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South Tyneside goes to the polls today

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Local Elections predictions

Along with hundreds of othesr in England and Wales many of our councillors in South Tyneside are facing the voters at the ballot box today. The results expected around midnight will be based largely on Labour’s stewardship of our local economy and its efforts to stay within government spending guidelines in order to keep council taxes frozen, they will also be coloured a little by national political trends which don’t auger well for the two constituent parties of the coalition government.

With only one Conservative councillor, and no Liberal Democratic councillors, after the decision of Joe Abbott to stand as an independent, we shouldn’t expect any miraculous results from the coalition partners around here, but I am predicting that Jeff Milburn will hold his seat in Cleadon Village and East Boldon for the Conservatives, unfortunately for Joe Abbott I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that he may well lose in Hebburn North. The rest of my predictions will not come as any major surprise, I see a victorious night for the Labour Party as the votes are counted in South Shields and Jarrow, the opposition is in for a tough old time! I’m predicting a battering, a hammering, with the Independent Alliance and Progressives almost wiped off the map.

  • Beacon and Bents – All eyes will be on this result which could be very close to call, but I’m predicting a Labour win for former Mayor John Anglin .
  • Bede – Labour hold
  • Biddick and All Saints – Labour hold
  • Boldon Colliery – Labour hold
  • Cleadon and East Boldon – Conservative hold
  • Cleadon Park – Labour hold
  • Fellgate and Hedworth – Labour win from Independent Alliance
  • Harton – Labour win from Progessive
  • Hebburn North – Labour win from Lib/Dem
  • Hebburn South – Labour hold.
  • Horsley Hill – another one very close to call, Labour win from Independent Alliance
  • Monkton – Independent Alliance hold
  • Primrose – Labour hold
  • Simonside and Rekendyke – Labour to hold two seats following the death of Joan Meeks
  • West Park – Labour win from Progressive
  • Westoe – Labour win from Independent Alliance (no Branley effect this year)
  • Whitburn and Marsden – Labour hold
  • Whiteleas – Independent hold, but it could be very tight.

Well, they are my predictions, which would see the Independent Alliance, the Progressives, Lib-Dems, UKIP, and Conservatives fighting to fill the area of an average park bench, if you disagree then please say why.

Remember, you have no right at all to complain about things if you do not take part and use your vote, a map of polling stations is available here, and the full list of candidates is available here.

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2012 predictions

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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.

Local predictions.

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.

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South Tyneside’s five month election campaign!

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John Anglin and Johnny Morris

Long lost cousins?

No – honestly, it isn’t until May next year.

Surely this must go down as the longest election campaign in South Tyneside’s history, however the Labour Party is already out of the blocks and up and running!

Former Mayor John Anglin has announced in a letter to residents of the Beacon and Bents ward in South Shields that he’ll be contesting the seat that he so recently vacated in order to make a lengthy overseas trip, and being a bit mischievous I noticed a distinct similarity between Mr. Anglin and former BBC children’s’ TV presenter Johnny Morris. The man from “Animal Magic” might easily have been a long lost cousin of John Anglin, don’t you think? More than likely Morris ignored the best advice ever given to showmen, “never work with children or monkeys animals”, and Anglin must surely be contemplating this advice too as he attempts to retake the seat for Labour. It is not yet known whether or not South Shields’ most controversial and outspoken councillor, Ahmed Khan, has decided that he wishes to defend the seat in May 2012.

Also out and about in the Fellgate and Hedworth ward was another new Labour candidate Alan Smith – no not this one –  with council leader Iain Malcolm and Cllr. Bill Brady. They were there to say things to the effect that Labour does NOT forget about those wards that elect opposition councillors! Sounds quite funny really when the perception is quite the opposite, as I’m sure Cllr. Steve Harrison and his fellow independents will attest.

However there is a point to all of this, and that is that Labour is setting out an early marker that sitting Independent councillors are going to be targeted, and that they see opportunities of retaking seats which have “strayed” from Labour’s grasp in recent years. Make no bones about this, the current Labour leadership in South Tyneside sees a rosy future and believes that it can achieve overwhelming dominance in the council chamber as the Conservative and Lib-Dem brands appear “toxic” to the electorate. This new “Blue” Labour regime probably also sees some dividend coming from the tight budgetary controls imposed upon it by the coalition government, it is quite prepared to undertake the task of reducing council spending in exchange for the freeze in council taxes, they certainly don’t want to rock the boat by introducing proposals that call for increases in taxes when we are finding the economic climate “challenging”. The local Labour Party will be challenging the opposition parties to produce a well informed and costed alternative budget in the first quarter of next year, something  which they have not been adept at doing with any great success in the past few years. It also offers Labour the opportunity of opening a “trap door” for the opposition if they attempt to produce a budget calling for a reduction in council taxes if it is accompanied by even larger spending cuts than those implemented by the ruling Labour group.

Now is the time for those Conservatives, Lib_Dems, Progressive, and non aligned independents in South Tyneside to come together with a united vision of how the borough can progress through 2012 without further affecting economic decline and without burdening the local electorate with additional taxation and service charges, in an effort to appear both sympathetic to the aims of the coalition in reducing the budget deficit and the debt mountain, and appealing to those who wish to see an effective and empathetic alternative to Labour  whilst putting a firm squeeze on the Independent Alliance who have signally failed to prosper as an opposition with a real policy agenda or new ideas.

The long road to May 2012 starts here – today!

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Not the right way

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not the right waySo many things that I said “No” to during the past week.

It didn’t help that “Dave’s” coalition government and the Opposition sort of joined forces to whip their MPs to vote against giving us a new referendum on our relationship with the EU, after all it is a totally different beast to the one which we last had a say about in 1973. The idea that people could register their ePetitions on the No. 10 website and if they had enough support (over 100000 signatures) they would result in a debate in the House of Commons is essentially a good one, especially as there are, from time to time, issues where it seems our MPs might be slightly out of tune with the public. However, a second petition relating to the price of petrol will apparently NOT be debated because of a lack of time in the Parliamentary calendar! Come on Dave, your government is devaluing the importance of these petitions if you cannot find time to debate them.

I profoundly disagreed too with the whole “solution” to the Eurozone crisis, this managed default of the Greek debts is a signal of much worse to come, we have spent the last two years throwing more debt at the Greeks and the Irish with other economies also being drip fed bail out funding, and let’s not forget how much was borrowed by Gordon Brown to increase the liquidity of British Banks either, I fail to see how you can solve anyone’s debts by piling more debt upon them! But we are led by the (European) nose to help create a 1.2 trillion Euro fund to assist member states who cannot manage to spend   around the same amount that they earn in revenue. Surely a result of the Brown/Obama plan to solve the banking crisis, invest spend your way out of trouble! Italy, Spain and Portugal will be next to feel the pressure of the mountain of Eurobond debts, as once again we see economies that are introducing austerity measures rather late in the day to balance their books. If we ran our household budgets in this way we would soon be looking towards a voluntary bankruptcy! Which brings us to the UK, where we too have come to realise, late in the day, that our national debts and budget deficit needed to be urgently addressed, and despite the efforts of the coalition government to bring public spending under control, those debts continue to rise and public spending continues to be a massive burden, George Osborne tells us that we are not contributing much to the European Stabilising mechanism but with deft sleight of hand we are increasing our contributions to the IMF instead, any wonder that we fail to meet spending targets? The hand of Brussels lies heavily upon the decisions made by our politicians and the whole mess has the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel musing over the future peace of Europe, possibly a rather far fetched view in my opinion, but it shapes the ridiculous writing in some of our newspapers this weekend.

Solution, allow the Eurozone to collapse and let member states reintroduce their own floating currencies, allowing a managed default based upon the exchange rate of the remaining Euro at the time of conversion to the new currency. Tell these member states that the European Central Bank will not be bailing them out in future, perhaps then we might see some fresh starts and some  growth slowly emanating from the ashes, this whole sorry affair of the last week has been more about saving the single currency and the European dream of political unity more than it has been about saving the economies of individual member states, and by playing their own small part our coalition government has nailed its flag to the mast as a lukewarm supporter of European integration. I firmly believe that ALL British politicians were wrong, wrong, wrong, not to allow their MPs a free vote during the EU debate, and that sometime in the far future the EU will collapse as a result of its utopian political and economic dreams.

Next disagreement is with Iain Malcolm, the Leader of South Tyneside Council who wrote in the Guardian during the week that councils were taking the flak for the government’s spending cuts. Was this a paid for article Iain? Anyway, pretty good at playing politics, perhaps the first stage in an election strategy for next May blaming the evil wicked Tories and Lib Dems for wreaking misery on us all but good old Labour in South Tyneside has managed to produce a budget which will not increase your council tax for e second year in succession! Can you see it coming? It may have been better and more honest of him to admit that Labour frittered away £ billions when in office, and saddled us with larger debts than we accrued through fighting the Second World War, perhaps he should have done a Liam Byrne and admitted that the cupboard was bear at the end of Gordon Brown’s tenure. He said:

The government’s cuts are brutal and ideological. Our task isn’t just to protect residents from the worst effects – it is to make them fully appreciate whose hand is on the axe.

Brutal? Idealogical? What then would Alistair Darling’s cuts have been described as if Labour had won the last election? There is no doubt that you could hardly have passed a cigarette paper between Labour and the Tories public spending pronouncements at the time, £2 bn difference within a national debt amounting to £1.2 tn is minuscule. That is where I find my disagreement with the Leader of the Council, a fair lack of honesty and a total lack of clarity over who put us all in the financial mess that we are in, he was quite happy to accept the cash that Gordon Brown’s government kept producing, quite happy to keep increasing council taxes year after year when even Brown’s largesse was deemed as insufficient. He knows, I know, and we know, that the party had to come to an end.

Because it doesn’t have to be like this. Local government has been a force for good in Britain. We will work to defend our communities by examining new and innovative models of service delivery – through trusts and co-operatives, asset transfers to the voluntary sector, strategic partnerships with the private sector or more joint working between councils.

Ah, now here are the clever little secret caveats, we WILL do it the way the coalition wants, because we DO want to make sure that there will be no increase in council taxes again! Look, yes, I know and understand that it is tough going, with very difficult spending decisions to make, but I also know that we knew this latest tranche of cuts was coming, it was NOT a complete shock,we knew twelve months ago that the “front loading” was only the first phase, this is probably the press release was made by Martin Swales rather than a Labour politician. Please take time to look again at the Gazette article, because therein lies another disagreement, some fool writing in the comments section reckons we somehow managed in the past without a Chief Executive, beats me how this sort of stuff gets into some minds. No council could be administered without a manager at the top, it matters not what he/she is titled, Chief Officer, Chief Executive, Director, or Town Clerk, we have always had a one!

Finally car parking in South Shields, perhaps one of my hobby horses, I wrote at the time of the introduction of the first “pay and display” areas in Beach Road, South Shields that it would not necessarily kill off the town centre, but also warned that it was the thin end of the wedge and that Town Hall bosses would soon extend the pay and display schemes to other areas, and I was right. I published a picture showing Beach Road populated with parked cars using the new meters, more recent evidence suggests they are not quite so popular now, for instance I can never remember seeing Beach Road so empty opposite the Town Hall, yet places such as Derby Street, Claypath Lane, and back Westoe Road are totally choked! There are even decent amounts of spaces in the town centre car parks since the charging scheme was amended, 1p per minute for just one hour is simply not giving the average shopper sufficient time, the 1p per minute charge should extend to the first two hours as a good compromise. If we can go somewhere toward attracting these motorists back to the areas where they want and need to park, then we won’t be creating as many problems for local residents who see their streets choked by other motorists, then we won’t have the thorny and expensive problems of resident permit areas!

“Big society” parking operators? OK I can go along with that, but more and more “pay and display schemes” at the wrong prices and in the wrong places is now something that seems to be creating additional problems in areas where we don’t need them.

OK, end of rant, I now have a pumpkin to carve, if I can manage to get Iain Malcolm’s face on it I’ll post a picture, I seem to remember that George Elsom looked pretty ghoulish a few years ago 🙂
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Council meetings upstaged

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south shields town hallSouth 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.

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Written by curly

October 20, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Cameron warns US and Europe to tackle deficits.

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david cameron…whilst failing to control UK PSBN?

I guess David Cameron is taking the right approach in trying to dissuade other nations from continuing to “live on tick” and to get a grip on their own structural deficits, we have gone through one of the most irresponsible economic phases in the modern post war history of the world, there are so many with their heads buried in the sand refusing to see or hear the warnings that eventually when the chickens come home to roost there will be no more corn. One cannot expect nations to borrow excessively without any means of being able to repay the debts, only the most manic households run their family budget on this basis, but after Gordon Brown and Barack Obama badgered the rest of the free world to “invest” in their economies and borrow to bail out the banks following the financial collapse of 2008 it follows that the strain on financial systems will eventually cause a very severe and painful recession as the cash runs out. Hence the need for a false solution known as quantitative easing, to you and I this more easily understood as turning on the presses and printing more money, a historical cause of inflationary pressures leading to increasing interest rates! The writing is already on the wall in respect of the UK economy although the Bank of England is extremely reluctant to allow base rates to rise in fear of depressing the fragile economy even further.

The greatest worry that I have over David Cameron’s fine words in the “new world” is that his coalition government is not making sufficient headway in its own efforts to tackle the budget deficit left by Labour’s wholly incompetent handling of our money, the latest figures for the UK’s Public Sector Net Borrowing requirements showed a record £15.9bn borrowing for last month, an increase of£1.9bn over July signalling a likely inability to meet the full year target set by the Office for Budget Responsibility. Those who warned that austerity measures were going too far too fast were too hasty to judge, and the reality is that the UK’s public spending and national debt are still far from being under any strict control, the coalition government’s problems are massively compounded by the crisis in the Eurozone propelling further injections of our cash into foreign banks to prop up states that (a) followed Gordon Brown’s advice to spend their way out of recession, and (b) did far too little far too late when they realised that no growth equated to no cash. On top of this it has been revealed that the build up of (off balance sheet) debt accruing to the “investment portfolio” of PFI schemes rolled out by Labour in their last term grows with inflation and is likely to have crippling effects on public bodies such as the NHS and Local Authorities as they face up to thirty years of heavy mortgage payments to private companies as well as being tied in to massively expensive maintenance agreements, much as new schools and hospitals are welcomed the method of paying for them is a scary business. South Tyneside will not be immune from this either and I predict that the future costs of our new schools and clinics will lead to even tougher decisions having to be made on expenditure for other services in a painful reality check (if only John Major’s government had not had this bright idea of mortgaging our children eh?).

A reality check is needed from Cameron and Clegg too, it is right to get the Obamas and the profligate spenders of this world to mend their ways, especially if we want China to lead the world into growth, but the PM can only safely harangue them if he is comfortable with the financial stability within his own country first, and for now I don’t think that the coalition has really got to grips sufficiently with the debts left by the disastrous Mr. Brown. Furthermore, spending cuts and austerity measures do only half of the job, the other half requires a complete change of direction, and it was “change” which Cameron campaigned on during the last election, to produce a radical and credible growth policy which involves reform of the taxation system.  So far there have been very few signs that George Osborne wants to stimulate the economy with an effective plan that shifts the emphasis from public to private sector investment, the 50p tax rate needs to be abolished despite the howls of protest that will ensue, the Lib-Dem plan to take the low paid out of the taxation system needs to be enacted quickly, National Insurance contributions from start ups need to be reduced, and most importantly we need to re-adjust our relationship with the EU and throw off  the shackles of its financial and political strictures we need to get back to having a great trading market with Europe as it was originally envisaged. Osborne needs to be reminded that lower taxes have always resulted in higher tax revenues, and if coupled with lower public spending this will encourage consumers to have more confidence in their own budget planning and spending power and their decisions will help foster a return to controlled growth in the economy.

In short Cameron’s warnings may be right, but he must put his own house in order first before lecturing the world, his government will stand or fall on this one single issue.

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Rebranding

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Scottish ConservativesMacFool

Murdo Fraser is the hot favourite to be elected as leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, and as part of his election campaign he is already promising to break away from the party in England and  Wales to form a new party of the right in Scotland, seeing the present associations with the Conservative Party as “toxic”.

He wants the present members of the Conservative Party to vote themselves out of existence and transfer all of their assets to a new party, as yet unnamed, a communal suicide pact such as has never been witnessed before in British politics  – or has it?

Fraser himself has not exactly set the world of Scottish politics alight, in the old North Tayside constituency he has progressively fallen further and further behind the SNP’s John Swinney over the past ten years, but amazingly becomes an MSP through the present regional list system used by Holyrood, and since the resignation of Annabel Goldie has set out on a course to try and reverse the fortunes of the centre right in Scotland. Having seen their representation in Westminster reduced to one seat Fraser sees the burning of the old party and a rebirth from the ashes as the only way out, rather than formulating new and attractive policies that counter the “Independence” argument with a free market alternative to the broadly socialist tendencies of all of his opponents.

There is a very strong traditionalist and Unionist tendency within the Scottish nation that does need to be re-awakened, I personally doubt that a referendum right now about Scottish Independence would be won on behalf of the SNP, there are many constituencies which retain the Shire like nature of their English counterparts, there are strong historical links to economists, historians, and politicians of the three major British parties that suggest that the appeal of the Union is still strong, besides a breakaway would lead to the end of the Lothian Agreement. This alone would force the hand of those without the experience of leadership and governance as much as the taxing problem of raising revenue and setting spending constraints every bit as tight as those felt in England and Wales. These are far more important issues for those of the centre right in Scotland to be concerned about rather than a re-branding exercise under a new banner, in what appears to be an act of appeasement towards the SNP.

Breaking away from the mother party has not been a fruitful exercise in recent history, as numbers of hopeful SDLP MPs found out when they were assimilated into the Liberal Democrats, they lacked the financial muscle to survive after the initial launch funding from some industrialists, and Murdo Fraser is about to run into the same brick wall as Sir Jack Harvie, who leads the Focus on Scotland group, is determined NOT to contribute any funding to Fraser’s breakaway party. Harvie’s group has donated over £1m to the Scottish Conservatives in the past three years, he is reported to have said:

“Focus on Scotland is the vehicle that currently provides the majority funding for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (SCUP).

“This funding arrangement would most certainly not apply to Mr Fraser’s breakaway party.”

“For having scandalised SCUP (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party) by word and deed they would surely have no place within SCUP in the future!”

In other words any new re-branded party could immediately be scuppered!

Some MSPs see a name change as “radical” as the party continues to sink in Scotland, one in the BBC report even goes so far as to say:

“We haven’t even been treading water, we’ve been slowly sinking, there is a desperate need for a radical new agenda.”

My own view is that like some football teams in a very bad run of form, falling down the pyramid with successive relegations, the Scottish Tories have developed a losing mentality, and the reason that they are unable to even tread water is that many of their members don’t want to get their feet wet these days. We see the same tendency in areas of Tyneside after so many years of banging doors to garner just a few votes! What they need is an injection of confidence and youth, a set of modern policies openly formulated in a very transparent manner where party members feel as though they are part of the team playing for each other and not just for the manager or the board. A set of policies tailored to suit Scottish needs should not be a great issue for them, the Scottish Conservatives have always had their own identity and constitution within the broader party and they have produced some heavyweight politicians in recent decades to send to Westminster such as Teddy Taylor,  Michael Forsyth, and  Malcolm Rifkind.

The great lesson that members should remind Murdo Fraser of is this, re-branding simply has not worked in the past, it did not work for Labour’s “Gang of Four” and the SDLP, and David Cameron’s exercise in re-branding his party as “the heir to Blair” failed to win an outright election victory as recently as last year! It is ideals, ideas, and policies which meet modern aspirations that win elections not slogans and badges!

Mr. Fraser can sleep easy in his bed, despite the threatened lack of funds, he still has the whole hearted support of a South Tyneside man steeped in the history of recent Scottish politics, our very own “virtual councillor”.

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Written by curly

September 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm