YP Comment: Dugher joins Labour exodus. Another one bites the dust

Barnsley MP Michael Dugher is stepping down.

Barnsley MP Michael Dugher is stepping down.

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FIRST Alan Johnson. Now Michael Dugher. What does it say about Labour’s state of disarray that these two experienced and respected MPs have chosen to raise the white flag ahead of the election?

Though Mr Johnson has served Hull West and Hessle faithfully for two decades, and his decision was not entirely unexpected, Mr Dugher’s move is a sad indictment of Jeremy Corbyn’s dismal leadership.

First elected to represent Barnsley East in 2010 before being promoted to Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet, this is a rock solid seat which he could have been expected to serve for a generation.

Not only do his constituents lose a passionate advocate who grew up in a nearby pit village - it is Mr Dugher who has been leading the national campaign against the Government’s cuts to local pharmacies - but it leaves the way open for Labour’s ruling NEC to foist a candidate of its own choosing on the town.

This is unacceptable. Though Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election caught the entire political establishment by surprise, it should not excuse local constituency associations - whether they be Tory or Labour - being circumvented like this.

The 12th Labour MP to quit this week, Mr Dugher said his party needs to be “in touch with working class people and one that can get into government so we can actually do something to really help people”. He clearly feels it isn’t.

That he feels “it’s time now for me to make a difference in life outside of politics” only adds to the sense of inevitability about the outcome of the June 8 election.

For if people like Mr Dugher, 41, are giving up the fight, and shadow housing minister John Healey, the Wentworth and Dearne MP, won’t say whether the Labour leader will feature in his election literature, why should the rest of the country entrust the Opposition on polling day?

Police are not surrogate carers

THE EXTENT to which police officers are becoming surrogate carers to the mentally ill and vulnerable is not a new phenomenon – Halifax MP Holly Lynch, a policeman’s daughter, has been highlighting this issue for months and her experiences tally with the findings of Sir Thomas Winsor, the HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Yet, because of shortcomings in the provision of psychiatric care and such like, it invariably falls to the police to respond to those mentally unstable individuals whose behaviour gives cause for concern – indeed there are instances of those concerned having to spend a night in the cells for their own safety.

Unless the next Government recognises the need to invest in mental health services, police resources will become so stretched by such cases – and also the time spent searching for dementia sufferers who have been reported missing – that they simply won’t have the time to investigate crimes or maintain street patrols.

However a consequence of the early election called unexpectedly by Theresa May this week is that efforts by Ms Lynch to introduce new laws to give added legal protection to the police, and other emergency workers, when they’re physically assaulted will, regrettably, fall by the wayside.

As such, it can only be hoped that the next Government gives an early indication that it will reappraise the specific challenges facing the police, and ensure that they receive far greater support from those agencies tasked with protecting the mentally ill, so patients no longer suffer the indignity of being passed from the proverbial pillar to post.

Buck-passing again

THERE is nothing wrong with Harrogate Council, or any other local authority, reviewing how they deliver services to the public – every well-run business looks to make efficiencies on an annual basis. What is less encouraging is the borough’s desire to spend £70,000 of public money on external consultants – who presumably don’t know the area, issues or priorities – to make intended savings of £880,000.

Not only will this buck-passing, if approved, reflect poorly on the calibre of council’s existing management and leadership, but it adds to the £72m that Yorkshire town halls have already spent on outside expertise over the past five years. Given the spending constraints facing local government, it beggars belief that Harrogate – or any other council for that matter – cannot acquire the necessary advice from respected experts employed by other authorities such as North Yorkshire. Just think how far this £70,000 could go if spent more wisely by the powers-that-be.

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