Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Than A Dynasty

Ann Cryer (left) the Labour MP for Keighley has announced her intention to retire at the next General Election. She was a revelation when she came to Parliament, but this came as big surprise to me.

At one time Bob Cryer had been an MEP for the Sheffield seat which also covered sections of North Derbyshire where I live. This is how I first met her. Bob was a very forceful character who when we were later MPs together, I discovered had a great expertise about parliamentary procedures as well as on the issues involved. So when a vote took place on a matter that I wasn't active in, I would often ask him "what is this one about then Bob?". In a couple of sentences he could explain the procedure and the principles involved. We did not always agree, but his explanations meant that he was something of a principled unofficial whip on the left. But he did not kid people in order to get their support for the line he was himself pursuing.

After Bob's sad death in a car accident (Ann was also in the car) she took his former place as MP for Keighley, although he was MP for Bradford South at the time of his death. I soon realised that she was an active, knowledgeable and principled politician in her own right. Unfortunately, when Bob was our local MEP I had stereotyped her as just being a loyal and supportive wife. But I should have known from my own experiences that there is often more to a marriage than this. When she took over as MP for Keighley after Bob's death, I saw how mistaken I had been about her personal abilities and commitments.

Her son , John then also arrived for a spell as MP and displayed all the family's likeable characteristics. The family home when Bob, Ann and John discussed politics during John's youth must have been quite something. I am not normally an advocate for dynastic politics, but I think that it would be great if John followed on from Bob and Ann as MP for Keighley.

Given the ethnic make-up of Keighley, Ann took brave and principled actions in calling for immigrants to learn English and against "honour killings" and forced marriages, whilst Bob had correctly defended the right to have had the "Satanic Verses" published. I know that John would be part of that tradition, yet like his mother and father he would also make his own specialist contributions. Ann also handle the BNP in a principled, tough and effective way when their leader Nick Griffin stood against her at the last General Election.

In her retirement I know that Ann will still be fully involved in politics and that the wider Labour Movement will still benefit from her wise council.

Hat tip - Jane Griffiths


Bob Harper said...

Thoughtful piece Harry, nice one. I never met Ann, but did once share a platfrom with Bob when the Telephone Engineers union was striking over privatisation - remember those good old days! With 6 words on the back of an envelope he spoke eleoquantly about Thatcherism and privatisation for over 30 mins. Top man.

Harry Barnes said...


John is quite similar to Bob. An extrovert with great ability and strong views. Ann differs. She has firm beliefs, but is more introvert and reflective. Perhaps because she is careful to think things through before commiting herself, I probably agreed with her more often. But Bob and John were always willing to engage seriously with counter-arguments. They were all active in the Socialist Campaign Group Group and I imagine that Ann still is. I just wish I had understood what she was like when she was around in North East Derbyshire.

I understand that you are a Granddad and that Rachael is the mother of twins. Congratulations all round.

jams o donnell said...

A fine family MPs. John was my parents' MP until 2005. He worked very hard for his constituents and a lot of people were sorry to see him unseated by an utter non-entity.

I've got a lot of time Ann Cryer, I'm sorry to hear she's standing down. Are there any more Cryers out there?

Thanls for the Iran-related links you posted on the Poor Mouth. Much appreciated.

Harry Barnes said...

jams o donnell,

John has a sister, but I don't know if she is political. I can't think of anyone I would sooner see back in the Commons than John. yet I did not always agree with him. Ann is 69, it is the age at which I retired from the Commons and I fully understand why she feels it is time to move on. But I know that she will still be active within the Labour Movement.