Curly's Corner Shop, the blog!

South Shields premier political blog

Back on the campaign trail in South Shields

with 21 comments

Local politics needs local volunteers

About thirty years ago in the heyday of “Thatcherism” when we had two tier local government, the wards in South Shields returned no fewer than nine Conservative councillors to the old Tyne and Wear County Council. Just think about that, the majority of County councillors in this town were Conservatives during a period when, apparently, the government of the day was hated in the north east. That’s right, the majority of those who cast their votes in South Shields did so for the Conservative Party!

Unfortunately following the demise of the old county council the South Shields Conservative Association went through a period of “navel gazing” and did not build upon the base of support that they had gained, it was also an awkward period when they had great difficulty in deciding upon the new direction that they should take in local politics as a number of their members, myself included, were still sitting on South Tyneside District Council as Progressives knowing that in future years they would have to decide whether or not they should offer themselves as main stream Conservatives. This was the direction eventually decided  upon after much pressure from the party’s professional agents in Newcastle and the party’s HQ in London. It ought to have been a good transition but many voters had been comfortable with the very “local” tag attached to the South Tyneside Progressive Association and were prepared to continue their support for an apparent “non political” but “slightly to the right of Labour” local group. It was obvious that there was not a great deal of enthusiasm in unseating former colleagues who had become quite close friends and the level of commitment to election fighting dwindled at the same rate as the average age of Conservative membership advanced. It has only been in recent years as an influx of younger members, particularly in the Jarrow constituency, have gained some influence and an appetite for electoral fighting has begun to emerge again.

However the organisation is dreadfully poor and there are not many “boots on the ground”, I understand that this is the same position that others find themselves in, unless they are part of Labour’s well oiled fighting machine. For local politics to benefit most, and for any sort of real and lasting change to take effect, it requires an influx of local people and volunteers to join the organisation of their choice, or at least to help out during election periods, that is why I decided to help the Conservatives during last year’s general election after more than twenty years absence. I am still not a member and am still enjoying my own freedom and independence to campaign for the people of my own choice, this is rather like being registered as a supporter of a party in an American campaign without having to fully commit to party membership.

I hope that people of other persuasions are also thinking of what they can do to promote inclusion and debate in an effort to see the candidates of their choice being elected, it is what local politics needs on top of the participation of just casting one’s vote on polling day. Without any sort of active campaigning support from fresh minds local political parties may well stagnate, as I have witnessed, it needs ordinary men and women to make a decision to do just a little bit more than displaying a leaflet or poster in the front window. I’m sure all three of the main parties would welcome some help from some new faces and try to encourage them to hang around after election day.

So, I was back on the campaign trail today distributing leaflets for a Conservative hopeful in South Shields wondering just what are the best ways for new candidates to get their message across and remind people that South Shields has not always been a barren desert for Tories. Yes, there are the small leaflets, the odd letter which may or may not get published in the Shields Gazette (depending upon how much political controversy their editorial policy will allow), there are social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Better still is a dedicated personal website allied to a well designed local official party site, many  people DO look at these and use them to glean information and views, but without doubt as we become more interconnected via the internet and smart phone, the best way is to join the cold canvassers and salesmen in knocking on doors at appropriate times of day. It is the only way for your face and personality to become known, a small team of volunteers ought to be employed mainly as the distribution team for literature whilst the candidate gets his/her face known on the doorsteps.

Unfortunately, these old fashioned ways are proven to work best.

Now then, which is the smallest and flattest ward in South Shields?

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Written by curly

April 12, 2011 at 7:41 pm

21 Responses

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  1. So you’ve been down the town today curly, the local twit has been playing peeping Tom with his camera. Youll have to watch yer back.

    Sandra D

    April 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm

  2. Well done lad Khan must have the wind up if hes tweeting about you.


    April 13, 2011 at 9:04 am

  3. Curly, a little spin goes a long way? Just to clarify Nine Tory councillors were NOT elected to the Tyne and Wear County Council during the hey-day of Thatcherism. They were elected in May 1977 during the County Council elections, a time of the Lab-Lib pact which was proving deeply unpopular. In 1981 when they were up for re-election their numbers were reduced to representing just Westoe/West Park area.


    April 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    • The point is still valid Iain and an inescapable truth, following Thatcher’s election as leader of the Tory party (1975)and subsequent general election victory (1978) that this town had nine Conservative County councillors, despite whatever “spin” is employed.


      April 14, 2011 at 8:07 am

  4. You say that people need to join a party yet you then state you have not. Who then, is it you are advising? Also, it is a bit confusing when you talk about a mixture of Progressive and Conservative, who was it that the electorate were voting for in the period you were a councillor? Further, I tried to raise the issue of safe seats and your reply indicated that there was a level of tribalism, was that evident when the Conservatives won their nine seats. This blog entry seems to be a little confusing trying too much to mix past and present. Why not simply nail your colours to the mast state which party best represents your views and then put yourself up for election? The debates you engage with on line and the comments you make on local decision making can then be placed into action, should the electorate support you.


    April 13, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    • The call here Kevin is clearly for people to volunteer and for parties to welcome volunteers, if I had a wish to be elected I would have offered myself a long time ago. My role here is to spark discussion and debate NOT to promote any personal ambitions of my own.


      April 14, 2011 at 8:09 am

  5. Fair enough, but back to safe seats, you espouse so much criticism of Labours performance – this raises two questions. If their decision making is so flawed why are they still in power? and second, if they are delivering so badly why is it difficult to mount an offensive against them? I’m taking into account your statement that only a few decades ago the “Conservatives had a majority vote in South Shields”. If feelings were so anti Labour surely it would be easy to muster volunteers? Also the results of the past would indicate that there is no such thing as a safe seat. These are core questions that I feel are worth discussing as a local election looms.


    April 14, 2011 at 9:51 am

    • Sorry for the delay in replying I’m having further trouble with my desktop PC again!
      I assume you are talking purely about local conditions rather than national so I will proceed on that basis. politicians, media, and commentators will always talk in terms of safe seats based upon the preceding historical voting patterns and little will change this, but there are all sorts of considerations to take into account when a popularly envisaged safe seat suddenly changes hands. Prevailing public opinion being by far the greatest influence followed by boundary changes, personal unpopularity (as opposed to political or party unpopularity) and the quality of the opposing views and political positions. I have expressed the view often in this blog that the ruling Labour Party in South Tyneside has benefited greatly by the poor quality and strategic ineptness of those opposing them, I feel at times that there is a general acceptance of Labour’s dominant position which affects the ability of other local opposition parties from taking a robust alternative position and staging well fought campaigns based upon real positive policies in place of negative personalised attacks which gain little credence with the electors. Too often the other two major parties have NOT taken on board the lessons shown by Labour in how to recruit members and volunteers, organise effectively in smaller ward branches and sub groups, raise finances, and put in place the mechanics of fighting an election, Labour is without doubt a well oiled fighting machine! Opposition parties should never accept the notion that a seat is safe and should always strive to offer an alternative and credible choice to the electors, without a robust challenge ALL politicians on each side of the divide become complacent and arrogant leaving seats to appear to be even more “safe”, so it is important to continue to be enthusiastic about opposing whichever party has the majority, we would be a poor democracy if we failed to hold decision makers to account.

      History also shows us that as more parties offer greater choice in the fight against Labour they defeat their own objectives by splitting the opposition vote and strengthening Labour’s hand, when it boils down to simpler and fewer choices Labour can find itself in trouble, particularly in South Shields where they have ceded control of the council twice in the past fifty years or so. This is less likely to happen when, in some seats, the incumbent Labour councillor may face a Liberal, a Tory, two independents, and a BNP candidate!

      Politics itself has become a bit of a dirty word to the public over the past couple of years following the Parliamentary expenses disclosures, the failure to effectively deal with the financial and banking crisis, and mounting national debt and structural deficit, it has affected the willingness of many people to involve themselves at a local level, even at a time when perhaps we need even more involvement. Conversations with members of South Shields Labour Party disclose that even their fighting machine is struggling to find the numbers of volunteers that they could previously rely upon, members of the Independent Alliance have to fight on many fronts moving from ward to ward, the Lib-Dems numbers are so low that they limit the number of seats that they can fight, and it is not a dissimilar position for the Tories as far as numbers go. Politics is not a currency easy to sell at the moment!

      There is another consideration as to why, currently, Labour is so strong and that is the stance taken by its current leadership in dispensing with a lot of its essential ideology, managing its affairs in council to create the least possible upset or annoyance,and there are no strident anti-government positions taken as they astutely carry on bidding for and winning as much Treasury finance as they can regardless of the party reigning in Whitehall. It is also apparent that they have learned all about teamwork as managerial changes within the structure of the administration have been achieved without major strife.

      Still, I am sure that Iain Malcolm and his Labour cabinet welcome constructive opposition, and criticism, and although mollifying some by inviting opposition councillors to chair some committees, he will NOT be regarding Labour’s seats as “safe”, even if others do. Upsets can happen, one micro local issue can upset the balance in a seat (Fellgate and Hedworth is a good recent example) and sometimes this may boil over into other areas, so it is essential that others are available to turn to, not just as a protest but as a viable alternative, and that is what opposition parties ought to be aiming to achieve more than anything else.


      April 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      • Surely, if people feel strongly enough new people will, or at least some will engage in opposition politics. Is it not the case that currently due to the cuts, “that aren’t happening”, the redundancies and some very questionnable decisions particularly in the Middle East that the current government have infact delivered a hammer blow to their own chances of securing more of a local power base. We all have to remember that no one party had an overall election win and I will guess that the opinion polls are right, there will be huge losses for the Liberals and Conservatives at the election.
        I think 35,000 people joined the Labour Party within a month or two of the general election, many suddenly realised that their protest vote againt Brown and some of the failed economic policies of the last government had backfired. You fail to answer the key issue, if this council is so awful why are they in power and why do the opposition not have more support and members?
        It strikes me that one issue that the ConDems have not managed to realise is that the working classes, those who work, pay taxes, get themselves an education and profession, and try to make a good life, are the very ones who are paying the price under the current governments financial approach. There is a lack of understanding of ordinary people at least Obama is taking a long term approach to reducing the US deficiet and aiming to ensure longer term sustained growth.
        The Liberals will no longer be trusted following their many broken promises and I think Cameron is being very clever in letting them take all the flack. This I believe is why there is no sudden rush of recruits to other parties in South Tyneside and if the opposition wish to be an opposition they surely need to listen to the concerns raised by the ordinary person in the street (the majority), listen to and learn, where is the hope or optimism or opportunity for ordinary people in the area and how can this government and local opposition do better for them than Labour?


        April 16, 2011 at 8:54 am

  6. I have just had delivered through my door an election menu from the labour party its fab.
    It mentions the real tough times ahead for all residents of our ward Biddick and All Saints and the reasons why we should vote labour,I fail to see how two new car parking spaces on Brockley Avenue can counter all the swinging cuts against the people in our ward.Will no one stand up and say no to this government ? Is there one genuine MP out there who will fight for the working class ? where is John Prescott when you need him most ?


    April 16, 2011 at 8:21 am

    • I fully agree with you Austerity.
      You will have some one who will fight for you when she wins this years local election in biddick & All Saints.
      Because whats happened on the ward in the last week IS our labour cllrs cant count on the chair of the NHW to do there dirty work for them. As he`s been found out.


      April 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm

  7. Drinking coffee in a Newcastle “Starbucks” with the baristas according to one blogista. Classic Clegg quote accusing Labour of “putting politics before truth”, pot and kettle comes to mind. Recommend reading Trollope’s political novels, his insights as relevant now as they were 150 years ago…


    April 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm

  8. So the party that espouses and embraces unfettered, deregulated,private sector entrepreneurship is seeking to restrict the siting of scrapyards. Meanwhile local and national regulatory and health and safety services and other alleged jobsworths and busybodies are being cut, frozen, or, on occasions ridiculed, party on!


    April 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm

  9. Kevin said:

    There is a lack of understanding of ordinary people at least Obama is taking a long term approach to reducing the US deficiet and aiming to ensure longer term sustained growth.

    The market makers clearly do not agree, international credit rating provider Standard and Poor have downgraded the USA’s triple A rating from “stable” to “negative”

    “Because the US has, relative to its ‘AAA’ [top-rated] peers, what we consider to be very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness and the path to addressing these is not clear to us, we have revised our outlook on the long-term rating to negative from stable,”

    Further, the IMF (International Monetary Fund)is of the opinion that the size of the US deficit will create instability in the international financial markets.


    April 18, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    • Just as in this country the jury is out. You must have spent sone time ‘researching’ the web on this why not look further you will find other entries that suggest the BBC recenbtly proposed a 1.9 per cent growth for UK as compared with 2.8 per cent for the US i.e. over the decade. Your second quote says nothing but what could be expected fom the IMF, yes the states is big and its deficit will cause concern, just as its banks crashing did, so weak arguments I’m afraid. This can happen when one simply searches the web to find items to support an argument, the web isn’t always the best place! Whilst picking up on the point of US economic approach you fail to answer the more local questions set re safe seats, and lack of popular opposition to the incumbant party, this would have engendered good debate but i guess it was too difficulyt a subject for you to engage with. I’m leaving the blog now definatly for good, but one last comment how stupid can one get “If it wasn’t for all the Indies and BNP and others there’d be more of a chance of defeating Labour”. Why not make it a one party state. It is rhetoric such as this that makes me think there is little hope for true debate on blogs such as this! Good luck to you all.


      April 19, 2011 at 8:30 am

      • Kevin it was me who made that comment about the Indies the BNP and the rest but curly was right to point it out as one of the reasons why Labour councillors keep winning have you always been this petulant and petty?

        D. Wood

        April 19, 2011 at 8:44 am

  10. Kevin I’ve just been through curlys reply to you and it looks like hes given a lot of answers to you, have you been reading something else. Time to take your red blinkers off.If it wasnt for all of the Indies and BNP and others thered be more of a chance of defeating some Labour councillors, and another thing when the ConDems are unpopular how come so many councils in the south east will remain Tory?

    D. Wood

    April 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm

  11. It would be interesting to conduct an analysis of the places where most of the bloggers on Conservative Home are resident, doubt if Tyneside would feature high on the list. Democracy equals diversity of political or even non political allegiances of local election candidates. Any politically committed blogger will wear blue, green, yellow, or perhaps even sky blue pink “blinkers”. Who or what is an Independent and from what are they independent? Recent events raise interesting questions on that point. HM Opposition are not “deficit deniers” but, perhaps, they would have been less reckless and ideologically driven in making cuts and economies, particularly in this area of UK, if in power. Apart from Curly,and even his blog is marred by the occasional pointless, personalised intervention, there appears to be no other credible political tweeter/blogger devoid of puerile personal attacks in this area.


    April 19, 2011 at 7:26 am

    • Well I’ve read Joan Atkinson’s Tweets and they are pretty much sane, balanced, and not laced with too much party flavour. Ernie Gibson on the other hand writes his purely as political propaganda (nothing wrong in that, so long as you know what you are getting).


      April 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm

  12. I’ve seen you a few times now Curly door knocking for the Conservative candidate for Beacon and Bents, and it’s a shame there isn’t more of you. I’m sure this years Beacon and Bents ejection will spring a few surprises, as the Conservative candidate may pull a few surprises, beating Audrey will be a huge task, especially as it’s a safe Labour seat, but in politics, you just never know. As long as Khans pet dog and the BNP candidate don’t win, then I font care, as both candidates if elected will poison us with their lies, divisions and hatred.

    The Beacon

    May 1, 2011 at 2:57 am

    • I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised at the reception given to Mr. Hayder on the doorsteps it is certainly not hostile at all. I’m not into the predictions game, and as you allude to there is a mountain to climb to unseat a Labour councillor, but I am expecting a much improved vote for the Conservatives in the Beacon and Bents ward.
      I guess sometimes strange things can happen in local politics.
      I’ll probably be delivering the message in other parts this morning before returning to help Mr. Hayder later today.


      May 1, 2011 at 9:44 am

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