Yorkshire-born MP Austin Mitchell will be the first speaker at this year’s Examiner Literary Luncheon on Tuesday, October 6. He spoke to Hilarie Stelfox about his new Grand Book of Yorkshire Humour
AUSTIN MITCHELL is one of this country’s longest serving MPs and well known for his sense of humour and the way he turns a phrase.
He has always been a writer, he says, and can’t put a figure on the number of books that bear his name.
But piled up together – for our photograph – they form a snapshot of his life, from a book about New Zealand, where he worked as an academic and lecturer in political science, and his many political volumes through to a study of Yorkshire fishermen and a whole collection of works on humour.
A Yorkshireman to the core, he was born in Baildon, worked for Yorkshire Television and, since 1977 has represented a Yorkshire constituency for Labour. The Mitchell family has been based in Calderdale since 1972, spending their time moving between homes in Sowerby, Grimsby (he is MP for Great Grimsby) and London.
His latest book, Austin Mitchell’s Grand Book of Yorkshire Humour, is a light-hearted collection of anecdotes and jokes in Yorkshire dialect.
“I have written a lot of books,’’ says Austin, “alternating between serious history, politics and humour.
“Some of them are very boring,’’ he says, with a self-deprecating smile.
But his readers do not find his humour in the least bit boring. And he himself is fascinated by Yorkshire humour.
A collector of Yorkshire dialect books and a member of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, he shares the view of many that the days of traditional dialects are numbered.
“What’s happening is that communities are breaking down and people are much more mobile than they were.
“Our kids were brought up in Halifax and Grimsby but they all live in London now,’’ said Austin, who has two daughters from his first marriage and a son and daughter with his wife Linda McDougall, a fellow journalist and writer.
Because of this he says it is largely the older generation who appreciate his humorous books.
“Yorkshire humour reflects a harder way of life that older people can remember. They appreciate the jokes. When I worked for YTV we had a Yorkshire jokes competition and we were flooded out with entries,’’ he said.
As an MP Austin is an accomplished political speaker but he promises to deliver plenty of Yorkshire humour and jokes at our literary luncheon.
He says: “No other county, country or continent has so much wit and wisdom. They revolve around the absolute basics of death, disease, defeats at cricket, diarrhoea, debt, depression and the dole.’’
If you’d like a last-minute ticket for the event at the Galpharm Stadium – a few are still available – either call at our customer reception office in Queen Street South or telephone 01484 430000. Tickets are £25 and include a three-course meal with coffee. Our other speakers are former schools inspector Gervase Phinn; chick lit writer Lucy-Anne Holmes; science-fiction and detective author Malcolm Rose, and Lynne Green, biographer of potter David Roberts.
The lunch starts at noon and will end with a book signing.