Barnsley by-election preview

barnsleyThe Barnsley Central parliamentary by-election will be held on March 3rd 2011, following the imprisonment of former Labour MP and expenses fraudster Eric Illsley.

This is traditionally an ultra-safe Labour constituency, held for more than thirty years by Roy (now Lord) Mason, who is now approaching his 87th birthday and is remembered with respect by many people across the political spectrum for his determined opposition to the IRA when Northern Ireland Secretary from 1976 to 1979.

In more recent years the Labour Party in Barnsley has done nothing to earn our respect.  As in so many other once proud symbols of England’s industrial power, Barnsley has been allowed to decline, with many workers consigned to a life on benefits or in minimum wage jobs.  There are more than 7,000 households on Barnsley’s housing waiting list, and at current rates of building it would take more than five years merely to clear this backlog.

Not a problem of course for the man who was Barnsley Central’s MP until a few weeks ago.  Eric Illsley had a second home funded by the taxpayer – but he wasn’t satisfied even with this and made inflated fraudulent claims for council tax, service charges, telephone bills and maintenance costs.

That’s why Mr Illsley’s taxpayer-funded accommodation for the next twelve months will be in rather less salubrious surroundings as a guest of Her Majesty!

The Barnsley Main colliery closed in 1991

The Barnsley Main colliery closed in 1991

Meanwhile Barnsley’s voters will almost certainly opt for another Labour MP, as they have since 1935.  This time Labour’s candidate is Dan Jarvis, a veteran of the Parachute Regiment who served in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.  He has yet to explain to voters whether he agrees with the Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair who sent him and his colleagues into an illegal invasion of Iraq, or with his current party leader Ed Miliband who opportunistically repudiates that policy.

With Labour victory all but guaranteed, most interest will focus on the performance of two nationalist parties.  The English Democrats are fielding local man Kevin Riddiough, and will hope for a much better result than their lost deposit at the previous parliamentary by-election in Oldham East & Saddleworth.  While the English Democrats have never had a candidate here before, their best ever election result was less than twenty miles away in Doncaster, where they won the Mayoral election in 2009.

Meanwhile the BNP candidate Enis Dalton will hoping to build on the 8.9% result achieved by local organiser Ian Sutton in Barnsley Central at last year’s General Election, and the 16.7% polled across Barnsley by the BNP’s European election slate, headed by Andrew Brons in 2009.

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