Tory stalwart to join exodus from Edinburgh council
He said after 40 years he was ready to call time on his political career. “I’m 72 now and I don’t think I should be doing another four or five years.”
But he admitted he was sorry to be going. “It’s what I do. I’ve been a councillor for 40 years – it’s the thing I’ve done longest in my life. I’m not sure what it’s going to be like not to be a councillor.”
He is the latest in a line of senior councillors set to quit next year. Cllr Jackson got into politics when he joined the Young Conservatives in 1968. “I was an electrician, working in my father’s small business and I’d just got married. The then Labour government was starting to annoy me and I asked myself ‘What can I do?’ Within a year I was the chair and just got deeper and deeper involved. Then someone asked ‘Why don’t you stand for the council?’”
He stood unsuccessfully in Calton ward in the last ever Edinburgh Corporation elections in 1973, but got elected as Tory councillor for Pilrig on the new Edinburgh District Council the following year.
“On my first day at the City Chambers we had to go in for a group meeting at 5pm. I had been working all day and arrived in my overalls and one of the old Labour people said ‘Are you one of the new councillors? Come with me’. And it was only as we were about to go into the Labour group that one of his colleagues pointed out I was a Tory.”
After being re-elected at the next elections in 1977, Cllr Jackson was made Tory group whip. “We had 34 councillors then and it was kind of difficult trying to keep them all in line – a bit like herding cats.”
He also served as convener of the council’s building repairs sub-committee which oversaw statutory notices.
“It met every second Friday and every single statutory repair the council took over was scrutinised by the committee. If the council had kept it we wouldn’t have got into the sorry state we did,” he said.
He lost his seat in 1984 when Labour won control for the first time. but was then elected to Lothian Regional Council for the safe Tory seat of Braidburn/Fairmilehead at a by-election in 1987. He served on the Region for the next nine years and when the two-tier system of local government was scrapped he was elected to represent Trinity on the new unitary Edinburgh City Council.
The advent of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and multi-member wards in 2007 saw him become one of four councillors for Forth ward. But he said the wards under the new system are too big. “Forth covers a huge area and has an electorate of 20,000-plus. STV has made it difficult to do the job properly.”
His wife, June, ran a coffee shop for 17 years and then a gift shop for 15, but retired a couple of years ago.
Cllr Jackson said he had no definite plans for after he steps down. “I’ll have to do something,” he said. “I’ve not decided what it is yet – but it won’t be vegetating.”