Shock as deputy leader is ousted

A CAREER in politics spanning five decades came to a sudden halt when Calderdale Council's deputy Conservative leader, John Ford, was dumped by the electors in Skircoat ward.

Victory for veteran Tory Richard Marshall in Luddenden Foot by the narrowest of margins meant the result had little overall effect on the make-up of the council but it left many Tories severely winded and worried about their own futures.

It is the first time the Conservatives have lost a seat in Skircoat ward, a point not lost on Mr Ford who has represented the area since 1980.

"I have fought every election since 1968 and it is very disappointing after all the years but sometimes you win and sometimes it doesn't go your way.

"On this occasion, the Liberal Democrats put everything into the ward and I wasn't helped by the plan to charge for parking permits," he said.

Mr Ford won his first election in 1968, at the age of 23, when he became a representative for Southowram on the former Halifax Town Council.

In 1979 he was within 455 votes of becoming the Tory MP for Halifax.

Last night's Skircoat victor, Stephen Gow, who came within nine votes of winning the seat last year, said: "I have been working hard with an old fashioned campaign – going door-to-door speaking to people – and one of the main issues was to do with parking permits, which I have still to make up my mind about."

Conservative leader of the council, Ann McAllister (Rastrick), said she was stunned at the Skircoat result.

She was re-elected as group leader and Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) is the new deputy.

Labour councillor Bryan Smith kept his seat in Ovenden despite pressure from the British National Party.

But the ward turnout, at just over 15 per cent, was a record low in Calderdale Council elections.

"The clear message is voters don't like BNP policies but I am sure they will try again," he said.

Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan said politicians on all sides needed to do more canvassing in her old ward and push the message that votes count.

She said one of the main issues was the plan to shake up secondary schools in north Halifax.

The Labour group, which gained a seat in Illingworth and Mixenden, was meeting today to appoint a leader and deputy.

The chairman of the Calderdale Labour Party, Barry Collins, who won in Mixenden and Illingworth, said: "Against all the odds, we have enjoyed another brilliant result – the only party to gain a seat on the council and another blow to the BNP," he said.

The Liberal Democrats, who continue to hold 16 seats, will elect a leader on Wednesday.