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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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Merry Christmas to all

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I may not be back for a while.

Just as I was about to make a post regarding Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and the Eurozone debt crisis my desktop PC suffered a crisis of its own. Some sort of hardware issue is preventing Windows from booting, so I’m competing for time and space with the kids on this laptop, at this time of year it is near impossible to get them off it.

Needless to say, until I have the problem diagnosed and fixed there will be no chance of updates either here or at South Shields Daily Pictures, hopefully the delay will be as short as possible. Luckily things are relatively quiet on the local political scene as councillors and Town Hall staff in South Tyneside look forwards to the festive holidays, so it only remains for me to wish my readers a peaceful joyous and Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2012.

Whilst I’m here shall we say congratulations to South Shields girls Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall of “Little Mix” who have seen their first single reach No. 1 in the charts, something which Joe McElderry did not achieve until after the Christmas period in 2010.

See you all soon.

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Written by curly

December 19, 2011 at 10:24 am

Another week dominated by Euro debt crisis

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What gives them the right?

Apologies for the lack of posts during this past week, it’s been a busy time at work and domestic disaster has struck too, not much has been going on in South Tyneside other than the production of posters invoking us to vote for Little Mix on ITV’s X Factor, however it has been another week dominated by the Eurozone debt crisis. Having seen Papandreou and Berlusconi removed from their premierships and replaced by Eurotechnocrats without so much as a referendum or a general election it is worrying to witness that the combined might of Germany and France appears to have negated the very principles of democracy and freedom that the Common Market was originally envisaged to protect. The Commission and the Council have already set their faces against the holding of referenda and have warned that any member state which fancies leaving the Eurozone would of necessity have to leave the EU too, it must have struck the Greek population as astonishing when Merkel and Sarkozy summoned Papandreou to a meeting to explain his idea of allowing the Greek people a say in the matter! Hence we now see  governments headed by a former ECB banker and a former Commissioner. Similarly the Irish people must be feeling rather shocked that their latest budget proposals were forwarded to all member states before ending up in front of the German Bundestag!

Just what is it about these EU empire builders that makes them feel they can stamp their authority  over people in a manner almost as heinous as some Arab states? I tend to agree with Gavin Hewitt, the questions need to be asked:

Perhaps the clearest definition of democracy was contained in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

In Europe “the consent of the governed” is in danger of going missing. When George Papandreou suggested putting the EU bailout to a referendum in Greece, France’s President Sarkozy, in a conversation with President Obama, had the Greek leader down as a madman, suffering from depression.

At the heart of the European project lies a suspicion of the people. It is often said that the European Union has been built in spite of the people, and not with the people. Those who argue the people’s case are dismissed as “populists”. It is the easy Brussels put-down.

Recently when a reporter challenged the perks of the EU commissioners his question was dismissed as “populist”. To question immigration policy even at a time of shocking youth unemployment is to risk the tag “populist”.

As we move inexorably towards a common European government with an elected President, we have to wonder just how much involvement will be granted to we “the people” in these processes. We also need to question just why our own political leaders in the UK are signed up to this club, and I refer equally to Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband. One has the distinct feeling that the Frankfurt Group, and possibly even the Bildergurg Group have already set out the agenda which our leaders are assigned to blindly follow. Oh for a party leader who has the “bottle” to call not for the renegotiating of certain powers from the EU, but the withdrawal of British membership, I realise that 50% of our exports go to the EU area, yet I cannot envisage that changing dramatically if we were no longer part of the club.

I am staunchly Eurosceptic, I no longer believe that the Common Market or EEC that we originally joined exists any longer, I have a great deal of sympathy with UKIP on this one issue, unfortunately they are popularly seen as a single issue party, whether or not they have any relevance to local politics in South Tyneside remains to be seen – for now we must await the first uttering of David Potts.

Better off out!

May I also recommend this excellent article by Dan Hannan, a true Conservative.

Please excuse me, I must now attend to my washing machine which will need either repair or replacement, the smoke emanating from its innards is smelling as awful as the Euro political project .

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Written by curly

November 20, 2011 at 11:10 am

The trouble with coalitions is……

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……..they can  hardly ever tread a straight path.

In some other European countries such as Belgium and Italy, where the electoral system is forever throwing together pacts and coalitions between parties, they are used to seeing compromises, here in the UK we are more likely to call them “U-turns”. Whether its on deficit reduction, higher education, NHS reform, defence, or justice the ConLib coalition is constantly in flux with policy being driven more by the need to keep the coalition together than what might be seen as the necessities of good government.

In many respects this was to have been expected when David Cameron’s Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats drew up their agreement last year after we failed to make a clear decisive choice at the general election, but by far the biggest flaw at the outset was the agreement manipulated by David Cameron to engineer a five year fixed Parliament. With this new restriction in place Cameron probably felt that he had a chance of carrying through most, but not all, of his party’s programme, with a few adjustments along the way. However, it is inevitable that tensions will arise within government and within the two parties making up the administration, and as one policy after another appears to the press and Opposition as being ill judged or poorly formulated detractors can (almost justifiably) point to yet another U-turn or abandonment of important party principle. During previous periods when we have had either a minority government or a government getting by with a small majority the most important opposition has come from within the ranks of the governing party keeping the executive on its toes, this is not quite so easy to achieve when two parties are involved. The other important position to note was that a major defeat for such a government in The House of Commons might lead to a new general election as the Prime Minister attempts to secure a good working majority.

David Cameron, unfortunately decided to tie his own hands behind his back with the fixed term Parliament and it would take an enormous effort from MPs to force him back to the polls, it has also tied Nick Clegg into a very tight arrangement which so far has resulted in his party becoming the whipping boys for the coalition,  some say Cameron has played a blinder! I don’t, and I see this coalition arrangement leading to weakened policy as some on the right wing of the Tories become more vociferous, and more on the left wing of the Liberal Democrats become more rebellious, “fudge” will become the flavour of the month! I would have been far happier with a much more fluid and loose voting arrangement between the parties, without Lib-Dem ministers, that would enable a Cameron government to start out along its path, with the possibility of a sooner rather than later general election to try and cement his position.

The risk of a government falling can actually strengthen its hand with its own backbenchers and fortify its survival measures. There is nothing quite like the threat of losing one’s seat to exercise the minds of those recalcitrant MPs in marginal seats (of all parties), as they huff and puff to try and blow the government off course!

The five year fixed Parliament is a classic illustration of fixing something which was not broken at the outset.

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Written by curly

June 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

AV decisively rejected by South Tyneside

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Almost 3 – 1 against

Voting figures just announced at Temple Park Centre in South Shields (in rough round numbers)

Yes – 12500

No –  32000

Looks like this will be reflected nationally, who would want to be in Nick Clegg’s shoes today?  Lib-Dems have also lost over 650 councillors.

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Written by curly

May 6, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Labour cock-a-hoop in South Tyneside

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Tory scalp in Cleadon and East Boldon is biggest prize

I’m still pretty tired after yesterday’s elections and a fairly long night attending the count at the Temple Park Centre in South Shields, which although it was hard on the legs for the gathered politicos was well organised by Val Stephenson on behalf of the Returning Officer, I hear that similar praise is also due for the officials at Jarrow Community Centre. They were never in any sort of race to beat Sunderland into declaring results but at least the counting was all but over at the time they predicted it ought to have started!

It would be churlish of me NOT to congratulate the Labour Party in South Tyneside for some good results last night so I’ll do it now, well done boys and girls, you have a well oiled election machine which some of the rest of us sneakily admire and envy. Biggest prize of the night went to Joan Atkinson, who after years of hard graft chipping away at the Conservative majority in Cleadon and East Boldon ousted Donald Wood. It was not a shock to some of us but there was some surprise at the size of the Labour majority and the fact that they took over 50% share of the vote on a very healthy turnout of over 55%, I felt terribly sorry for Don Wood who is a real gent and really did not deserve to be the victim of the “Potts factor”, I had predicted a tough uphill fight for the Tories in Cleadon but expected them to hold with a slim margin. One veteran Conservative (and former councillor) who I spoke to put the blame for the loss firmly on Jarrow Conservative Association for the failure to “sort out Potts” when the had the chance prior to his last reselection, he too saw the writing on the wall.

I was right too in predicting victory for Ian Harkus for Labour in Hebburn North as Lib-Dem John McKie was ousted on a night which has so far seen 295 of his colleagues lose their seats. South Tyneside now has just one Liberal Democrat councillor within its ranks. Labour’s other gain came in South Shields where “long legs” Joyce Welsh romped home with a health majority over the sitting Progressive Marjorie Robinson, the result was not as close as I predicted. Speaking to Joyce after her victory I realise she doesn’t mind being called “long legs” at all and thinks it may be an easy way to distinguish her from the similar named Cllr. Walsh!

Elsewhere former Mayor’s Secretary Fay Cunningham returns to South Shields town hall this time as a Labour councillor having held off the challenge of Tom Defty in Bede ward, we see a new “independent” in Fellgate and Hedworth in the form of Linda Hemmer who beat Labour’s Moira Smith by just over 100 votes, and already rumours are circulating that Ms Hemmer may shortly defect to the Labour benches. Real Independent George Elsom held his seat in Cleadon Park but with a reduced majority against Labour, but perhaps he would have polled better without the intervention of Colin Campbell who also took a reasonable handful of independent votes. As a side note George is convinced he was the real media star of the Shields Gazette’s videos!

The Independent Alliance candidates had a miserable night, they arrived en masse for the count (someone even suggested they marched in singing “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees” but I took that with a pinch of salt, they just didn’t look in singing mood) Jim Hodgson failed for the second year running to take Beacon and Bents ward where débutante Conservative Ali Hayder put in a strong showing holding the Conservative vote up to last year’s general election levels, the result was a comfortable win for Labour’s Audrey McMillan, although she had a nervous disposition early in the counting. Independent Alliance leader Jane Branley who probably had what most people would consider a rock solid majority in Westoe, must have been taken aback and shocked to see it wither away to around 200, and her party failed to make any real impact or improvement in other wards, perhaps the writing may be on the wall for the “Indies” who remain the largest opposition grouping on the council. Having spent a small fortune on literature and having produced and delivered more leaflets than anyone else in South Tyneside, I wonder if they feel happy with the yield on their investment?

The Conservatives surprised with a reasonable return of votes at about the same level as last year’s big turnout general election and in many places improved from fourth to third place finishes so they shouldn’t be massively dismayed with their performance other than losing one key seat – and they may well fear what may happen next year in Cleadon Village, the Liberal Democrats will be seriously worried that their presence in the council chamber may soon be gone altogether as Nick Clegg’s leadership took real punishment in England, and the Progressives will also be ruminating on their long term future as traditional independent alternative to Labour in these parts, Lawrence Nolan garnered a fairly healthy bucket of votes in Harton but it was nowhere near good enough to threaten Labour’s Rob Dix. The Progressives are now down to two seats in South Tyneside, which is not good news for a party which had previously controlled the old South Shields council.

As the dust settles I wonder what negotiations will take place amongst the fractured opposition parties and what manoeuvres we will see as they try to determine who will be seen as the “official” opposition, there are many who do not wish the six Independent Alliance councillors to dominate, the nine others may wish to upset the applecart in one form or another.

So Labour’s position is once more cemented and strengthened in South Tyneside, the people have made their choices and the turnout was pretty good for a local government election at just under 40%, so they will feel very confident that they have a strong mandate. Their policies will be tempered by the amount of available cash from central resources and the main opposition to any contentious proposals will come from within their own group or from within the community. I expect them to continue treading that line which is fairly closely linked to the Blairite tendency to mirror centre right attitudes towards acceptability and financial restraint and responsibility, they know it works and they won’t wish to throw away the gains they have made. We must now wait and see just how they display that level of responsibility in the manner that they set about spending our cash.

Sadly, ALL of our opposition councillors and parties have some serious thinking to do regarding how they approach the coming years and avoid becoming totally eclipsed.

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Why I will be voting against AV

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Referendum choice on May 5th could mean a second choice government.

The trouble with any voting system in use in any liberal western democracy is that it doesn’t suit everybody, it never will, and some compromise has to be made, minority views accepted and respected, and the majority view must never be used like a sledgehammer.

I will nail my colours to the mast here, I’m quite happy with our first past the post system, it is easy to understand and comprehend, it retains a vital link between a single member and a single constituency, and it represents one person one vote. Sure it has its problems, in some places you may feel that your vote doesn’t carry a lot of weight, especially if you are a supporter of a minority party in a constituency which heavily favours one of the major parties, but in our democracy it is the role of the candidates to enthuse people with a positive manifesto to attract votes, not a negative message to to encourage you NOT to vote for other candidates.

It has lost favour principally because of the large amount of votes stacked up in favour of the Liberal Democrats thinly spread across the country which has not translated into seats in the same proportion as Labour or Conservatives, and in the resulting horse trading following our last general election David Cameron and the Conservatives had to concede this referendum in order to keep Nick Clegg’s party in the deal.

My greatest fears about AV (alternative vote) is that we may end up with many MPs who were not the most favoured in their constituencies, but the least unpopular instead, this is not a very inspiring situation. Indeed the recent election of Labour leader Ed Miliband was the result of second and third choice votes being redistributed to him as the least unpopular candidate, his brother David, the South Shields MP was by far the most popular candidate in the early rounds of the contest but was pipped at the post as the minor candidates fell out and their votes were counted a second and third time. I find this inherently unfair, especially as I put so much faith in “one person, one vote”, at a general election we often see fringe candidates in South Shields exercising their right to seek election, under the AV system where we are encouraged to rank the candidates in order of preference, supporters of minor parties may have more weight to their vote and they may even see their vote counted twice or three times depending upon how long it takes one candidate to acquire the necessary 50% criteria that the AV supporters are looking for.

If on the other hand, someone like David Miliband (purely for example) were to receive 52% of the total ballot on the first count, then all of those second, third, and more choices will have been completely wasted. Until the next Boundary Commission comes up with constituencies with roughly even numbers of electors, we will still have many seats where this will happen, solid Labour seats and solid Conservative seats, along with a few solid Lib-Dem seats too, however in many constituencies where the current sitting MP does not enjoy that majority support the votes cast for minority parties become very important indeed. We ought to remember that some of them have very extreme policies too, but their supporters will get a second bite of the cherry and perhaps even a third, and we could see a number of MPs elected because of redistributed votes who would normally end up in second or third place in the ballot. As a result, the middle or third party could acquire sufficient seats to form a government, or at least hold the upper hand in a coalition, based purely on being the least unpopular amongst voters, rather than the party with the most favoured pre election manifesto. In effect our government may be one of second choice rather than first choice.

The most likely reality is that most Labour or Conservative supporters would choose a Liberal Democrat as their second choice, and in some seats this could easily condemn their first choice to a defeat. I do not like this idea of some votes counting more than others! Think of it this way, in a tight fight the victor could well have had two or three votes cast his way by thousands of people, whilst those in second or third place only received one vote per elector – fair and balanced?

I don’t want my MP sent to the House of Commons to represent the people of South Shields with their passive acceptance, I don’t want a government to be formed by passive acceptance, I want my representative or my government to have approval, and therefore I am happy to vote for the retention of our current system and allow the majority of MPs in the House to form a representative government – I just wish they didn’t have a fixed five year term (but that’s another argument).

Finally it alarms and frightens me that our centuries old system of forming a government could be voted out by less than a third of the population – just consider how many people will take part in the referendum on May 5th!

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Written by curly

April 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Terminal boredom

with 10 comments

Thoughts of closing up the shop

I must admit that over the past few months I have had serious thoughts about closing this Corner Shop but leaving the shutters up so you can see what is in here, I’ve also had thoughts of closing the shop down and having it completely demolished, removed, and airbrushed from history. I think that many of these thoughts were linked to occasional depression, the full time search for work, the fumblings of a coalition government struggling to come to terms with itself and the awful state of the economy, and South Tyneside Labour Party’s mind numbing policy of doing nothing at all to upset anyone and towing the line with spending restrictions – after all they knew in advance what was coming and they also knew that the consequences of a Labour victory at the last general election would have been exactly as they are now, severe spending restrictions.

They wore the Tory cloak provided by the Blair/Brown administrations and dared not take any major directional changes, they are total conformists to the point of being pragmatists, but at least the result will  be a small relief this year for council tax payers, something which perhaps may not have happened if Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling were still sitting in Downing Street. However a couple of things sparked my amusement following the reception of some emails this week, both revolving around the inability of the opposition groups on South Tyneside Council to consider their own policies in advance of the May local elections and their unwillingness to forego personal attacks in exchange for discussing policy positions which might benefit us all. During Thursday’s council meeting which set the budget for the coming municipal year I hear that one councillor was far more concerned about what had gone on in this blog three years ago and proceeded to mistakenly harangue a fellow member with references to the opinions of a certain teal lady within South Shields town hall, and another was more concerned at the attempts to find and legally punish the writer of another political blog in the area. All this on an afternoon when they ought to have been proposing measures to raise revenue, reduce spending whilst protecting front line services, and pre planning the local council’s proposals for the next two or three years.

I have said and repeated often enough, that South Tyneside has the council it deserves, not by virtue of the Labour Party but because of the quality, or lack of, the opposition members! Yet once again there are very few reports of a well put together alternative strategy from any of the opposition parties to help us get through very tough economic times. It is all well and good attacking Labour’s record in government, which lamentable though it was, at least provided opportunities for any sixth form student to analyse in five minutes and tear it apart in even less, but politicians even at a local level have a responsibility to provide a little bit more than negative attacks, they need to offer us some firm alternative positions and positively promote the benefits that they would offer if they have any hope of picking up additional seats.

As electors we also have a responsibility to participate in this process by gathering as much information as possible, digesting it, and making an informed decision based upon past history, current policy initiatives, and future prospects, we need to know firmly in our own minds how we would like South Shields, Jarrow, Hebburn Cleadon and the Boldons to develop over the next ten years and be able to see a clear path towards those aspirations. Only then should we confidently make a decision about supporting candidate A or candidate B, or C. Our decisions should not be based upon personal unfounded allegations or attacks, but upon the policies announced by the candidate’s backers or party.

Unfortunately, some of the opposition in South Tyneside will be stirring up very murky waters as they return to type and rally round the type of blog referred to by Mr. Hughes in his report, it is active again and churning out rehashes of old material, expect to see the same or very similar attacks and language used in election material between now and May! Another opposition party is now inaudible, it has gone quiet, and relies on hand outs from it’s London central HQ to get its message across, this is simply not good enough, local councillors ought to be capable of espousing their policies in local forums without recourse to press releases, it will be interesting to see how the Conservatives approach the local elections in May. Will they field a full team, will some wards not have the choice of voting Conservative?

Much the same could be said of the Liberal Democrats, whose leader in South Tyneside Cllr. Joe Abbot is seriously out of kilter with Deputy PM Nick Clegg, will they have the heart to field more than a handful of candidates outside of their Hebburn stronghold?

We have been here before though, the same arguments get used year after year, as each successive May approaches I wonder if anything really changes at all, and this inevitably leads to my boredom about local political matters, however, I still retain a great love for South Shields and the surrounding area, I still want to promote it and the benefits of living on Tyneside, I still find daily ways of showing us off to the world, and still have aspirations that we can build a better local economy based on tourism, hospitality, service, and the growth of small and medium enterprises. I still believe that there are sufficient local people with fresh ideas, strategies, and plans to move us forward and at least catch up with our counterpart authorities in Tyne and Wear. It is to those people that I appeal to get involved either in business or in local political activity, without your important input our local party political scene will continue to bore people to tears and the resurrection and regeneration of the region will go ahead without South Tyneside.

Do we really want to be left behind by an authority which is not challenged by capable and creative opposition?

So, for now, the Shop remains open and looking forward to your ideas, information, and positive thoughts.

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New government only provides new management of torture

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Classified documents reveal no real libertarian intents

So David Miliband, the South Shields MP, may well continue to feel some heat over the last Labour government’s position on torturing our own citizens and “rendering” them to third countries where the real question remains whether “detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation”, but today’s article in the Guardian also reveals that despite Clegg and Cameron making all sorts of sweet sounds about liberal free thinking principles, in reality the status quo will be maintained.

Cameron also made clear that the sort of material that has so far been made public with the limited disclosure in the Guantánamo cases would be kept firmly under wraps during the inquiry. “Let’s be frank, it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret,” he said. “So any intelligence material provided to the inquiry panel will not be made public and nor will intelligence officers be asked to give evidence in public.”

Right, let’s keep everything under wraps in case we are seen to be collaborating in various methods of torture, which historically have produced poor questionable evidence as those suffering are prepared to say whatever is required of them in order to escape the physical and mental pain and anguish. Surely as a liberal western democracy we are above these ridiculous medieval inquisitions, we surely have the intelligence resources and technologies to gather evidence without resorting to such sub human methods. To treat people in a manner as bad as that used to experiment on rodents in pursuit of the perfect lipstick is an anachronism which we all should condemn.

It (the coalition government) also wishes to preserve what it calls “liaison relationships” – operational links with overseas intelligence agencies, including those known to use torture – on the grounds that they are a vital part of the country’s counter terrorism strategy.

Vital? Oh really?
Perhaps that’s why they are embarking on a programme of seeking mediation with those British subjects who have suffered at the hands of brutal operatives in third countries and who have yet to face any real charges under British law, or even find themselves convicted.

The protection of the status quo does nothing at all to improve our reputation in the rendition business, nor anything at all to improve the perception that the new government is simply failing to manage the policy makers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Change of government = change of managers, not change of policy!

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Written by curly

July 15, 2010 at 6:48 pm

No sympathy for Moat

with one comment

PC David RathbandCase brought out best and worst in people

This is a picture of PC David Rathband, the policeman shot at almost point blank range by Raoul Moat as he sat in his police car in Newcastle, I make no apologies for including it here. PC Rathband was quite sure he was going to die and asked paramedics to tell his wife and small children that he loved them very much, let us remember now that he was a family man like many others of us in the north-east, he was only doing his job, a job which serves the public and carries, at times, enormous risks. Moat cared not a jot for PC Rathband or his family, just as he neglected any feelings at all for his former girlfriend Samantha Stobbart when he blasted her with a shotgun,  nor her new boyfriend Chris Brown who he shot dead with two cartridges in a callous deliberate act of murder.

Along with many others in South Shields I watched events play themselves out in Rothbury last Friday evening in a very public stand off covered by television news channels hoping that Moat might see the sense in giving up his weapon and delivering himself to the police, but alas events took a different turn, in a way that some had predicted when the felon discharged the weapon at his own head.

The whole episode since his release from prison saw variously the best and the worst in people from the north east and the sections of the media reporting the news, which amplified some of the tensions already existing between the public and the police. It was the actions of neighbourly well spirited people which gave the police the leads that they needed to track Moat down from Vigo to Rothbury, and it was the responsible journalists who responded correctly to Northumbria Police requests when they needed news blackouts and when they needed additional publicity to generate public cooperation. These actions undoubtedly resulted in fewer people being exposed to Moats fragile state of mind whilst in possession of a deadly firearm.

However, his boastful remarks of being in a war against the police have brought out the worst in others, allowing them to express themselves by leaving flowers at the scene of his death and at the scene of his other alleged crimes, the setting up of a Facebook “sympathy” page has also allowed these deluded people to gather together to create a rather silly looking image for people from the north east. It is no surprise that Prime Minister David Cameron has criticised these moves and proclaimed that there can be “no sympathy” for the callous murderer Moat.  Personally, although I find there is some merit in Simon Heffer’s arguments yesterday, I find the “sympathy for Moat movement” to be demeaning for the people of the north east, embarrassing to witness, and likely to provide the rest of the UK with the stereotypical imaging that they like to use to portray us as “thick northerners” – and nothing could be further from the truth!

Heffer’s somewhat misogynistic views don’t help his case, neither does his description of the folk of Rothbury as being “morally sub normal” (someone needs to educate him that Moat and his small band of followers are almost without exception resident many miles away from Rothbury, and the majority of folks interviewed in the town last Friday were clearly not originally from this region), however certain passages ring true and describe better the life of Moat the monster than the anti hero, especially when recalling the thoughts of another ex girlfriend:

Moat, according to her, engaged in acts that many men and women would not want to include in their domestic lives. He raped her. He would tie her up and flog her with a belt. He throttled her until she fainted. He hit her on her spine with a baseball bat. He kneed her in the face. She described him as “a living, breathing monster”. I for one would not seek to disagree with her.

Come on folks, do you really want to belittle this region by sympathising with someone who behaves like this?

Heffer touches on a note of dissatisfaction with our police forces and he may have a very salient point after the thirteen wasted years when greater and greater volumes of legislation have been dumped upon the heads of Chief Constables, who somehow have to manage their men and women in the prosecution of laws, many of which are more difficult to understand. The pressure built during the Blair and Brown years when public services became target driven led to a different type of police force than we were earlier used to, as they became more remote and too many beat officers were tied up behind desks completing mountains of forms and paperwork, by the end of the NuLabour regime Neighbourhood policing had become a “buzzword” in some forces, and in others this community aspect was carried out by volunteer uniformed “replacements”.

The police are good at mobilising themselves for murderers, rapists, abductors of children and possibly armed robbers. They are exceptionally good, too, at catching people who commit minor motoring offences. For the vast mass of crime in the middle – theft, burglary, mugging, flouting of the drugs laws and so on – they are utterly useless. Their role extends little beyond supplying a crime number to a victim so that a claim may be made on the victim’s insurance. That part of the operation might as well be privatised and sold to Lloyd’s. It is much easier to sit in a layby and catch someone driving over the speed limit than it is to retrieve the precious possessions of a family that has been burgled, so why try? That is how the public see the police, and it won’t do.

There is much to acknowledged there, and Heffer may well have caught the public mood, perceptions are often worth more than the realities, yet the reality is that our police forces have been driven off course by the battering of new legislation and target achieving, they no longer have the time or will to build rapport and community cohesion and have been weakened by top down pressures that have resulted in better figures but poorer reputations. Cameron and May have decided that there needs to be a bonfire of vanities in respect of some of the laws passed by NuLabour, something which is long overdue but will play but a small part in the rebuilding of trust between the police and the public, a trust that can only flourish with fewer simpler to understand laws which allow police men and women to get out of stations and into communities.

Perhaps then, all together, we can begin to relearn some common values of what is right and what is wrong and help each other to become “self policing” in a manner than does not require much more than common sense and common purpose. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister along with Nick Clegg and his websites, face a huge challenge in finding those common moral values, as a quick read through the comments to Heffer’s article reaffirms that incidents such as this really have brought out the best and worst of people.

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