Revealed – Labour’s plan to win West Lancs (rename it Skelmersdale)

I was more than a little surprised a couple of weeks ago when I read the following in a piece on the “Wigan Today” website:

Wigan Today: Cemetery campaign for town

A shortage of graves has prompted a renewed campaign for a new cemetery in West Lancashire.
Rosie Cooper wants a new public facility to be opened at Pippin Street in Skelmersdale so that families no longer have to bear the extra costs of burying a loved one.

All very good… However, I’m pretty certain that there isn’t a Pippin Street in Skelmersdale, and that this refers to the proposed Cemetery to be built by Pippin Street, Burscough. I dismissed the story as a schoolboy journalist error by someone who didn’t know the West Lancs area and forgot about it until I saw this on Rosie’s own website:


The general election next year is going to be difficult for us, particularly in West Lancs where the Tories have a strong hold on all wards in the Constituency outside of the Skelmersdale area (with the proud exception of Bickerstaffe). The bulk of Labour voters live in Skelmersdale and we need to be seen to be delivering – particularly if the town centre plans are scuppered by the new Everton/Tesco development in Knowsley (rumoured to have been agreed by the secretary of state).

It is well known locally that Skelmersdale has run out of burial space and families are forced to have their loved ones buried in neighbouring towns and boroughs.

Rosie has campaigned hard for a cemetery in Skelmersdale since elected in 2005 and last year a planning application was passed for a cemetery in Pippin Street, Burscough, about seven miles (as the crow flies) away from Moorside, Skem – my old patch. To give Rosie credit, she has since campaigned for a new bus route so that families in Skem can visit their loved ones in the proposed Pippin Street cemetery.

However, the newspaper article and website suggest that the local campaigning brains trust has had a stroke (of genius). By simply extending the boundaries of Skelmersdale to take in Pippin Street we can claim to have delivered a new Skelmersdale Cemetery without all the bother of finding a suitable site near the (old) town centre.

View Skem + Cemetery in a larger map

And why should it stop there? We could deliver the long promised hospital by extending the town’s boundaries down Wigan Road (to be fair, it’s a childrens A&E, but it’s a start):

View Skem + hospital in a larger map

In fact, given that on average, someone living in Parbold will live seven to eight years long than someone living in Skelmersdale, we could increase the average life expectancy in Skelmersdale by simply making the town bigger and extending the boundaries out towards Parbold:

View Skem + hospital + parbold in a larger map

It seems to me that this is an campaigning masterstroke. Taking it to the logical conclusion (well one of many) we could take the proposed Skelmersdale cemetery as the new geographical centre and project out seven miles in all directions – creating a new Greater Skelmersdale (Skelmershire?) Delivering for Skem a world-class University at Edge Hill, a beach at what was once Southport, both a childrens and adult A&E, several railway stations and countless other benefits.

View Skelmershire in a larger map

The electoral landscape would also be transformed – pushing the “out of Skem” areas deep into South Ribble and Sefton, and making the whole of what was West Lancs rock-solid Labour areas. Virtually guaranteed to return a Labour MP at the next General Election.

So there you have it. Quite simple really.

Painting a wall – the best the Tories can do in Skem?

This month, West Lancs Conservatives proudly boast that they are putting the “heart back into Tanhouse” with the rather nasty inference that it wasn’t there before and that it can only be returned with charity and a donation from the Conservative Association (read: a very small slice of Lord Ashcroft’s millions).

Tory candidate whitewashing community centre Tanhouse, it seems, can be fixed by the Conservative Parliamentary candidate waltzing in with a paint roller and single handedly whitewashing the community centre – as seen in their promo picture.

Their condescending, head-patting, “aren’t we being nice to you poor Scousers” tone is exactly the kind of patronising crap that many of their councillors come out with and which Paul Cotterill has pointed out on numerous occasions over at the Bickerstaffe Record.

They say that the donation from the Conservatives helped renovate “an area of open space to provide a nicer environment for the people of Tanhouse” (my emphasis).

Oh yes, and after you’ve finished painting this wall, you can get back to making Jam and singing Jerusalem in the knowledge that Tanhouse is fixed and you can get on with more important things.

No. The problems across Tanhouse and more widely Skelmersdale, will not be fixed by the occasional community get-together painting walls. It might help a little bit, but the problems run much deeper than a couple of walls with grafitti.

The Tories have been in control of West Lancashire (and therefore Skem) for most of the past quarter century since West Lancs Council was formed. Great strides were made in the late nineties when Labour ran the council and started to address the problems, but these have been undone by the Tories. Reduction of cleaning services and grounds maintenance leaving many communal areas overgrown and shoddy. The closure of cash offices for rent payment, denial of free swimming for under 18s, the lack of public transport and the blinkered focus on commerce instead of community to regenerate the town.

Perhaps, if the Tory controlled Council did their job and cleaned up in the first place, there would be a better civic pride in the area; and perhaps, if the Tory controlled Council cleaned up grafitti then this kind of stunt wouldn’t be necessary.

Obviously, this stunt is about votes. Local Tories know that they can mobilise their support across the constituency – but a big Labour turnout in Skelmersdale will make it difficult for them to win.

If they treated the people of Skelmersdale with some respect, at the very least granting them the same level of services as enjoyed in other parts of the Borough, then that respect would be reciprocated one way or another in the ballot box. Instead they treat the townsfolk as second-class citizens, not deserving of good Council services but instead reliant upon charitable handouts – from the Tories, no less.

Normal service will resume… erm, soon?

Apologies to the handful of people who usually take a look at this site. I’ve been busy earning a crust, sleeping a lot and getting a year older. Also some of the things that I’ve really wanted to blog about would no doubt bring calls for me to be kicked out the party (it’s happened before, believe me) – so I thought it best to take a step back.

But enough of that. There are serious things happening in Ormskirk and West Lancs and the prospect of the Tories running the Borough, County and having a local MP are just too awful to comprehend. So I’m dusting off the laptop, finishing off the half-written newsletters and putting the Ashes and the almost-Summer behind me. Time to get working again.