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Julie Kirkbride: She longed to be an MP... but the dream fell apart

FEW Halifax politicians get the type of media exposure Halifax's Julie Kirkbride has faced in recent days.

But few are as glamorous or foolhardy to think that if they took advantage of a deeply flawed system of allowances that they wouldn't eventually be found out. The 48-year-old MP for Bromsgrove fought to save her political skin but was forced to fall on her sword like her husband, Andrew MacKay, who will step down as the MP for Bracknell at the next General Election.

It is all a long way from the days when Julie, who was born in 1960, played with her brother and sister on the streets at Woodside View, Boothtown.

Her father, Henry Raymond Kirkbride, was a driver for British Road Services, but tragically died when Julie was only seven.

Her mother, Barbara, formerly Bancroft, was a secretary at the Rowntree Mackintosh factory in Halifax, now owned by Nestl.

She moved to Cirencester in 1995.

Julie attended the former Sunnyside Infants and Boothtown Junior Schools, just yards from her home.

In the 1970s, she went to the former Highlands Grammar School, now North Halifax Grammar, at Holmfield.

When she made her maiden speech in the Commons in July 1997, she was keen to praise her deputy head teacher, Stephen O'Brien and her history teacher, Alice Chapman, who had helped her to gain a place at Girton College, Cambridge.

She said then: "It is a first-class school and does absolute wonders for the children, many of whom are from ordinary backgrounds and some of whom come from what might be described as under-priviliged backgrounds.

"It teaches them to believe in themselves and to improve academically and socially."

In 1981, she was awarded an MA in Economics and History.

While Julie was following an academic path, her sister Karen was working a general clerk at the Halifax Building Society in Commercial Street.

Someone who worked with her at the time remembers her as a bright and bubbly girl.

Now known as Karen Leadley, she does part-time secretarial work for her big sister, despite living in Dorset – 140 miles from the Bromsgrove constituency – and for which she has been paid 12,000 from the public purse.

"It might appear strange, but it was an arrangement that worked incredibly well," she said.

From 1981-2, Julie worked as a journalist for the Parliamentary weekly House Magazine, and when she was 22, and living at Stonecliffe, Savile Park, she won a scholarship to study at the School of Journalism at the University of California.

She was sponsored by the Rotary Club Foundation Scheme and was described to Halifax Rotary Club as an outstanding student.

Julie's brother, Ian, had been in America since 1976 and when Julie was there, he was a research worker at Stanford University, in California.

Ian, too, has been drawn in to the MPs' allowances debacle with claims that Julie used taxpayers' money to fund a 50,000 extension to her constituency flat so that he could live there.

And despite her insisting the taxpayer faced no extra costs over Ian staying rent-free in her constituency home, the arrangement added an extra 250 a month to her expenses claims.

Julie was a researcher for Yorkshire Television from 1983-6, then a producer for BBC News and Current Affairs from 1986-9, then worked as a producer at the ITN Parliamentary Unit from 1989-92.

She was the political correspondent of the Daily Telegraph from 1992-6 and social affairs editor of the Sunday Telegraph from 1996 until 1997.

She was engaged to Conservative MP Stephen Milligan before his death by auto-erotic asphyxiation in 1994. In August 1997, Julie married Andrew MacKay and they have a young son, Angus.

Last year Julie was guest speaker at the Courier Business Awards.

She was Conservative spokesman on Culture, Media and Sport from 2003 to 2004 but was replaced in a reshuffle by the then leader Michael Howard.

In November 2006, it was revealed she had previously undisclosed links with the Midlands Industrial Council, which donated millions to the Tory Party.

Julie told the Courier in 2004: "I always wanted to be an MP, even as a young girl growing up in Halifax."

As she prepares for her 49th birthday next week, Julie's dreams of future political success have been shattered in a way few could have imagined just weeks ago.

Key dates Born at Boothtown, Halifax, on June 5, 1960

Went to Cambridge, 1978

Became TV researcher in 1983

Elected to Westminster in 1997

Shadow Sports Minister, 2003/4

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Julie Kirkbride to stand down at next election

It teaches them to believe in themselves and to improve academically and socially.”

In 1981, she was awarded an MA in Economics and History.

While Julie was following an academic path, her sister Karen was working a general clerk at the Halifax Building Society in Commercial Street.

Someone who worked with her at the time remembers her as a bright and bubbly girl.

Now known as Karen Leadley, she does part-time secretarial work for her big sister, despite living in Dorset – 140 miles from the Bromsgrove constituency – and for which she has been paid 12,000 from the public purse.

“It might appear strange, but it was an arrangement that worked incredibly well,” she said.

From 1981-2, Julie worked as a journalist for the Parliamentary weekly House Magazine, and when she was 22, and living at Stonecliffe, Savile Park, she won a scholarship to study at the School of Journalism at the University of California.

She was sponsored by the Rotary Club Foundation Scheme and was described to Halifax Rotary Club as an outstanding student.

Julie’s brother, Ian, had been in America since 1976 and when Julie was there, he was a research worker at Stanford University, in California.

Ian, too, has been drawn in to the MPs’ allowances debacle with claims that Julie used taxpayers’ money to fund a 50,000 extension to her constituency flat so that he could live there.

And despite her insisting the taxpayer faced no extra costs over Ian staying rent-free in her constituency home, the arrangement added an extra 250 a month to her expenses claims.

Julie was a researcher for Yorkshire Television from 1983-6, then a producer for BBC News and Current Affairs from 1986-9, then worked as a producer at the ITN Parliamentary Unit from 1989-92.

She was the political correspondent of the Daily Telegraph from 1992-6 and social affairs editor of the Sunday Telegraph from 1996 until 1997.

She was engaged to Conservative MP Stephen Milligan before his death by auto-erotic asphyxiation in 1994. In August 1997, Julie married Andrew MacKay and they have a young son, Angus.

Last year Julie was guest speaker at the Courier Business Awards.

She was Conservative spokesman on Culture, Media and Sport from 2003 to 2004 but was replaced in a reshuffle by the then leader Michael Howard.

In November 2006, it was revealed she had previously undisclosed links with the Midlands Industrial Council, which donated millions to the Tory Party.

Julie told the Courier in 2004: “I always wanted to be an MP, even as a young girl growing up in Halifax.”

As she prepares for her 49th birthday next week, Julie’s dreams of future political success have been shattered in a way few could have imagined just weeks ago.

 
 
 

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