MORE readers’ reports about your constituencies as the election campaign goes on. See below for how to submit your own report on the choice of candidates you have, which of them you plan to vote for and why, what you think of their chances and your stance on Brexit.
Current MP: Valerie Vaz (Labour)
Jack Green writes: In its Victorian hey-day Walsall was well-known for its saddlery and leatherworks, precision manufacturing industries and its wonderful Arboretum. Later for its Schneider Trophy-winning hero Sidney Webster and Bletchley code-breaker Sir Harry Hinsley. The town has always had a solid caucus of patriotic, church-going, well-educated working-class people who until after WWII mostly eschewed socialism and voted Liberal or Tory.
From 1955, when the Walsall seat was split into North and South, the latter was held by a war hero, Major-General Sir Henry Joseph d’Avigdor-Goldsmid, DSO, MC, through five elections until 1974, when a Welshman, Bruce George, took the seat for Labour and held on to it until 2010. George never sought high office, and became a well-respected constituency MP. He grew his small majorities in the Thatcher years to 11,500 by 1997, but it slipped back to about 8,000 in 2005. On George’s retirement, the seat was handed to Valerie Vaz in line with a ’safe seat, women only shortlist’ arrangement – and perhaps a quiet word from her MP brother Keith. She nearly lost it, though, and almost certainly had UKIP to thank for saving her backside in both the 2010 and 2015 elections. In 2017, she stretched her majority back to 9,000, but in 2019 she has problems.
When it comes to odious sanctimony, Valerie Vaz is certainly not in the same league as her little brother Jim – the name he gave to the male prostitutes with whom he consorted – but whether fawning over school-kids at constituency functions or grinning inanely next to Corbyn on the front bench, she’s not easy to take to. Further, her family connections now hinder her parliamentary career; Jim’s antics are common knowledge, but what is not so well-known is that she has employed her husband as her secretary (currently £40k pa) for the whole of her parliamentary career. Add in that she has staunchly backed Remain (as a lawyer by profession it is compulsory) while Walsall is nearly off the scale for Leave, and that Labour’s Corbynista brand has become toxic to provincial blue-collar people, then Valerie will almost certainly be chewing her fingernails come election night.
Also complicating the situation are the racial politics. Walsall is a quarter non-white, and has a large Anglo-Asian population, with Muslims outnumbering Hindus and Sikhs. Valerie is a brown Christian. In general terms, the town’s Hindu and Sikh populations are more likely to vote Tory and be Leavers, the Muslims much less so.
Next month, the Tory candidate will be a British Sikh lady who likes football. Gurjit Kaur Bains is a local councillor from Kent who worked for Vote Leave 2015-16. She is very young and photogenic – a Sikh Priti Patel – and if she possesses the Home Secretary’s brains her candidacy could prove a masterstroke.
The pressure is on Valerie Vaz then, yet Walsall’s intrinsic ‘leaveness’ might come to her rescue again and split the vote in her favour, for the Brexit Party has put up a candidate. One also has to assume that remainer tactical voters will abandon the Lib-Dems and Greens in favour of Jim’s big sister.
I’ll call it for Valerie by a held nose – but would not be surprised if Gorgeous Gurjit sneaks home by a similarly small margin.
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