Meet the political dynasties playing town hall’s own Game of Thrones

Orrell Labour Candidate Kelly Ready with her dad Chris
Orrell Labour Candidate Kelly Ready with her dad Chris
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THE drama inside Wigan’s council chamber has become heated on many occasions during the past few years.

But it would still take a fair leap of the imagination to compare it to the warring factions vying for supremacy and the Iron Throne.

George Fairhurst, centre, Standish Independents, elected councillor for Standish with Langtree and son Gareth (left)

George Fairhurst, centre, Standish Independents, elected councillor for Standish with Langtree and son Gareth (left)

Although, like hit TV series Game of Thrones, the make up of elected members this year contains many a family back-story, with relatives lining up alongside each other to do battle with their sworn (political) enemies.

We can substitute the blood, dragons and supernatural beings for challenges, arguments and disputes but both include family dynasties attempting to gain the good favour of their subjects.

As a result of this year’s elections, no fewer than 20 members will be able to enter the chamber for this week’s meeting accompanied by family members.

These are split across the political divide - rather than the sprawling regions of Westeros – with married couples and parents and children teams amongst them.

I think that councillors can get a lot more grief than they do thank-yous for their work because it is easy for people to criticise them without knowing the work that is put in

Coun Martin Aldred

And one ward has remained completely dominated by one family; the Fairhursts who represent the Standish Independents.

But when it comes to explaining how this influx of relatives has come about, the reasons may be far more complex than basic familiarity borne from having a politician already in the house.

“I think there’s a lot more to it than relatives getting involved because they see someone in the family do it,” explains Coun Chris Ready, a long serving ward councillor for Aspull-New Springs-Whelley, whose daughter Kelly is also an elected member, in Orrell ward.

“When I first got elected Kelly was eight and I had her delivering leaflets with me, which was sort of child labour! But she joined the Labour Party off her own back, people always say she has followed in my footsteps but we would want to move away from that, she’s her own person. I think she was more influenced by a college tutor to get into politics rather than anything I did.

Martin Aldred, 20, left, celebrates being elected as Labour candidate for Atherton, with his dad, Mark Aldred

Martin Aldred, 20, left, celebrates being elected as Labour candidate for Atherton, with his dad, Mark Aldred

“Politics can be a nasty game for you to want a family member to get involved in but I suppose you do get the chance to bounce ideas off each other.”

Children following their parents into political life is a well worn path and it is a rare occasion when the opposite occurs.

But this is the case in the Lowton East ward where newly elected Kath Houlton will join son Ed in the chamber.

Coun Houlton jnr said: “My parents were never really interested in politics, if we’re talking about being actively involved.

“But my mum started being interested in what I was doing going to meetings and groups and getting involved with local issues. She then started helping me deliver leaflets and started to get more interested.

“Now I’m sort of her boss, so that’s a bit weird. Councillors work hard but it’s not hard to do a good job as a councillor, in my opinion. A lot of issues can be solved with picking up the phone, it’s about having an interest in your own community and that isn’t influenced by family really, it’s a personal thing.”

Newcomer Martin Aldred, who ousted former deputy opposition leader Norman Bradbury in Atherton ward, provided one of the stories of election night joining his parents Mark and Karen as councillors.

The 21-year-old said growing up in a political household could just have easily turned him away - rather than inspiring him - to take that path.

“I think that councillors can get a lot more grief than they do thank-yous for their work because it is easy for people to criticise them without knowing the work that is put in,” he explained.

“But that means that the thank-yous are made all the more worthwhile. People come to you with issues because they don’t know how to resolve them, it’s an honour to be a councillor, it’s an honourable position.”

There are some advantages though to being the son of two councillors, Coun Aldred said.

“We have been into the Town Hall for induction sessions this week to see how council procedure works. I was already aware of quite a bit of it so I feel I’ve had a bit of a head-start.”

The increasing number of family members inside the town hall may attract its fair share of criticism, with accusations of nepotism.

It could be viewed as a closed-shop culture with the view that those already with their feet under the council table can then smooth the way to the chamber for their relatives to hop on board the local government “gravy-train.”

But with the democratic system being what it is – with each prospective candidate facing a lengthy process before they even get to face the electorate – these councillors said it would be impossible to have such an influence.

Coun Ready said: “There’s a process we have to go through. First off you face a lay panel from the party who had nothing to do with Wigan and then it goes to the local party before we even get in front of the electorate, and it’s them who decide at the end of the day.

Coun Houlton said accusations of nepotism may have been on his mind when his mother went through the selection process for the Conservative Party.

He explained: “That’s why I stepped back from the election process and didn’t get involved, so she would get through on her own right.

“We want to do what’s right for the people of Lowton, it would not be good for the residents to just have a yes man (or woman). If we disagree on an issue, we disagree.”

Coun Aldred even went to the lengths of keeping his nomination process a secret from his parents. He said: “I kept it quiet from them, they only found out when it got to a later stage.

“I had no influence from my parents whatsoever. A lot of people may see the name and assume one thing, but the process of interviews means that couldn’t happen.

“I got a lot of positive feedback in Atherton, we ran a very positive campaign. I knocked on every door and it seemed they wanted someone from a younger generation.

“It means young people can have someone they relate to.”