LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Inaccuracies in letter about ex-MP

In answer to Name and Address Supplied in last week’s letters column I would like to respond to a number of inaccuracies as follows.

As the letter appeared to focus on the upcoming selection for a Labour candidate for the Rother Valley to stand at the next general election, I will start with the gross inaccuracies about my thoughts and actions during the last selection process preceding the 2019 general election campaign.

I deliberately did not involve myself in the selection process as, having been the incumbent of the seat for over 36 years, I felt it inappropriate to impose any view on who should be the next Labour candidate and certainly had no knowledge of the Oxfordshire candidate that the letter purports me to have supported. However, of course I wanted to support Sophie as soon as she was selected and offered to do so with the support of my office and other resources. However, Sophie declined so I went door-knocking for a neighbouring seat. Furthermore, when I reported her rebuttal of help to the party’s regional director, she had apparently told him she had met me which she certainly hadn’t so I thought, given any lack of acknowledgement, that I would lend my support elsewhere.

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I would also like to comment on the allegation of two of the Rotherham MPs as having been “parachuted” into their respective seats. Firstly, the member for Wentworth and Dearne was working at the TUC when he was selected. He was born and brought up in Yorkshire and he was selected by local Labour party members with no national involvement. Since being elected over 25 years ago he and his family have lived in Rotherham, his son going to school in Rawmarsh and subsequently Wickersley.

Secondly, the member for Rotherham lived locally, her first job running the Rotherham Arts Centre. In fact she was CEO of Bluebell Wood children’s hospice in Dinnington when she was selected by local members to stand in Rotherham.

I would also like to put straight the allegations about my involvement with the NUM. It is true that I did criticise the president of the NUM on two occasions but never the union. The first was when it became clear that the funding from overseas during and after the !984/85 strike had not been used to support miners and their families. The NUM’s own investigation found that there had been a misapplication of the funds. Eventually the NUM accepted a substantial amount of money from the International Miners Organisation based in France. The second was when a compensation scheme set up by the Labour government was abused by solicitors and others including unions. The total legal costs of the scheme were paid for by government. Miners were led to believe differently in that they were never told they did not have to pay success fees as all costs had been met by the government. The scheme total cost was in excess of £4 billion.

Some solicitors went to jail and I was the first MP to go public on this. I also organised a pilot scheme in the Rother Valley where claimants were able to reclaim the money that had been wrongly stopped, and tens of thousands were returned to my constituents. Over £10 million was repaid nationally. In this I most definitely represented the people of the Rother Valley and have the evidence to testify for this.

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The tone of the letter suggests your reader has learnt nothing from the outcome of the last general election which saw the biggest Labour defeat since 1935, also the first Tory MP elected in the Rother Valley in a hundred years.

The decisions coming out of Labour’s HQ should reflect the reality of politics as after 12 years of Tory government we are facing the biggest drop in living standards since 1956 and the need for a Labour government couldn’t be more urgent. The autumn statement indicates once again it’s ordinary people who are being asked to pay for Tory mistakes.

Sir Kevin Barron,

Hathersage (a small village in Derbyshire nowhere near the Chatsworth estate)