In 1994 Humberside County Council was abolished by the Conservative government in a shameless act of vandalism and replaced by four unitary authorities – the councils of the East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull City, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire.
East Riding Labour Party
The East Riding Labour Party was set up, ready to fight the first council elections in May 1995 for the 67 seats of the 26 new East Riding council wards. We wrote an 18 page manifesto and selected candidates to fight every seat.
The party had agreed to put forward a joint Election Address with local information on the reverse side . All the candidates gathered together at Leven Recreation Hall to have their photos taken for their election address. Getting on for 200,000 of these addresses were then printed by Hull’s Oriel Printing Press and delivered all over the Riding by our volunteers.
This is a sample of those election addresses – St Mary’s ward in Beverley with Jim Whitfield and Peter Astell as candidates. Jim is still a stalwart in the Beverley branch but Peter Astell unfortunately has defected to the Lib Dem party.
Although this was in the heyday of Tony Blair, and John Major’s divided party and government were looking very tired – to our amazement the results showed that Labour had become the largest party winning 23 out of the 67 seats! The Liberal Democrats had won 18 seats, Tories took 17, Independents 8, and the Social Democratic Party 1.
The Tories had come third in the East Riding – we could hardly believe it!
In particular Labour had taken over the towns – we had won all three seats in Withernsea, Minster (Beverley), Bridlington South, Driffield. All six seats in the Goole, Boothferry West, and Snaith wards, had fallen to us, as well as three of the six seats in the two other Bridlington seats. The two most unexpected ones were in Hedon and in Howdenshire where the candidate did little or no campaigning.
The control of the council now rested with the three leaders Stephen Parnaby (Conservative), Ian Male (Labour) and Bob Tress (Liberal Democrat) in negotiation with the very powerful very dominant chief executive of the council Darryl Stephenson. Together they agreed that the council would be under the joint control of the three major parties. Effectively this meant that the chief exec and Steve Parnaby, the conservative leader, a formidable political operator who controlled his group with great adeptness made most of the council decisions between them.
Sadly as far as the East Riding Labour Party went it was downhill all the way after that.
In the 1999 elections as our manifesto dropped from 18 pages to 1:
Our councillors dropped from 23 to 12. We had lost all three Driffield seats, two of the four Goole seats and two of the three Withernsea seats. Nationally the Labour Party was still riding high after its phenomenal win in 1997 so the result was mainly due to the inability of the group to function well amid toxic relationships and dysfunctional personalities.
By 2003 we were down to 8 seats still hanging on to two seats in Bridlington – but losing the leader of the Labour group Ian Male. We kept all three Minster and Woodmansey (Beverley) seats, Laurie Cross, Nev Holgate and Simon Pickering as well as Mally Boatman from Goole South and the two Snaith seats with Christine Arnold and Terry Allison who became the leader of the Labour group.
2007 was a disaster – we were down to three councillors – Pat O’Neil and Keith Moore from Goole together with Laurie Cross from Beverley. Pat became leader.
2011 was a slight improvement as new members Shelagh Finlay from Bridlington, Paul Hogan from Hessle and Josh Newlove from Tranby joined Mally, Keith and Pat from Goole.
In 2015 all the group kept their seats except for Josh from Tranby.
Then came 2019, a disaster for Labour both in the General Election and in the council elections where we lost all our seats.
On the whole the fortunes of the Labour Party in the East Riding followed closely the popularity of Labour in England