The English Democrats have joined the general election race in the Berwick constituency by putting up a candidate for the May 7 vote.
Neil Humphrey has been selected as the party’s representative for the Berwick seat, giving voters six choices on the ballot paper next month.
►Scott Dickinson (Labour)
►Nigel Coghill-Marshall (UKIP)
►Julie Pörksen (Liberal Democrats)
►Rachael Roberts (Green Party)
►Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative)
The English Democrats are campaigning for the creation of an English Parliament and executive within the United Kingdom with the same powers as the Scottish Parliament and executive.
The party’s main policies include restricting immigration to a points system. They would like to make St George’s Day a national holiday. The English Democrats also believe England should leave the EU via a referendum.
Mr Humphrey was a member of the Labour Party for 30 years before moving to UKIP, and then joined the English Democrats.
He says he would campaign for the A1 to be upgraded to a dual carriageway all the way up to the Scottish border. It follows the government’s financial pledge at the end of last year to dual the A1 only as far as Ellingham.
He believes pedestrian access, lorry turning and icy conditions have not been taken into account.
Mr Humphrey says the Berwick electorate should be concerned about concessions made to the SNP if they end up holding the balance of power after the election.
He said: “I think the constituency should be concerned about sleazy, back-room ‘horsetrading’ for a SNP backed coalition.
“I want a commitment that there can be no border move without a referendum on an area by area basis.”
Mr Humphrey says he understand the pressure on the NHS and wants things to change.
He said: “My wife is a retired ambulance woman. For some time I have been against super-hospitals, which move A&E further away and the running down of services.”
Mr Humphrey would also like to reintroduce so-called “Men’s Sheds” and open this up to younger ages.
He said: “Tools experience and career knowledge can be shared. We will fight to keep open libraries and protect budgets nationally from cuts.
“Working in control systems automation, there are very few senior engineers younger than myself. In 10-15 years time, we’ll all be retiring. All that infrastructure we rely on … we will have to import foreign immigrants. I believe we should be transferring those skills to the younger generation.
“I would like to see those who can program their mobile phones, or wire a car stereo, to be shown how in demand their skills could be in automation. That includes younger adolescences tempted by crime.”
Mr Humphrey’s also said he would like to see more professionals encouraged to enter politics and become members of parliament.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 07 Apr 2015
A Newcastle constituency is one of the worst in the UK for voters falling off the electoral register.
In the last year more than 9,000 potential voters have dropped off the list in Newcastle East, with only Cardiff Central and Liverpool Riverside having worse figures.
A spokesman for the BiteTheBallot campaign group which is fighting to get more people on the electoral register before the May general election said the figure was “an absolute disgrace”.
The controversial switch from household to individual electoral registration has caused a great deal of problems for local authorities whose electoral registration officers are continuing to run into problems with their electoral management software systems.
“The number of people on the register has dropped yet the Government and the Electoral Commission don’t have a plan to deal with this and it’s extremely worrying,” said the BiteTheBallot spokesman.
It was revealed last week that local authorities had been given an extra £20m in a bid to solve this.
However the spokesman was dismissive of the move, saying it would be spent mostly on sending out letters.
He said: “It’s about getting people into the community to engage with them and get them interested in politics and registering for the vote.”
The spokesman revealed the group has a Community Engagement Officer, Megan Patterson, who is working with Durham County Council and visiting local schools, sixth form colleges and youth clubs.
“She is doing stellar work in getting people registered. It’s labour intensive but it works.”
According to the Office for National Statistics there were 58,557 people registered to vote in Newcastle East as of December 2014.
This is an 13.8% decrease on the 67,945 people who were registered to vote in the constituency on December 1, 2013, the third biggest decrease for any of the 591 parliamentary constituencies in England Wales and Northern Ireland.
The ONS estimates there are 84,394 people aged 18 and above living in Newcastle East which means that only 69.4% of the potentially eligible voting population is in fact registered to vote.
However this percentage is likely to be higher as the population estimates also include people who are not eligible to vote such as those born overseas.
Ironically not far behind Newcastle in numbers falling off the electoral register is City of Durham where the BiteTheBallot community engagement officer is working.
It has seen an 11.5% drop in the year from 73,036 to 64,614.
Across the whole of Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham there was a fall of 3.8% in the number of people registered to vote with declines in all but one constituency.
Source – Sunday Sun, 01 Mar 2015
Campaigners have pointed out that rail tickets near the Prime Minister’s own constituency are cheaper that those in the North-East.
Teesside passenger group Coastliners spoke out after David Cameron said the region’s decrepit Pacer trains would be replaced – but fares would have to rise to pay for the new rolling stock.
It was revealed on Friday that the Prime Minister had declared that “those trains are going” when asked about the unpopular Pacers, which run on Northern Rail lines across the North of England.
Mr Cameron rejected his own Government’s suggestion that the 30-year-old carriages could be modernised rather than replaced.
Instead, bidders for the Northern franchise will be asked to draw up plans to replace the trains.
But the Prime Minister said fares must rise to pay for the upgrades when the new contracts start in 2016.
However, research by Coastliners, which represents rail passengers on the Durham coast, suggests it is a myth that North-East fares are cheaper than those elsewhere in the country.
Coastliners’ Peter Walker said:
“Don’t forget that Campaign for Better Transport‘s London-based staff have admitted that we in the North pay as much as if not more than those living further South.”
“Oxford to Tackley, nearly in Mr Cameron’s constituency, is nine miles, and the day return is £3.50, or £3.40 single.
“If the fares level decides what type of rolling stock is provided, his argument implies that Pacers should serve Tackley and Class 166 diesels should be sent to our coast line forthwith.”
Mr Walker pointed out savings to users of the Oyster card meant that many London journeys of similar length similar to, or greater than, those on the coast line were far cheaper :
“London to East Croydon, some 13 miles, works out at £3 single for an Oyster-card holder.”
Mr Walker also questioned the Prime Minister’s claim that Northern Rail fares were the most heavily subsidised in the country.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Nov 2014
George Osborne urged super-rich Tory backers at a lavish black-tie gala to fund a campaign in a vital North-East constituency.
The knife-edge Stockton South seat – where Conservative James Wharton has a wafer-thin majority of 332 – took centre-stage at the dinner in Knightsbridge, central London.
Mr Wharton introduced the Chancellor at the event, organised by the secretive United & Cecil club, believed to have raised at least £130,000 for party coffers.
In return, Mr Osborne is reported to have told the guests: “Does anyone realise the significance of the number 332?”.
After explaining 332 was the size of Mr Wharton’s majority, the Chancellor is said to have urged guests to recognise it could only be defended with their financial support.
One source at the dinner, costing £250-per-head, said: “He said we need money to save James and others like him.”
The United & Cecil club is controversial because critics see it as a vehicle for getting around rules to ensure donations to Westminster candidates are transparent.
The Electoral Commission requires the identity of any donor giving more than £1,500 directly to a political party to be declared.
However, donors funnelling money through “unincorporated associations” – such as the United & Cecil club – need only be identified if they give more than £7,500 in any calendar year.
One calculation is that the United & Cecil club has donated around £300,000 to the individual Tory associations since 2010 – mostly in key seats, such as Stockton South.
However, the Conservatives hit back by arguing Labour is bankrolled by the trades unions and that all donations through its clubs comply with the rules.
The Northern Echo asked Mr Wharton to comment on the attention given to his constituency at the gala dinner, but he declined to do so.
Tory sources have previously suggested the Stockton South MP – a “fantastic campaigner on the doorstep” – is not on its 40-strong list of candidates in ultra-marginal seats who will receive extra help.
David Cameron attended his birthday celebrations earlier this year and invited him to Chequers last month.
Other guests included representatives from the global PR firm DDA Consulting, the wealth management company Killik & Co and the property firm Mayfair Estates.
One Tory MP present, Andrew Bridgen, said: “We can’t go to Len McCluskey for another million. This is how we do it.”
Source – Northern Echo, 17 Oct 2014
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today claimed George Osborne’s fifth budget would only widen the north-south divide.
She believes Osborne’s statement demonstrated the Coalition Government is “out of touch” with people in the constituency.
She said: “He tried to say that the economy is turning around, but households in South Shields who have seen their wages fall while prices rise month after month will see right through him.
“It’s clear whose side the Chancellor is on. Wages in London’s banking sector are rising nearly five times faster than the national average, and even then he won’t rule out tax cuts for the top earners. Meanwhile, those on low incomes are continuing to see their living standards fall.”
Coun Iain Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council, labelled the budget a “gimmick”.
He said: “The budget was classic ‘smoke and mirrors’, full of pre-election gimmicks. They announced that they would cut inheritance tax for emergency service workers killed in duty – but this only applies to those leaving more than £325,000, so it is difficult to calculate how many would actually benefit.”
Coun Malcolm said new support to build 200,000 new homes was “simply nowhere near enough to resolve the housing crisis facing this country”.
The budget received a more positive response from a senior member of the borough’s business community.
Julie Lightfoot, managing director of South Shields-based Solar Solve Ltd, said: “As a local family-owned business who exports 85 per cent of our turnover, it’s encouraging that the Government is supporting British manufacturers by introducing a £7bn package to cut energy bills
“Although we aren’t an intensive energy user, every little saving helps, although we’ll have to wait and see what the actual savings will be. However, it’s nice to know that half of the firms that will benefit the most by cuts in manufacturing costs are in the north of England.”
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said: “This is a government that has pushed down living standards to such an extent it has left working people £1,600 a year worse off.
“Osborne and the Tories only stand up for the privileged few.”
Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “The Chancellor should have had the courage of his convictions and stood by his support of a £7 minimum wage. Moving to the Living Wage is the best way to raise tax revenue and put money into people’s pockets. It would boost consumer confidence and increase spending in local shops and businesses.”
North East Chamber of Commerce policy director Ross Smith said: “This was a sensible budget, and the conditions within which North East businesses can continue their strong contribution to UK growth have been strengthened by these announcements.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 21 March 2014