The fight to be next Pendle MP

The fight to be next Pendle MP

The fight to be next Pendle MP

First published in News This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

IN an upstairs office in Nelson town centre, the Conservative Party machine is in full swing.

Sixty bundles of leaflets are neatly stacked and labelled, alongside balloons and T-shirts bearing the name of candidate Andrew Stephenson.

Less than 100 yards away, working in his Carr Road office, is the man the big-spending Tories are desperate to unseat.

Labour’s Gordon Prentice, who won in Pendle in 1992, has waged war against Lord Ashcroft, the Belize-based tax exile and financial backer of the Conservatives’ push to win marginal seats.

Flicking through his collection of Mr Stephenson’s recent publications, Mr Prentice accuses the Tories of ‘trying to buy’ the constituency.

“I am very much the underdog and am fighting for my political life”, he admits.

It would take just a 2.65per cent swing for the man elected in 1992 to be ousted by the Tories, and Pendle is seen as a classic ‘bellwether’ seat, whose results often reflect the voting patterns in the rest of the country.

“This is a prime Conservative target”, says Professor David Denver, an elections specialist at Lancaster University.

“If they are going to make any advances they have to win here.”

Back in the Tories’ recently-refurbished Cross Street headquarters, Mr Stephenson, a 29-year-old insurance broker installed as the candidate in 2006, is keen to play down his financial backing as he organises mailshots to be sent out.

“It’s actually a quiet day today,” he says.

“Yesterday was chaos and we had about 24 people out delivering leaflets and another 15 people helping in the office.”

The day the General Election was called, 25,000 leaflets were hand-delivered, albeit by a team of volunteers, and the local party’s accounts reveal a surge in support in recent years.

There is no way of knowing how much has come from Lord Ashcroft, as his money is given out through central office grants.

But in 2007 the party’s income was £49,799, almost double the previous year, with the main reason given as ‘an increase in funding from central office’, and the following year it went up to £82,752, including a £19,000 grant from Conservative HQ.

By contrast Rossendale and Darwen, another Tory target seat, was given just £3,785 by central office in 2008.

Mr Stephenson is quick to point out that a large chunk of the money, much of which is raised by local activists, is spent on overheads and staff costs.

These include 26-year-old George Askew, a Lancashire County councillor, who is working in the next door office wearing a ‘Stephenson for Pendle’ T-shirt.

A former housemate of Mr Stephenson, he is now employed full-time to help manage the campaign.

Mr Stephenson, who lives in Colne, was a councillor in Macclesfield at 22 and became involved with the Conservative Party aged 16.

He estimated ‘around one per cent’ of his funding came from Lord Ashcroft.

And despite benefitting from Lord Ashcroft’s donations, he reveals he would support a ban on donations to political parties from ‘non doms’, people who have their tax home outside the UK.

“That’s my view, and I think it shows how independent Conservative candidates are,” he insists.

On whether he should reject Lord Ashcroft’s funding given that stance, he said: “We can’t say to Conservative HQ ‘can you take out the one per cent of cash that might have come from non-dom donors’.”

Mr Stephenson said Mr Prentice’s attacks had been ‘childish’ claiming Labour too receive money from non dom donors.

Mr Prentice has been at the forefront of the criticism of Lord Ashcroft, having submitted the Freedom of Information Act request to the Cabinet Office which triggered the announcement about the Conservative deputy chairman’s tax status.

And the Labour man has put the issue at the heart of his campaign, using his website and literature to attack the Tory peer.

Mr Prentice says the Ashcroft mailshots have had a ‘subliminal effect’ on voters, adding: “I am not nervous at all.

"I don’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the election.

"I have got my back against the wall, and I am coming out with all guns blazing.”

As well as being number 45 on the Tories’ target list, Pendle is also in the sights of the Liberal Democrats, who have ranked it at 53.

Mr Prentice, who has a 2,180 majority, is worried about losing votes to the Lib Dems and has focused many of his recent attacks on their candidate, barrister Afzal Anwar.

Mr Anwar, whose odds have been slashed from 40/1 to 16/1 following his party’s surge in the polls, said: “Gordon Prentice can carry on doing that.

"People are fed up of him.”

He claimed the Lib Dems’ positive poll ratings following the televised debates had left battle for Pendle wide open.

“I am extremely positive, from the messages on the doorsteps and people are stopping me on the street,” he added.

Comments (8)

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4:25pm Thu 29 Apr 10

ganja man says...

Where are the LIB DEMS today and especially so his lordship Tony Greaves?
Greaves you are a LIAR. I repeat a LIAR!
You were asked to provide evidence to show where Mr Afzal Anwar's (the LIB DEM candidate) were ENROLLED at a school in ENGLAND since APRIL 2008.
It has been claimed that his children have been educated in PAKISTAN for over TWO years now!
NOT the one year you LORD Greaves claimed and the reasons for it.
If you are RIGHT then PROVIDE the EVIDENCE via this newspaper.
YOU told LIES to us the voters in PENDLE for which we all deserve an APOLOGY on this forum.
Are we really asking too much of you, Honourable LORD????
Where are the LIB DEMS today and especially so his lordship Tony Greaves? Greaves you are a LIAR. I repeat a LIAR! You were asked to provide evidence to show where Mr Afzal Anwar's (the LIB DEM candidate) were ENROLLED at a school in ENGLAND since APRIL 2008. It has been claimed that his children have been educated in PAKISTAN for over TWO years now! NOT the one year you LORD Greaves claimed and the reasons for it. If you are RIGHT then PROVIDE the EVIDENCE via this newspaper. YOU told LIES to us the voters in PENDLE for which we all deserve an APOLOGY on this forum. Are we really asking too much of you, Honourable LORD???? ganja man
  • Score: 0

5:29pm Thu 29 Apr 10

Kevin, Colne says...

This is the election to lose. Whoever wins the parliamentary constituency of Pendle is going to have a very rough ride indeed.

The avalanche of leaflets from the Conservative Party has not been far off the scene in the first Harry Potter film when the house of Uncle Vernon is inundated with copies of the letter inviting Young Harry to Hogwarts. We sit in our living room trembling for fear that Conservative leaflets will shortly be coming down the chimney. The Labour and Lib-Dem leafleting has been quite tame, by comparison.

Not only have we had leaflets but members of the household have had personally addressed letters too.

This is one of the great pleasures of living under our system of parliamentary democracy. For at least two weeks in every five years the citizenry actually matter.
This is the election to lose. Whoever wins the parliamentary constituency of Pendle is going to have a very rough ride indeed. The avalanche of leaflets from the Conservative Party has not been far off the scene in the first Harry Potter film when the house of Uncle Vernon is inundated with copies of the letter inviting Young Harry to Hogwarts. We sit in our living room trembling for fear that Conservative leaflets will shortly be coming down the chimney. The Labour and Lib-Dem leafleting has been quite tame, by comparison. Not only have we had leaflets but members of the household have had personally addressed letters too. This is one of the great pleasures of living under our system of parliamentary democracy. For at least two weeks in every five years the citizenry actually matter. Kevin, Colne
  • Score: 0

7:26pm Thu 29 Apr 10

Wellingtonia says...

Well hang on a minute, chaps ! The fight to become Pendle's next MP,,,, if you havent noticed, there are SIX names on that ballot paper. The report above seems to have forgotten the Christian candidate, the UKIP candidate AND the BNP candidate. Before you start to dismiss this lot as ' crackpots', 'looneytunes' or' fascists', just read their literature, or go on their website to check out what they actually stand for ! If, like most people, you have sometime in the last five years become frustrated at something in the news, to which you say ' you couldn't make it up ', then think well before you vote. The three main players you have plugged so well in the article are NOT the only people you could vote for. If for example, you do not like seeing the long lines of flag draped coffins coming back from Afghanistan, then vote for the person who plans to pull out of that illegal occupation. If you don't like reading about 'failed Asylum Seekers , knocking down a little girl, killing her, and STILL being allowed to stay in the country, then vote for the person who intends to do something about it, OR if you have been the only one in the supermarket queue who is actually speaking English, then vote for the person who could do something about it, or if you wonder 'well, if there are 3 million unemployed, WHY are there three million Eastern Europeans over here working for wages'? Or if you think why one party intends to create an amnesty for the 900 thousand illegal immigrants ( some people think it is actually 2.2 million), here, being housed, healed, educated and employed (illegally, I could add ), then they should NOT get your vote ! Think what gets you angry about politics, and then get off your behind, and get out and VOTE for what you WANT to see !
Well hang on a minute, chaps ! The fight to become Pendle's next MP,,,, if you havent noticed, there are SIX names on that ballot paper. The report above seems to have forgotten the Christian candidate, the UKIP candidate AND the BNP candidate. Before you start to dismiss this lot as ' crackpots', 'looneytunes' or' fascists', just read their literature, or go on their website to check out what they actually stand for ! If, like most people, you have sometime in the last five years become frustrated at something in the news, to which you say ' you couldn't make it up ', then think well before you vote. The three main players you have plugged so well in the article are NOT the only people you could vote for. If for example, you do not like seeing the long lines of flag draped coffins coming back from Afghanistan, then vote for the person who plans to pull out of that illegal occupation. If you don't like reading about 'failed Asylum Seekers , knocking down a little girl, killing her, and STILL being allowed to stay in the country, then vote for the person who intends to do something about it, OR if you have been the only one in the supermarket queue who is actually speaking English, then vote for the person who could do something about it, or if you wonder 'well, if there are 3 million unemployed, WHY are there three million Eastern Europeans over here working for wages'? Or if you think why one party intends to create an amnesty for the 900 thousand illegal immigrants ( some people think it is actually 2.2 million), here, being housed, healed, educated and employed (illegally, I could add ), then they should NOT get your vote ! Think what gets you angry about politics, and then get off your behind, and get out and VOTE for what you WANT to see ! Wellingtonia
  • Score: 0

8:57pm Thu 29 Apr 10

Smooth says...

Well done wellingtonia what an epitomy of intellectual limitation. Having met these so called other candidates and realising that they are just a bunch of maladjusted individuals. Yes they are lunatics; crackpots and fascists.

As for Stephenson and his Agent George Askew (Mr Pea Brain) they will say anything to be elected. At a recent husting in Nelson Mr Stephenson set out his vision for the area and the only reward in that vision was for the well-off and lets be honest theres not many of us in Pendle who come in that bracket. His constant bleating about allowing faith schools and that was just to appease the muslim community of Nelson especially when you consider that the conservatives in Europe are in an alliance with right wing extemists; anti-semetics; homophobics; anti-islamic parties from other european countries. Now that clearly shows the usual conservatives - bigots; out of touch and class orientated.

As for Lib Dems, well they have a candidate who is unable to string two sentences together and would be an ideal actor in a remake of "mind your language" he does not even need to act just be himself.
How can you believe a candidate who feels that the education system in our great country is worst than a third country like Pakistan.

Ciao
Well done wellingtonia what an epitomy of intellectual limitation. Having met these so called other candidates and realising that they are just a bunch of maladjusted individuals. Yes they are lunatics; crackpots and fascists. As for Stephenson and his Agent George Askew (Mr Pea Brain) they will say anything to be elected. At a recent husting in Nelson Mr Stephenson set out his vision for the area and the only reward in that vision was for the well-off and lets be honest theres not many of us in Pendle who come in that bracket. His constant bleating about allowing faith schools and that was just to appease the muslim community of Nelson especially when you consider that the conservatives in Europe are in an alliance with right wing extemists; anti-semetics; homophobics; anti-islamic parties from other european countries. Now that clearly shows the usual conservatives - bigots; out of touch and class orientated. As for Lib Dems, well they have a candidate who is unable to string two sentences together and would be an ideal actor in a remake of "mind your language" he does not even need to act just be himself. How can you believe a candidate who feels that the education system in our great country is worst than a third country like Pakistan. Ciao Smooth
  • Score: 0

3:20am Fri 30 Apr 10

whitevanman1 says...

Have to agree with you Wellingtonia, there are 6 candidates, and you have to look to the one who you believe will best represent you and Pendle in Parliament - no matter which party he represents. The one that you can approach, discuss your issues and who will resolve them accordingly. For me, the only candidate out of this bunch has to be Gordon Prentice.
Have to agree with you Wellingtonia, there are 6 candidates, and you have to look to the one who you believe will best represent you and Pendle in Parliament - no matter which party he represents. The one that you can approach, discuss your issues and who will resolve them accordingly. For me, the only candidate out of this bunch has to be Gordon Prentice. whitevanman1
  • Score: 0

9:17am Fri 30 Apr 10

lancastrian lass says...

I couldn't agree with you more whitevanman...it's obvious Stephenson will be a "career politician" not really caring for the future of Pendle...As Smooth states, the conservatives in Europe are politically aligned to the right wing elements yet Stephenson was talking about being in favour of faith schools. Who is he trying to kid????

As for Anwar, well the less said about him the better, I met him at an event a few months ago which was a charity run, the man had difficulty communicating with everyone due to his poor language.

Moving onto the other candidates from parties such as UKIP & BNP, do you really think they are the best at representing your ward there in Pendle Wellingtonia? Just look at past BNP councillors in Burnley, they hardly turn up to meetings, they lack a basic understanding of the political system, they are not sufficiently articulate to win the arguments of the day.
I couldn't agree with you more whitevanman...it's obvious Stephenson will be a "career politician" not really caring for the future of Pendle...As Smooth states, the conservatives in Europe are politically aligned to the right wing elements yet Stephenson was talking about being in favour of faith schools. Who is he trying to kid???? As for Anwar, well the less said about him the better, I met him at an event a few months ago which was a charity run, the man had difficulty communicating with everyone due to his poor language. Moving onto the other candidates from parties such as UKIP & BNP, do you really think they are the best at representing your ward there in Pendle Wellingtonia? Just look at past BNP councillors in Burnley, they hardly turn up to meetings, they lack a basic understanding of the political system, they are not sufficiently articulate to win the arguments of the day. lancastrian lass
  • Score: 0

5:59pm Fri 30 Apr 10

ganja man says...

Greaves you are a LIAR and a COWARD. You have failed to answer the people's questions on this forum.
YOU have NOT told the truth.
Time to do the decent thing and own up.
LIB DEMS in Pendle are it seems quiet at the moment and not addressing this issue. It seems they like you are running scared!
Anwar is a boy, out of his depth in this election!
Stephenson again is an even younger boy, who i out to buy this election at any cost!

THE real man is Prentice who has a proven parliamentary record and does actually WORK for the people.
Vote for the only person capable of working for the people.

AS for you, Lord Tony Greaves you just come on this forum and answer the questions.

Unless of course you have been finally shut up by the Pendle people!
Hope to bump into you around Nelson and Colne while you are out telling lies!
Greaves you are a LIAR and a COWARD. You have failed to answer the people's questions on this forum. YOU have NOT told the truth. Time to do the decent thing and own up. LIB DEMS in Pendle are it seems quiet at the moment and not addressing this issue. It seems they like you are running scared! Anwar is a boy, out of his depth in this election! Stephenson again is an even younger boy, who i out to buy this election at any cost! THE real man is Prentice who has a proven parliamentary record and does actually WORK for the people. Vote for the only person capable of working for the people. AS for you, Lord Tony Greaves you just come on this forum and answer the questions. Unless of course you have been finally shut up by the Pendle people! Hope to bump into you around Nelson and Colne while you are out telling lies! ganja man
  • Score: 0

1:04pm Wed 5 May 10

abdul786 says...

I think we need to change the education side of things, we need new heads especially in brierfield.
Theres too many puppets hanging around!
Prentice has done some good work and he is fair with all communities. Not sure about afzal and stephenson.
I think we need to change the education side of things, we need new heads especially in brierfield. Theres too many puppets hanging around! Prentice has done some good work and he is fair with all communities. Not sure about afzal and stephenson. abdul786
  • Score: 0

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