I know the old adage that the graveyards are full of the indispensible but in terms of MPs I contend that there is an exception. When Lindsay Hoyle, the MP for Chorley, eventually hangs up his boots he will leave an unfillable gap. He is arguably the finest constituency MP in parliament, a claim borne out by the record number of questions he asks. And they are all about Chorley. Notionally a Labour MP, Lindsay would be more accurately described as a Chorley one.
I am surely not alone in seeing Nick Clegg as a breath of fresh air after the most shameful year in political history. Frankly he would have won my cross if it were to be based on my desire to cry plague on both their houses but here in Chorley we are uniquely blessed with a 24/7 champion who has won concession after concession for the town of his birth.
Many of all political leanings tell me of battles he has fought on their behalf and when thousands turned out to applaud the proud memorial to the Chorley PALS that he has worked so hard for it was as if everyone had come together to say thankyou for all that you do. But my special memory is the fight he led to save the hospital.
I was Chairman at the time and when news came that the Primary Care Trust was building a centre to house a private provider who would take over our outpatients services I knew that we were facing a huge crisis. The nature of NHS funding is such that hospitals fund the costly and complex procedures through income earned from the routine and relatively easy treatments. My calculation was that if we lost outpatients it would be necessary at the very least to integrate emergency services at Chorley into Preston.
Early protests drew an assurance that a series of public consultations would be held. The Governors of our Foundation trust had no confidence that these would produce other than a claimed endorsement of the plan for privatisation. It was with some hesitation that I approached Lindsay who after all was notionally a member of the government proposing to slay us . His reaction was immediate. I was born in that hospital and it is crucial to Chorley. This isn’t going to happen was his declaration. What followed is now part of the history of the town.
The first meeting shocked everyone. Following Lindsay’s call for the public to fight thousands turned out and the meeting was swamped and chaotic. The second one was held at St Mary’s Hall and eventaully had to be abandoned. the hall was packed but thousands queued outside and tempers frayed. Lindsay walked the throngs an dmanaged to keep a semblance of order but again a meeting was impossible. The third attempt to hold a consultation was arranged for the largest venue in the town, the town hall Lancastrian suite. The police were asked to attend.
Throughout all this both Lindsay and myself were subjected to threats the like of which I never experienced even in the robust Truck industry. But by now the MP was leading an estimated 12,000 signatories to his petition and he faced up to the then Secretary of State, Patricia Hewitt. On the eve of the town hall meeting it was announced that the proposed Assessment and Treatment centre was to be run by the NHS at Chorley hospital. To this day it is the only one in the country.
I have never quite recovered from the fact that a Labour government was proposing this. It also had the tacit support of many Conservatives but that was understandable. To me the most amazing aspect of the whole affair was the willingness of Lindsay to defy his own colleagues . Clearly Chorley was his priority.
Given the usual type of MP committed to obeying the whips and towing the Party line we would have lost our hospital, our TA barracks, bus passes and a host of other things that may not be important to London but mean a lot here.
I personally hope that the day will dawn when elected representatives are independently minded and put their patch before all else. But therein lies destruction of promotion prospects and villification from on high. For now I will settle for what we have, a fighter who fears no one and cares only about his home town.
He isn’t called The Terrier for nothing!