The legal eagle who left sisters scuppered

Tomorrow's the night when all will be revealed and the voters of West Leeds will know who'll be the torch-bearer for Labour come the next General Election .

One thing is certain it will be a woman on the orders of the Labour high command.

I happened to bump into one of Leeds Labour Party's major thinkers the other afternoon. The West Leeds contest was at the forefront of his mind and especially it being an all-women contest to replace sitting MP John Battle.

He reminded me that Labour's first attempt to impose all-women shortlists was back in 1992 when political correctness ruled the roost in the People's Party but their legality was successfully challenged at an Employment Tribunal in Leeds in 1996 in the case Jepson v The Labour Party.

Law lecturer Dr Peter Jepson had applied to be considered for the Labour nomination in Keighley but was rejected because Labour big-wigs in London had decreed it was an all-female shortlist.

Dr Jepson took it to tribunal. Labour sent in the big legal guns to "see off the challenge" in the shape of James Goudie, QC, who was assisted by junior counsel.


Dr Jepson represented himself and convinced the employment panel that being a Parliamentary candidate constituted an occupation and that a total exclusion of male nominees was contrary to both UK and EU law. Labour had lost the argument and the all-wimmin shortlists were quietly dropped.

Then in 2001 Blair resurrected the idea and he introduced the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act as a sop to the sisterhood which made all-women shortlists possible by exempting political parties from the Sex Discrimination legislation.

So the West Leeds four – Armley councillor Alison Lowe; Lewisham-born Rachel Reeves, a financial high-flyer; Beverley councillor Emma Hoddinott and Jo Coles who used to work in the office of Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper – have their former dear leader to thank for giving them a clear run.

By the way two prominent backers of Rachel Reeves are veteran Labour councillor Bernard Atha CBE, and University lecturer Coun John Illingworth but they're not eligible to vote because they live in Cookridge which is not in the West Leeds constituency.

Voting is by single transferable vote with candidates eliminated until one receives over 50 per cent.

Act of God?

Two people were injured when the arch of the main doorway of a church in Alicante on the Spanish holiday hot-spot of the Costa Blanca collapsed after being hit by the throne of the Virgen de los Dolores (Virgin of Pain) who was being returned home to the Basilica of Santa Maria in the centre of the town.

Now that would turn me really grumpy.

I'm grateful to former Leeds Lord Mayor Bryan North – who lives on Spain's Costa del Sol – for sending me the cutting.

No stopping the deadly harvest

I heard a good excuse for not destroying the record opium crop that's flourishing in the poppy fields of Afghanistan.

The corrupt Afghan Government has told the Yanks – who actually want to destroy the crop – that if chemicals were used they would poison the water courses and kill the animals.

Never mind that the Afghan poppy harvest – growing on land several times bigger than the George Cross Island of Malta – will kill thousands and drive countless others in to a life of crime or prostitution to feed their habit.

So in the minds of the Afghan rulers that's all right then? Like Hell it is.

The Americans should send in their planes and unleash the chemicals.

But will they? No prizes for guessing the answer.

Judge who got it right

So former Leeds binman Philip Hopkins has been locked up for seven years after admitting peddling 1.3m worth of drugs. Only seven years!

The late Judge Raymond Dean, QC, (pictured) had the right idea for sentencing dope dealers – 20 years with no parole. Now that would be a sub-stantial custodial sentence wouldn't it readers?

Are you 18, sir?

No, I'm 56

I was at our water point in the YEP's Wellington Street bunker the other morning when one of my colleagues who is of a certain age and always sartorially elegant (he'd doesn't do scruffy) let rip about a visit he made to the Selby branch of Homebase last weekend.

He'd gone to the DIY superstore to buy one of those small hand forks – the things you use to turn over the earth in flower beds.

A straightforward enough purchase, he thought. Wrong! When he got to the checkout the young girl operating the till had a Yorker of a question. Was he over 18?

He was bowled over. Had he mis-heard? The checkout lass repeated her question.

My colleague couldn't believe his ears. Now well-dressed he may be but youthful looks he hasn't, although he's pretty well preserved for a 56-year-old.


There then followed a sort of verbal ping-pong question-and-answer session."Why do you need to ask?" he enquired with a look of exasperation.

"If I don't ask if you're over 18 I'll get the sack", she replied, "It's a rule that's come from our head office."

"Do I look over 18?" asked Mr Well-Dressed.

"Yes", said the checkout girl.

"What do you think I'm going to do – weed someone to death? If the manager's in I'd like to speak with him."

The boss duly arrived and sung from the same corporate hymn sheet as the lass on the till. The manager said a new law had come in and it was Head Office policy that when anyone bought a small hand fork they had to be asked if they were over 18.

As he picked up the fork and walked, my colleague told the manager exactly what he thought of Homebase Head Office policy on small garden forks.

John Thorpe He's grumpy, so you don't have to be