PLONK. The Labour Party’s Colne Valley newsletter drops on my doormat.
Like a child on Christmas morning I rush to the door to pick up this four-page propaganda sheet, eager to see the distortions which lie within. I was not to be disappointed.
You might assume that the Labour Party in the Colne Valley has no need to indulge in the dark arts of spin to get its message across. After all, these are good times for the party locally.
For those of you not familiar with the politics of the Colne Valley, allow me to explain.
Just 18 months ago the Lib Dems held all six of the area’s seats on Kirklees Council. The Colne Valley was as yellow as a bowl of banana custard sitting on the bonnet of a New York taxi.
But many of the party’s voters round these parts didn’t take too kindly to Nick Clegg going into government with the Tories.
In stepped Labour. At this year’s Kirklees election the party came from a distant second to win in the Golcar ward (which includes Milnsbridge and Cowlersley).
Up the road in the Colne Valley ward (Slawit, Marsden and Linthwaite) it was the Tories who took a seat from the Lib Dems. But Labour were the big gainers, surging through from a distant third to a strong second, just 100 votes short of a stunning victory.
With two more Lib Dems up for re-election next year and another couple facing the voters in 2014, in a few years the Colne Valley might be as red as the face of a sunburned alcoholic after a particularly long jog.
What news then from our soon-to-be overlords? Well, the Labour Rose autumn edition contains the kind of grassroots campaigning you would expect: “Let’s get rid of that broken phone box at Crimble”, “someone should sort out those steps at Marsden Railway Station” etc.
But it was the section on the NHS which jumped off the page as I read it at the weekend.
The newsletter informed me that Labour wants to see “the full range of maternity services restored to Huddersfield.”
As the leaflet correctly notes, the closure of consultant-led services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary caused great distress in the area.
“Local women have struggled to get to Calderdale Hospital in time for their baby’s birth. It is not just the extra miles to Halifax. It’s also that in busy periods traffic gets seriously grid-locked on the road to the hospital, putting at risk both mother and child.”
Apart from adding a couple of commas, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Many people in the Colne Valley – and the Holme Valley and Huddersfield – bitterly resent the closure of the consultant-led service at HRI which could endanger mothers and their unborn children every day of the year.
I say this, not to disparage the dedicated hospital staff at either Huddersfield or Halifax, but to note the fact that forcing pregnant women to travel further to give birth inevitably increases the risk of a tragic ending.
But who was to blame for downgrading HRI’s maternity provision?
Funnily enough, Labour Rose is a little vague on this issue, noting that Huddersfield ‘lost’ its consultant-led service in 2008.
I love the use of the term ‘lost’ in this context, as if the town mislaid its maternity provision in a moment of absent-mindedness. Perhaps Huddersfield will ‘find’ its consultant-led service again sometime soon.
The truth, as everyone including Labour knows, is that the town’s maternity provision was downgraded by the hospital trust which runs Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. It was not lost by accident, it was taken away by design.
And who was ultimately responsible for this closure?
Labour Rose fails to mention which party was in Government when the service was ‘lost’ in 2008.
Which party had the power to save maternity provision but didn’t? I do believe it was Labour.
Yet, just three years later, the party has the nerve to try to win votes by tapping into lingering anger over the closure.
I almost admire Labour’s bare-faced cheek in choosing to campaign on this of all issues.
This is no mild put-down – it’s a full-on, finger-in-the-chest, look-you-in-the-eye, question-your-parentage insult to the intelligence.
The party actually thinks that the people of the Colne Valley, like goldfish, will forget who was in Government all of three years ago.
Such contempt for the electorate is a wonder to behold.