Polls may point to a shock Labour win in Ripon at General Election but their candidate says it's still all to play for

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The polls may now hint at the possibility of a shock Labour win in Ripon at the General Election but the party’s candidate says he is taking nothing for granted in the traditionally Tory seat.

Talking to the Harrogate Advertiser, the man bidding to be the constituency’s first Labour MP since records began said, although he believed people in Skipton and Ripon were now "thinking hard” about who to vote for after 14 years of Tory “mismanagement”, he took the polls with a large pinch of salt.

"From people I talk to in Ripon – and Skipton – people are sick of chaos and decline,” said Malcolm Birks, a 48-year-old architect who lives in Skipton with his wife and two children..

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"Voters in the area are thinking hard about who are they going to vote for but you’ve got to take the polls with a pinch of salt,”

"Voters in Ron and Skipton are thinking hard about who are they going to vote for”  said Labour candidate Malcolm Birks, a 48-year-old architect, 48, who lives in Skipton with his wife and two children. (Picture contributed)"Voters in Ron and Skipton are thinking hard about who are they going to vote for”  said Labour candidate Malcolm Birks, a 48-year-old architect, 48, who lives in Skipton with his wife and two children. (Picture contributed)
"Voters in Ron and Skipton are thinking hard about who are they going to vote for”  said Labour candidate Malcolm Birks, a 48-year-old architect, 48, who lives in Skipton with his wife and two children. (Picture contributed)

"It’s not just national issues. People have deep concerns about a range of local problems which are going unaddressed.

"You can see that from the election of David Skaith as Labour Mayor for York and North Yorkshire.

"But it’s for people themselves to decide on election day.”

It’s not the first time Mr Birks has stood as the Labour candidate against Tory incumbent Julian Smith who has held the seat sinceMay 2010.

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Flashback to 2015 election - Skipton and Ripon parliamentary candidate for Labour Malcolm Birks outside Ripon Library joins protesters against Government cuts. (Picture contributed)Flashback to 2015 election - Skipton and Ripon parliamentary candidate for Labour Malcolm Birks outside Ripon Library joins protesters against Government cuts. (Picture contributed)
Flashback to 2015 election - Skipton and Ripon parliamentary candidate for Labour Malcolm Birks outside Ripon Library joins protesters against Government cuts. (Picture contributed)

His return as a candidate will shortly see him take part in hustings at Ripon Cathedral, an event he remembers as a “great occasion” last time round.

Back in 2015, nearly a decade ago, the intelligent but down-to-earth Malcolm Birks finished runner-up to Mr Smith in Skipton and Ripon with a 17.4% vote share.

That left Labour more than 20,000 shy of defeating the future Government Chief Whip and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

But, Mr Birks says, things have changed since then in Britain and Skipton and Ripon, too, and not for the better for the country or its people.

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"A lot of the issues are similar to 2015 just a lot worse,” he said.

"With economic stagnation, the decline of public services and the scandals of Partygate and Liz Truss crashing the economy and sending mortgages soaring, I’m sensing there is a thirst for change.

"I feel our area is bit of a forgotten outpost, ignored by central government and policy makers.

"But I am optimistic, if elected, we can change this and get our fair share of the investment.”

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Another thing that has changed over the last ten years is Labour’s prospects of winning Skipton and Ripon.

Once thought impossible; parliamentary records going back to 1553, in Ripon’s case, show no previous successes for the party, now the result is not so clear cut.

Recent predictions by Electoral Calculus, based on nationwide polls and demographic data, show a 59% likelihood of a Labour win in Skipton and Ripon, with a 34.2% vote share compared to the Conservatives’ 29.4%.

At a micro local level, the quantitative analysis and electoral modelling consultancy predicts 11 of the 18 wards in the constituency - including all of Skipton, Ripon and Settle - will elect a Labour MP.

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Pledging to earn every single vote, Mr Birks is full of praise for the changes wrought by his party leader Sir Keir Starmer – and Labour’s emphasis on reviving the NHS and bringing economic competence back to the country.

“I have friends and family who have genuinely struggled in recent years to see their GP, access scans or get timely NHS treatment at their local Airedale hospital,” said Mr Birks.

“I see shops and restaurants closing, hollowing out our high streets and decimating local jobs.

"I fully back Sir Keir’s transformation of the Labour Party and his powerful and credible plan to get the country back on its feet.”

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But, despite what he describes as 14 years of failed Tory government, the man who would defeat Julian Smith says he is campaigning fundamentally on local issues.

Mr Birks hit list of priorities where he says it is high time for real action locally includes:

Lack of police on the ground to tackle growing anti-social behaviour and rising shop thefts.

Accessing NHS services and NHS dentists.

Lack of investment in infrastructure at local schools and hospitals.

The problems with Ripon Leisure Centre.

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A need to give greater support to the retail and hospitality sector in town centres.

Water quality in the Ure and sewage overflows by the water companies.

Lack of truly affordable housing for local people, despite the 1,300-home Clotherholme scheme at Ripon Barracks.

Polls may show Labour on track to win the seat for the first time but Mr Birks says, while encouraging, the polls in themselves mean nothing.

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He is committed to working hard to achieve the result he seeks.

“This General Election is a watershed moment for the whole of Britain,” said Mr Birks.

"But I want to be elected MP to fight for a better deal for this area.

"Things are going well; I have a motivated team, and we are going to give it everything.

"Only Labour can beat the Tories in Skipton and Ripon.”

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