be in parliament when he is 90. Not far behind would be Bootle’s Joe Benton. The 81 year old wants to carry on but I understand four local branches have given him his marching orders.
Speculation is rife that Euan Blair, the 29 year old son of Tony Blair, is eyeing up the seat along with Peter Dowd, the leader of Sefton Council and ally of Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson.
A lot of nonsense is talked about the undesirability of political dynasties with Jack Straw’s son Will contesting Rossendale and Neil Kinnock’s son Stephen contesting Aberavon. It is perfectly normal for our kids to be inspired by what we do and politicians are no different. The sons and daughters of famous parents sometimes find it harder, not easier, to succeed.
MARIE AND KATE.
From my remarks about Kaufman and Benton above, you may form the view that I am against people of mature years being in the Commons. On the contrary, I am delighted that 66 year old Marie Rimmer has been chosen to succeed Shaun Woodward in St Helens South and 57 year old Kate Hollern to be Labour’s standard bearer in Blackburn.
Both women have led their local authorities well and will bring badly needed life experiences and maturity to the House of Commons.