Tom's seat stays with Labour

LABOUR councillors were celebrating today after Judy Gannon won the Illingworth and Mixenden by-election.

It means the party retains the seat left vacant by the sudden death before Christmas of long- standing councillor Tom McElroy.

A BNP win would have given the party control of all three seats in the ward.

Councillor Gannon said no one would have wanted an election to take place in such circumstances.

"If I can be only half as effective as Tom has been over the years, Mixenden and Illingworth will have a good councillor," she said.

She polled 1,104 votes, just 70 more than her nearest rival, BNP candidate Thomas Bates.

Labour spokesman Barry Collins said: "It was a fantastic result for us – a midwinter by-election against a difficult national background.

"Perhaps the people of Illingworth and Mixenden are finally turning their backs on the BNP's politics of hatred and division."

Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan said the voters had shown they didn't want the BNP in Halifax.

Councillor Gannon, of Kebroyd Avenue, Triangle, was previously a councillor in Sowerby Bridge from 1982 until 1990 and Ryburn from 1995 until 1999. She recently took early retirement and is now secretary of the Calder-dale Well Women Centre.

While the vote between Labour and the BNP was close there was a quite a gap to Conservative candidate John Hardy, of Bell Hall View, Savile Park, Halifax, who polled polled 525 votes.

Michael Elder, of Hangingroyd Lane, Hebden Bridge, attracted 150 for the Liberal Democrats and Independant Sean Loftus, of Woodbrook Close, Mixenden, got 68. There were 1,102 postal votes cast and the overall turnout in the election was 31.7 per cent.

The political make-up of Calderdale Council is now Conservatives 19 seats, Liberal Democrats 16, Labour 10, Independents three, British National Party two and English Democrats one.

Despite some over-optimistic talk by Tories of a strong challenge, most observers had seen the by-election all along as an extremely close two-horse race between Labour and BNP.

The BNP mounted its first serious challenge in Calderdale when Adrian Marsden won a by-election in the former Mixenden ward, in January 2003.

His victory, by the narrowest of margins – 28 votes – made him the first BNP councillor in Yorkshire and only the fifth in the country.

Stephen Pearson won back the seat against all the odds for the Liberal Democrats at the annual council elections in May of that year.

But at the same election Richard Mulhall went on to snatch the neighbouring seat of Illingworth for the BNP with a 56 vote majority over Labour.

It was the far right group's only success but by contesting eight of the 18 seats on the council, it showed that they meant business.

The untimely death of Coun Pearson, in 2003 thrust his widow, Jennifer, into the political spotlight and she successfully fought a by-election in Mixenden for the Liberal Democrats in October.

But two months later in a shock move, Coun Geoffrey Wallace (Illingworth) quit the Tories and joined the BNP.


Illingworth and Mixenden

Judy Gannon (Lab) 1,104

Thomas Bates (BNP) 1,034

John Hardy (Con) 525

Michael Elder (Lib-Dem) 150

Sean Loftus (Ind) 68

Overall turnout 31.7 per cent.

Lab hold

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