Archive for the ‘Foreign Affairs’ Category
Welcome back my friends.
First a bit of music to cheer you all up, and may I extend a big welcome to you all as we begin a New Year in South Tyneside’s first and oldest political blog, I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that it brings some sort of cheer to you. I cannot promise that output from this desk will be any more frequent this year than it was last, a new lifestyle here leaves me a bit less time to write and my passion for photography at South Shields Daily Pictures also competes for my online time. However, with a long drum roll let’s get started with things for 2012.
National and international predictions
Financial and political pressure within the EU continue to build as a realistic solution to the Eurozone crisis fails to materialise, as referendums in Greece and Ireland initially reject further austerity measures relating to the latest bail out plans. Calls to remove these countries from the Eurozone are thwarted as both nations are forced to hold a second vote which confirms their compliance with the Commission’s wishes. Massive unrest on the streets of Athens leads, for the first time, to a pan European peacekeeping force being deployed in Greece to keep its citizens under control.
David Cameron decides that Britain will not contribute any personnel to the new force, and further reduces Britain’s contribution to the IMF, stating that our financial problems require us to keep more of our finances at home. Nick Clegg threatens to pull the Lib-Dems out of the coalition in protest at the Conservatives outright hostility to the new EU plans designed to bring stability to the markets, however because of Labour’s weak position under Ed Miliband a combination of Tory and rebellious Labour MPs win the day in a Confidence debate in the House of Commons, thus tying the Lib-Dems into the coalition. Rebel Labour MPs claim this was the best way to ensure the total demise of Lib- Dem MPs at the next general election whilst buying more time for Labour to reorganise.
In America President Obama wins a second term, although very narrowly, after providing logistical and intelligence support to Israel when they successfully bombed a number of Iranian nuclear facilities the week before President Ahmedinijad was expected to announce the testing of his country’s first nuclear weapon.
In Russia Vladimir Putin is elected to lead the nation again, but there are strong doubts about the integrity of the elections, massive unrest in Russian cities is dealt with firmly and harshly, and following warmer than normal friendly talks with neighbouring states regarding trade agreements and energy supplies, observers begin fearing for the independence of the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) as nationalist parties there see a massive rise in popularity after the EU’s enforced austerity measures spark riots.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announces a new treaty with Iran, promising to help them rebuild the facilities destroyed by the Israelis. Increased defence spending in the secretive far eastern state has resulted in a larger American military presence in Australia’s Northern Territory and the permanent patrol of a full battle ready US fleet in international waters close to the Korean peninsular.
China continues to be the world’s leading economy but still shows little appetite for increasing it’s spending on imports, preferring instead to produce good quality copies of foreign article for home consumption, Obama’s pleas for relaxations in China’s trade policies fall on deaf ears.
The case in San Mateo County Court in California involving three South Tyneside councillors and an officer rumbles on seemingly interminably with no prospect of either a firm result and conclusion, or a commencement of proceedings in a British court. The costs of the matter are used as a political weapon during the local government elections in May.
Fifteen South Shields boys and girls attend the X Factor auditions in Newcastle but not a single one makes any progress, meanwhile late in the year Little Mix release an album to mixed reviews which does well in the charts but does not reach No. 1, fans had a liking for the new material but complained that five covers in the album were probably too many. As the year closes Little Mix prepare for their second UK headlining tour. Meanwhile Joe McElderry had released an album firmly in the dance genre after expressing disappointment over the sales of his Christmas Classics collection of cover songs, he also decided to accept the offer of a part in a West End musical and will be appearing in panto at the end of the year at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.
South Tyneside’s jobless figures continue to rise although not at the massive rate that some had feared, local employment prospects are boosted by the announcement from Nissan of their decision to build a further two new models at their massive plant in Washington.
In the local elections in May Labour takes an absolute stranglehold on local politics as virtually all opposition in South Tyneside is wiped off the map. Cllr Geraldine White loses her seat to Labour in Fellgate and Hedworth, Lawrence Nolan fails to hold Harton for the Progressives after the retirement of Jimmy Capstick, the Liberal Democrats disappear as Joe Abbot loses to Labour in Hebburn North, Labour regain Horsely Hill in a close contest as Independent Alliance councillor Gordon Finch loses his seat, in Monkton John Hodgson somehow manages to fend off Labour’s challenge with only a handful of votes to spare, Labour make it three in a row in West Park as Enid Hetherington ends the Progressive Association’s long tenure there, Labour pick up Westoe at the expense of Allen Branley, and further legal challenges ensue after Ahmed Khan narrowly loses the decision against Labour’s John Anglin in the Beacon and Bents ward of South Shields.
Labour’s only other failure on a remarkable night was in Cleadon Village and East Boldon, where Conservative Councillor Jeff Milburn retained his seat with a much reduced majority.
Following further shop closures in King Street, South Shields, South Tyneside Council announced an updated plan for a shoppers car parking scheme which gave two hours of free town centre parking, charges would only be applied after two hours and could be refunded if shoppers were spending more than £5 with local “partner” businesses. In a further sign of Labour’s pragmatic approach to working with the coalition government council Leader Iain Malcolm announced his intention of shaving an additional £45m from South Tyneside’s spending as he intended to announce a first ever reduction in council taxes to help local people rebuild their economy by putting money back into their own pockets to spend.
On the sporting scene, South Shields Mariners are in disarray after the sale of Filtrona Park , a late season slide in form saw them narrowly avoid relegation and their future is now in serious doubt as new houses are about to be built on their former ground. Until they find a new home their existence in the Northern League cannot be guaranteed.
In the Premier League Mike Ashley showed no inclination to spend on Newcastle United during the January window, as once again he discussed the possibility of selling the club at the end of the season. The Magpies strong start to the campaign was cancelled out when striker Demba Ba suffered a serious injury, this coupled with the sales of Tiote and Krul meant that Pardew’s men had a late season loss of form which saw them end the campaign in 15th. place.
Rivals Sunderland were boosted by the surprise arrival of a top name striker and a full back which pleased the red and white half of South Shields. Meanwhile Ryan Noble’s emergence as a Premier League threat helped Martin O’Neill cement his status as a “legend” as the team went on a strong run towards the end of the season finishing above the Magpies in 9th. place. Owner Ellis Short announced that further funds would be made available to the Irishman for the summer transfer window, once again Sunderland are considering the possibility of extending the capacity at The Stadium of Light.
South Tyneside’s finest blotted out by dead tyrant.
This news will probably never be reported nationally and will struggle to find the first two or three pages of The Shields Gazette tomorrow, as our press go on a frenzied search for sound bites, video clips. and gruesome pictures following the killing of the Libyan “mad dog” tyrant Gaddafi, but none of that for now.
Today in South Shields Town Hall not a single dissenting voice was to be heard as South Tyneside Council first of all did its bit to help local businesses by agreeing new procurement procedures that ought to help improve the security of local jobs, now it is up to local employers to have a real go at winning council tenders as the council signalled its intentions to secure 50% of its supplies from local businesses within the next four years. Secondly they agreed a new Charter with the Armed Forces which will effectively lift some of the barriers and hurdles faced by serving members of the Armed services, ex-service personnel, and their families, when they come to re-integrate into the local community after serving their country. At last some relief and some dignity for those who have risked their lives as they seek housing, health care, rehabilitation, education, training, or employment opportunities. South Tyneside WILL NOT be found wanting. Thirdly, the Council unanimously passed a resolution which will see Cllr. James Lowery Capstick become a Freeman of the Borough, he becomes the only serving councillor to be honoured in this way after what seems like a lifetime of service to the old County Borough of South Shields, and Metropolitan District of South Tyneside.
Jim has served for over 44 years, and it was fitting that he received accolades from both sides of the chamber from people who were not around when he first won a seat in South Shields way back in the 1960s. The chamber was hushed and you could have heard a pin drop as Cllr. Iain Malcolm, Labour’s Leader in South Tyneside moving the motion to give him the Freedom of the Borough recalled Jim’s early forays into local democracy in an election against the late Albert Elliott in Simonside, he brought some mirth as councillors chuckled over the “on-off” relationship, Iain always wanting Jimmy off the council, and Jimmy always getting back on! He admired Jimmy’s long held and firm belief that national politics has no place in local town halls even if his party allegiance didn’t allow him to share that belief. He also went on to recall that time in the late 1960s and early 70s when the Progressives had the majority on the old South Shields County Borough Council and Jimmy Capstick served as vice chairman of the Housing Committee when George Smith was chairman. Between them they introduced the “right to buy” in the north-east, long before the Conservatives had even thought of it, they built over 600 new council homes, and sold council land to develop the Holder House estate in Whiteleas, he was also instrumental with the late Harry Marshall in building the new Temple Park Leisure Centre. Councillor Malcolm also praised Jimmy’s open attitude and approach to local politics stating that his long experience and wisdom of town hall proceedings was always worth listening to.
This theme was developed by Cllr. Enid Hetherington for the Progressives in recalling many memories that she had shared with her father, Harry Marshall, and of the friendly sage advice often offered to a new councillor by Jimmy Capstick, she kept her remarks short, not wishing to take any gloss off the occasion for her colleague.
Labour’s heavyweight from Hebburn Cllr. Eddie McAtominey then made a salutary statement recalling that period between the late 1970s and the early 1980s when Labour was licking its wounds following heavy defeats locally and the landslide election of Mrs. Thatcher. He recalled that South Tyneside Council had 66 seats back then and that 32 were Labours, 32 were Progressive/Conservative, and 2 Liberals held the balance of power (oh how things might have changed if I had found a few more handfuls of votes to defeat Elizabeth Diamond in Brinkburn eh?). Jimmy Capstick and Harry Marshall stubbornly kept Labour on their toes as first Vince Fitzpatrick and then Albert Elliott attempted to steady the ship, there were many heated debates and arguments in the chamber, indeed Eddie opined that some of the very best debates took place during that period, but Jimmy ensured that all opposition councillors had their say and concluded the debates without any hint of rancour or personal attack or insult. It was this honourable approach that marked Jimmy out as an outstanding contributor to the political life of South Tyneside.
Finally Cllr. George Elsom (always a generous fellow) on behalf of the independents painted out the picture of the times he had opposed Jimmy from the Labour benches then joined him in opposition, yet despite Cllr. Capstick being a founder member of the Independent Alliance Elsom affirmed that the recent period of personal attacks, insults, and dishonourable slurs against paid council officers and employees did not take place under Jimmy’s joint leadership. In fact he stated that Jimmy was an absolute gentleman in politics, perhaps the last of this type in South Tyneside .
Cllr. Capstick’s acceptance speech was received in absolute silence as the frailty of his years showed but belied none of his wit and wisdom as he declined any thoughts of commemorative caskets or suchlike. He was acutely aware that he has seen many changes in local politics over the past fifty years but no so momentous as Labour Leader moving a motion such as this, it just would not have happened in the past. He was alluding to Cllr. Malcolm’s profound change in leadership style which has been brought to the Labour benches opposite, despite their heavy majority Malcolm has introduced a more open type of governance and is far more likely to listen to the opposition and the wider electorate than his predecessors. Jimmy has found him approachable and amenable, and thinks this new era is developing better decision making processes. He sounded humble, yet proud of his long service, but even more proud of his family and the steadfast support of his wife Elmer, however he did drop a huge clue that his service as a councillor may soon be coming to an end as he seeks more time at home to spend with his family.
I too was (a) surprised and pleased that a Labour Leader should propose this motion to honour his opponent, and (b) kind of disappointed that only 22 people were in the public gallery to witness this event, and no doubt some of them were journalists. Jimmy Capstick may well be the last of his generation of long term well respected Progressives who set out to represent nobody but the people of South Shields and South Tyneside without any flavour of national politics creeping in, there were a good few mentions for Ken Hickman to today, another who deserves some recognition.
A special ceremony to convey the Freedom of the Borough to Cllr. Capstick will take place on 7th. November, why not go along and watch, these things don’t happen very often.
Former South Shields Progressive Councillors George Smith, Stan Smith, and Dr. John McKee were all honoured by the Queen, it would be nice to think that someone may make nominations on behalf of Jimmy Capstick and Ken Hickman too.
Coming soon – a very old picture of South Shields County Borough Council.
Any sightings, please pass on to William Hague.
Click thumbnail for larger picture
I was asked a few times yesterday about the “aircraft carrier” that was spotted anchored off the mouth of the Tyne as South Shields entertained thousands of visitors on a weekend dedicated to supporting Armed Forces Day. Following a small parade and presentation at South Shields Town Hall on Saturday morning there was a big presence of bikers and petrol heads at the Bents Park on Sunday as many people took advantage of rather hot and steamy weather to enjoy the seaside. The displays were quite impressive and it was pleasing to see an event organised by those who are probably more accustomed to bad press rather than being the subject of praise, however the Badlanders Motor Cycle Club and the Tyne Wear Chapter of the Hells Angels provided a variety of entertainment and bags of interest for those interested in monster machines, hot rods, heavy metal rock, vintage militaria, and generally good clean honest fun. They had live bands entertaining the crowds, lots of charity stalls, retailers, big bikes for sale, food and drink, and a car and bike show too, and the whole event was aimed at raising money for various charities with links to our servicemen and women such as Help for Heroes, Save Our Soldiers, and The Royal British Legion.
HMS Illustrious seemed to have timed her visit purposefully, but it may well have been an opportune accident of timing as she undergoes sea trials around the UK coast following a £40m refit at Rosyth. “Lusty” Illustrious is classed as a “strike carrier” but in reality she is the last remaining through deck cruiser after the decommissioning of Ark Royal and Invincible, her decks are now fitted for carrying helicopters and she will serve as the UK’s on call carrier when HMS Ocean undergoes a refit. She has been in Rosyth dockyard for the past 16 months for an overhaul which has seen her communications kit enhanced, mess areas – the crew’s living spaces – revamped, a new anti-torpedo system fitted, and has had 540,000 litres of paint (enough to fill one fifth of an Olympic-sized swimming pool) applied, including a fuel-efficient coating to her outer hull which will make her scythe through the oceans more efficiently, among other work carried out by Babcock and the ship’s company.
Above all, however, the ship emerges from refit capable of carrying up to 20 helicopters and 600 troops as an assault ship (a function she performed for real during operations in Afghanistan in 2001-02).
“This has been a challenging project, delivered to a very high standard by the joint team – on time and on budget.”
said Capt Graeme Little, of the Capital Ships team at the Defence Equipment and Support organisation.
“We approach Illustrious’ return to the navy with confidence in the significant improvements which have been made.”
After an initial week-long run-out of Rosyth earlier this month, a more thorough work-out for Lusty is now underway over the next five weeks.
She’s due in Portsmouth in late July, when she’ll be formally handed back to the Fleet.
I share the grave worries and concerns voiced by our top brass in the Ministry of Defence over our very stretched roles at present, and with two new carriers promised sometime never in the future we are left in quite a vulnerable position with one “strike (helicopter) carrier” on call at a time when the Argentinians are rattling their sabres over the Falklands again, if they had a mind to subjugate the Falkland Islanders I fear there would be little that we could do this time to relieve their plight. Worse still I cannot see our “friends” in America helping us, despite our clamour to help them out in Afghanistan!
At a time of economic restraint British military adventures need to be very carefully considered and priorities ought to be given to the defence of the realm and defence of British strategic interests, before we even think about assisting in the so called Arab Spring! These “revolutions” in the middle east have not produced exciting results either for the protagonists or the outside observers who were perhaps hoping to see the emergence of liberal democracies, even in Egypt the military seems to have worked quietly but successfully behind the scenes to get the result that they wanted. Our involvement in Libya was premature and hasty and many of us had doubts over the altruism of the original motives, it is becoming increasingly expensive for the tax payer and stretches the Royal Navy and the RAF to their absolute limits, to add insult to the current impasse we have the Prime Minister telling his Defence Chiefs of Staff that their job is to do the fighting and it is his job to do the talking! Please don’t misunderstand me, along with thousands of other South Tynesiders, I fully and unambiguously support the dedication and professionalism of our armed services when the politicians have made a decision to deploy them abroad, and I also recognise that the MOD is a big beast capable of wasting many millions of our hard earned pounds just as well as any other department, but the Prime Minister must at least look as though he is listening to what his military staff are telling him. The message they are trumpeting is that we are involved in too many campaigns at a time when the politicians are asking them to slim down the operations and the budgets, you cannot get quarts out of pint pots!
The answers to half of the current financial conundrums for our Defence Chiefs must surely be a very swift and total withdrawal from Afghanistan, regardless of the pace of the US draw down, and a lightning fast removal from Libya, in both cases we ought to make it quite clear that it is now up to the people of those countries to decide their own destinies and fates without external intervention. We have done our bit, it’s surely time for them to do theirs (if they really want that change).
A more insular policy may well be required for a while at least until the bristling of the top brass has subsided, however as the prickly Argentinians become more embroiled in robust rhetoric we at least can rely on the good Doctor Liam Fox to fight fire with fire:
“Those in politics on the other side of the world can huff and puff but it will not change our resolve politically to retain the independence and the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands nor to come to their defence and to maintain deterrence as best we can.
“We have Typhoons already stationed there. We have a very clear message that we have both the naval power if necessary, and certainly an intent to ensure that the Falkland Islands are kept free and their people enjoy the liberation we fought so hard for 30 years ago.”
Those words need to be read very very carefully, he mentions political resolve but not military resolution, and he talks up deterrence “as best we can”, he talks of intent to keep the Falklands “liberated” from the Argentinians. All this with a few Typhoons and a navy that would fill the South Marine Park lake? Come on Dr. Fox, the only naval power that we might have left would be a nuclear submarine prepared to play very high stakes in an international game of poker!
Either that or the big hearted Badlanders and Hells Angels from Tyne Wear and Durham might be enlisted to join a cargo carrier headed south to relive their glory days of 29 years ago!
Normal service will resume shortly
Like a lot of other people in South Shields I am more concerned with the plight of the Japanese (and the Libyan) people right now, every spare minute seems to be used in assimilating and analysing news reports. So matters such as how to get life back into our Market Square, or more shops in King Street will have to wait, they seem so trivial right now.
South Shields MP in new roles?
Well I’m glad you all tuned in, since it was revealed that I may be looking for a new media role I can tell you that I am also interested in being a highly paid “face” for Sunderland AFC, cannot promise that I’ll be at the Stadium of Light much though as I have this season ticket here at The Emirates. I might also be a little pushed for time as I juggle my careers as Member of Parliament for South Shields, as well as non executive vice-chairman to Niall Quinn, – I hope I don’t upset the extremely good start they’ve had to the season but I’ll be really annoyed if they end up doing better than the Gooners, – and part-time teacher. Don’t worry though, I’ll try my hardest to squeeze in the odd visit to South Shields.
Yes, I know, times are tough, unemployment is rising and it really hurts to be out of a job in the north east right now, I really feel for those whose homes are under threat of repossession or who have lost the company car, but with good mates around you things should be OK. It has to be better than the future that some MPs are facing!
Jeff in Westminster wonders just how much spare time our MP has (although I think he is mistaken over the hours that Miliband proposes to teach), and some others imply that an MP cannot do his/her job fully if they are otherwise engaged elsewhere. It must be remembered, of course, that David Miliband still acted as our constituency MP whilst flying around the world ejecting people from their homes when he was Foreign Secretary (although a lot of casework was taken on by neighbouring MP Stephen Hepburn, as it is customary for neighbouring MPs to grow broader shoulders ). Many others still find time to get paid for speaking engagements or writing newspaper columns, but it is difficult to argue that one can be adequately seeing to constituency affairs on a day devoted to teaching in London, or chasing down a television or radio deal.
Jeff was initially in favour of increased pay for MPs, now he’s not so sure, he adds:
However, I do have a problem with MPs acting outside the job description and taking up part-time roles outside their democratic remit. If you want to be a tv star or a teacher then step aside and let someone else in to do the job that you were elected to do less than a year ago.
Does he have a fair point? Would the Member of Parliament for Jarrow be so lucky as to find additional well paid part time jobs?
South Shields MP looks for media role.
Almost laughable isn’t it, how many politicians have actually made a big impact on TV outside of politics? Well, there’s Michael Portillo and …….err…..Ann Widdecombe……….oh, and loosely sticking to politics there was Brian Walden, away from those three the rest only made an impact as “Spitting Image” puppets!
Just what would the South Shields MP want to talk about anyway, and who would want to watch him? He lost Labour’s leadership battle to his more mundane and doubly dumber brother Ed, in a contest that sent the majority of us into a comatose paralysis, and the only person he seems to have excited over the past year is Hilary Clinton!
So I thought I’d try and come up with a few ideas to help David out, just in case the BBC or some independent producers are struggling to find a niche to fill with him. Over the next week or so I’ll be bringing you a few more snippets from “MTV” (MiliTV) highlighting those areas where David Miliband might just have some expertise and entertainment value (all in the name of good old fashioned satire of course.)
Today we are seeing a pilot from a still to be produced travel channel, check back for more over the next few days.