In 1841 Joseph Holdsworth was elected as Liberal MP for the constituency, capturing the seat from the Tories. Unfortunately, he was also returning officer. He protested that he had delegated his duties, but was disqualified and never sat in parliament.

Things hadn't improved much by 1859, when both candidates were disqualified for bribery, and for three years nobody represented the town in the Commons. Edward Brotherton, Tory MP here (1902-10 and 1918-22), endowed the Brotherton Library at Leeds University. Its shelves probably once housed the poetry of William Henry Leatham, Liberal MP for the town (1865-68), whose works included "The Ballad of Newby Hall Ferry" about the local aristocrat Sir Charles Slingsby, drowned when a ferry overturned during a fox hunt. In the poetry section these days might be the works of John Agard, who wrote "Roll over your bones Creech Jones", about the town's Labour MP Arthur Creech Jones, colonies secretary from 1946-50.

This article first appeared in the 04 October 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Licence to cut