The Green Party admits this election is about building momentum for success at the General Election 2020.
At the North East launch of its manifesto at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle, parliamentary candidates and members running in the local elections said their support had quadrupled in the past six months, which had set the scene of the party becoming a serious challenger over the next decade.
The Newcastle party now has 400 members and has five times as many candidates standing in the local council elections compared to 2014, and four times as many General Election candidates since 2010 across the North East.
However nationally it holds just one seat in Brighton, represented by former leader Caroline Lucas, and the party is yet to make inroads on any local council in the region.
Former Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Peter Thomson, who switched from Labour to The Greens, said:
“We believe we are going to pick up a lot of support. We’re not so stupid to think we can win a raft of seats but there’s a distinct possibility of more than one. For us it’s a process of building and the next election in 2020 will be the one where we will see a significant Green breakthrough.”
“In much the same way the SNP have proved themselves much more attractive, you are going to see that in the country as a whole – people will realise that there is a viable opportunity.”
As a representative of those who have shifted from Labour, Mr Thomson said the Green manifesto this week had proven that the party is one of the true left.
“I was a former Labour councillor for Elswick, but I’ve moved across to Green in the last year. I drifted across from the Labour party because I didn’t believe that it really did fight for social justice anymore or recognise the really serious nature of the neo-liberal crisis that effects the whole of our international economy and until we face up to that we are in deep trouble.
“This means we need to start addressing climate change and the things that drive it like unbridled development. I would have found it very difficult to be part of the city’s Labour council as they put through their Core Strategy for building new homes and I would have found it very hard to have sat through the cuts that Labour has been forced to make.”
Joining the parliamentary and local election candidates at the rally was Peter Pinkney, who is running for MP in Redcar, and as the president of the RMT union, one of the Green’s most high profile candidates.
He said Green party leader Natalie Bennett was a ardent campaigner on the RMT’s behalf against the privatisation of the railways.
“Whenever we have a campaign about re-nationalising the railways, or there’s picket lines and demonstrations – she’s there.
She’s given us support all along, as has Caroline Lucas, who moved a private members bill to re-nationalise the railways which is more than any Labour MPs have done.”
He said the fact Labour has set up a task force to attack the Greens was telling of the party’s threat of swiping votes.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Apr 2015
Councillor and anti-racism campaigner Dipu Ahad received vile online beheading threats in the hours leading up to demonstrations on Tyneside.
Police are today probing pictures tweeted to the Elswick ward representative.
The images show Coun Ahad’s face superimposed onto the body of a man kneeling before a masked knifeman, as if he was about to be decapitated.
They were posted on Twitter just hours before German anti-Islam group Pegida held its first UK demonstration in Newcastle, alongside a counter-march by Newcastle Unites.
Coun Ahad said the author of the post had since apologised to him via Twitter after receiving condemnation by other users of the social media site.
And he has vowed not to let the troll’s actions put him off standing up for what he believes in.
But the father has admitted he is now living in constant fear for the safety of himself and his family.
Coun Ahad said:
“This was a direct threat on my life. I fear for my physical safety every day now. I’m always looking over my shoulder. But I’m not going to stop fighting for what is right. I’m not going to be intimidated.”
Muslim Coun Ahad, a life-long campaigner against racism and intolerance, was busy putting the finishing touches to Newcastle Unites’ march plans when the picture surfaced on Friday evening.
It appears to be an image of a masked Islamic State fighter holding a large knife above a hostage in an orange T-Shirt, with the councillor’s face photoshopped on to the condemned victim’s body.
Coun Ahad reported the incident to police immediately and officers are now investigating, while taking steps to look after the safety of Coun Ahad and his family.
“When my cat jumps around at night now I have to get up and check there is no one there,” he said.
“I’m more scared for my family’s safety than I am for my own. Every time I go out I am very cautious, I’m always on edge now.”
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said:
“At 7.20pm on Friday police received information regarding a malicious communication having been received via a social media site. Enquiries are ongoing and steps were taken to ensure the safety of those concerned.”
And Coun Ahad said Saturday’s events have confirmed his belief that he must continue to stand-up to hatred and prejudice, even if it means putting himself at risk.
“It is getting to the point now where you wonder whether it will ever stop,” he said.
“But I now believe it will only stop either if I shut my mouth, or if I’m dead. This is obviously just part of my life now.
“Saturday was absolutely amazing. So many people came together from different groups. It was so humbling. I’m so passionate about our communities.
“Getting threatened is not going to stop me. At least this has started a conversation and it’s opened up communication.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Mar 2015
Organisers of a counter-march against a planned “anti-Islam” demonstration in Newcastle say they are expecting more than 2,000 people to flood the city centre this Saturday.
Newcastle Unites say representatives from the Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Islamic communities will unite in one voice against Pegida’s first UK demo, due to be held this weekend.
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
This Saturday will be the first UK demonstration by the British branch of the organisation.
But counter demonstrators say they are expecting low numbers to turn out in support of Pegida.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, from Elswick and part of Newcastle Unites, said:
“Their Facebook page suggests more than 700 people have agreed to come but the reality is there will probably only be a couple of hundred.
“As far as they are concerned, it is looking as if it will be a bit of a damp squid.”
> Damp squid ? I think he means damp squib.
Northumbria Police have met with both groups to discuss policing on the day.
Newcastle Chief Superintendent Laura Young said:
“It will be a busy day in Newcastle on Saturday with a number of events taking place and with lots of people coming into the city centre for things like shopping, socialising and the football.
“The city is a busy place on a Saturday anyway and with all of the extra things taking place then we are advising anyone who is thinking of driving into Newcastle to give themselves extra time and be aware of how their journey might be affected by the delays.
“To minimise disruption to the public we will have motor patrols officers out on the roads to ensure traffic flow and we will do everything we can to keep the roads open and to reduce the impact on the public.
“We have spoken with the local authority and local bus and travel companies about the road closures and we are looking to have all roads re-opened as soon as possible on Saturday.”
Councillor David Stockdale, Newcastle City Council’s Labour ward member for Blakelaw, will be one of the counter-demo’s speakers on the day.
“I will be talking about Newcastle and how it is a city of sanctuary; how it is a community with a proud and long history of standing up to injustice.
“I intend to tackle some of the brutal misrepresentations of Islam which Pegida paints. I think it’s important that a non-Muslim stands up and does that.
“I do wish Pegida were not coming on Saturday but I believe everyone has a right to express their views, no matter for distorted and wrong they are. The best way to deal with these kind of views is to challenge them.”
A public meeting by opponents of Pegida will be held at the city’s central library on Thursday. The event will take place at the Bewick Room at 6pm.
Journalist Yvonne Ridley, who converted to Islam after she was arrested in Afghanistan, will be speaking at the event along with Coun Ahad.
The meeting is intended for supporters of Stop the War Coalition and those who oppose Islamophobia and racism and begins at 6pm.
John and Jennifer Martin, of North Shields, are among those planning to take part in Saturday’s counter-demo.
Mr Martin, 36, a car showroom manager, said:
“My wife and I feel like we have an obligation to take part on Saturday because Newcastle is our home and we don’t want groups like this thinking they can come here and disrupt the harmony we have.
“I don’t know much about where Pegida have come from but I know we don’t want their messages spreading in the North East.”
On Saturday, the following roads will be closed to allow for the demonstrations to take place:
- The Bigg Market will be closed to traffic from around 10am.
- A small section of Gallowgate will be closed from around 10:30am to 10:45am Newcastle Unites march begins.
- A section of Newgate Street will be closed from 10:30am.
- There are no plans to close Clayton Street or Grainger Street.
Officers say they may need to temporarily close other roads on the day depending on activity, however they will look to re-open them as soon as possible and keep the city road network flowing.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 24 Feb 2015
A leader of a controversial ‘anti-extremist Islam’ movement today claimed they already have an established following in Newcastle.
More than 320 people have now gone online to confirm attendance at Pegida UK’s Tyneside rally which has also sparked interest from Far-right wing groups in the region.
> Well, there’s a suprise – I wonder how many members of the local racist loonies are the same people as those apparently supporting Pegida ? I’m sure they’ll see it as a nice Trojan horse…
The British arm of the highly-criticised German protest movement say their North East following is one of the reasons they will be coming to the city at the end of this month.
The decision by the group to hold their first UK demo in Tyneside has already met with widespread condemnation.
But Pegida representative Matthew Pope said the march would be “peaceful” with the aim of standing against extremist forms of Islam.
Mr Pope added:
“We did not want to start our UK demos in London because there are a lot of right-wing extremists there and we wouldn’t want to associate ourselves with them.
> Tough shit, mate. You’re going to be their puppet organization.
“We are already have a following in Newcastle and it is far enough away from London to be the best place to get things underway.”
Mr Pope said anywhere up to 1,000 marchers could be expected in the city centre on the planned date of the demonstration, Saturday, February 28.
The plans have been met with concern and the Chronicle can reveal that several individuals, associated with Far-right groups in the North East have already, via social media, confirmed they will be attending.
In a Facebook post, Pegida UK sent out an open invitation to the march, stating: “All are welcome to attend. Let’s show the Islamists we show no fear.”
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, the group claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
Mr Pope said:
“We understand that we are going to get tarnished with the same brush as certain other groups but this will be a peaceful demonstration.”
Mr Pope went on to say the purpose of the march would be to take a stand against Islamic extremism and not against the Muslim community.
However, he did say Pegida had concerns about the way the UK Government and police forces were approaching certain issues.
“We have concerns about the way Islam is being taught in schools. We are also worried with the way some groups seems to be setting their own laws withing our system of laws.
“We are certainly not against immigration, but feel our culture is being taken over by another culture.”
Mr Pope said that on February 28, protesters would be handing out leaflets and posters with containing information about their aims and about their views of Islamic law.
Opponents to the group have said they will hold a counter-demonstration if the Newcastle march goes ahead.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, from Elswick, Newcastle, has already written to Northumbria Police’s chief constable asking for the demo to be banned.
“I’m not hopeful this will happen so we will be planning our own counter-protest, bringing together people from all cultures in the city to celebrate the diversity of our community in a peaceful and celebratory manner.”
Anti Fascist groups in the city also say they are monitoring the plans for the protest.
Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, dozens of Pegida chapters have popped up online, prompting some reports that the group is establishing a bigger presence across Europe – in France, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, the UK and other countries where local Pegida Facebook pages have sprung up.
Will the march go ahead?
Pegida UK say they are currently in talks with Northumbria Police over the date, time and place of the march.
Mr Pope said:
“As representative for the organisation I have just started liaising with Northumbria Police about our plans.
“We are hoping that this will be on February 28.
“Although an exact route has not been set down, it will be in Newcastle city centre and we can expect anywhere up to 1,000 people to be attending.
“We are happy to work with the police and follow any guidelines which they set down.”
Newcastle City Council said they had not been contacted by the organisation.
A spokesman added that they have to wait to be informed by the police about any demonstrations happening in the city before taking any necessary action.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Feb 2015
> Well, this is a move that should sow confusion in the ranks of the stormtroopers !
While they shared the same city streets, their political ideologies were worlds apart.
But now a Muslim councillor has become the unlikely supporter of a rioting thug jailed after a violent far-right protest.
Anthony Webster, from Newcastle’s West End, is beginning a 21-month jail sentence after he and scores of other far-right supporters ran riot on the streets of Birmingham following a march through the city.
But today Coun Dipu Ahad, a passionate antifascism campaigner who has regularly publicly condemned such views, has revealed how he tried to help the yob turn his life around after meeting him and seeing his remorse.
And the Elswick councillor now feels he may have missed his chance to save Webster, and reach out to others through him.
“I was gutted he went to jail. I think he just got swept up in it all and didn’t know what he was getting himself into.
“I hope I can work with him when he gets out and show him what different communities are about. I really think he wants to change.”
Webster, of West Road, was among more than 50 people charged with violent disorder after attending an English Defence League (EDL) march in Birmingham on July 20, 2013.
After yobs ran riot in the city’s Centenary Square, hurling missiles and injuring a number of cops, a police operation stretching across the nation swung into action to trace those responsible.
And by last week 50 rioters had been jailed for a total of more than 75 years.
But as Webster awaited his fate at court he ran into Coun Ahad on the West Road.
“After we got chatting I realised he was genuinely remorseful,” said Coun Ahad.
“He said he wanted to learn more about other cultures and religions. I told him to call me if he ever needed anything.
“He told me no one had ever shown him any support, and about three or four days after he gave me a call and we chatted.
“After speaking to me I think he realised that I’m a human being, like anyone else. I think he began to realise that Muslims are not bad people.
“He also assured me that he will withdraw his membership from any far right groups and will not partake in any demos in the future.”
Coun Ahad was so moved by 38-year-old Webster’s remorse and desire to make amends, he even wrote a letter to the sentencing judge asking him to consider giving Webster a chance – despite the criticisim he knew that might attract.
“I thought I would get a lot of backlash from people that have been fighting racism and fascism for a lot of years,” he said.
“But I was convinced that he wanted to change.
“So I explained why I was doing it and that he was a human being too.
“Some far-right group members might have racist values but that’s because of ignorance. If you can speak to these people a lot of them will change their ways.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Jan 2015
Nearly half of children in parts of the North East are living in poverty, shocking new figures show.
In Elswick, Newcastle, more than 47% of children are living below the breadline, making it one of the most deprived areas in the region, according to the Campaign to End Child Poverty.
This is in comparison to just 3.6% of children in Stocksfield, Northumberland, who are living in poverty.
Children from the North East’s most deprived areas have today taken up the fight to end child poverty, by marching on Parliament and thrusting their own manifesto under MP’s noses.
Chair of End Child Poverty David Holmes said:
“These figures reveal just how widely and deeply child poverty reaches into our communities, even those areas generally regarded as well off.
“Far too many children whose parents are struggling to make a living are suffering as a result and missing out on the essentials of a decent childhood that all young people should be entitled to. We can and must do better for our children.
“Poverty ruins childhoods and reduces life chances. Failing to invest properly in children is a false economy: already child poverty costs the country £29bn each year and in the long run taxpayers will foot an even higher bill for correcting the damage.
“We are calling on politicians of all parties to urgently set out a clear roadmap towards ending child poverty which includes the additional actions needed and the measures by which progress will be tracked.”
Today’s figures are based on the proportion of children living in low income households.
Either their families are in receipt of out of work benefits or in receipt of in-work tax credits or their income is less than 60% of median income after housing costs.
On average throughout the UK, nearly one in six children are classified as below the poverty line before housing costs, while one in four are in poverty once housing costs have been deducted from their income.
Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) commission said current levels of child poverty in the North are a “moral outrage” and have to change.
The former Labour cabinet minister said:
“Poor kids in the region are four times as likely to be poor adults.
“The poorest kids in the region’s schools face a double whammy. They arrive at primary school less ready to learn than their more privileged peers and only a third leave primary school with the required levels of reading and writing.
“Two in three of those kids then leave secondary school without five good GCSEs. The challenge we have in this country is at large in the North.”
According to the North East advisory group on child poverty in the North East figures show that in some areas, noticeable improvements have been made.
Against many indicators the North East is no longer the region with the worst levels, but there is no cause for complacency, says chair of the North East Child Poverty Commission, Murray Rose.
“Child poverty remains a real and serious problem for the North East,” he said. “Worryingly, there are signs that, while ‘relative poverty’ has been falling, this is partly due to falling average incomes, and ‘absolute poverty’ has begun to increase.
“The Institute for Fiscal Studies has suggested that child poverty is likely to increase, rather than decrease, over the next six years, meaning the Government will fall well short of its child poverty reduction targets.
“Another area of real concern is the level of severe poverty experienced by some families and children who are being impacted by changes to the social security and benefits system – the ‘welfare reform’ programme.
“Many of these impacts are not yet showing up in official statistics, and tend to be masked within wider averages.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 Oct 2014
UKIP‘s efforts to win in the North East were undermined last night as it emerged they wanted to run a man based in China as a Newcastle candidate.
The party selected Tom Magen to fight a Newcastle seat after he had emailed them to say that while his work takes him to China, he still has an Elswick address and would be happy to stand “as a paper candidate”.
The claims emerged after a would-be party agent withdrew from the UK Independence Party amid fears local issues were not being prioritised.
Mr Magen said he was in discussions with UKIP before he knew the extent of his work commitments, and subsequently withdrew his offer.
Emails seen by The Journal show that in September last year Mr Magen was asked if he would stand, with local party organisers aware of his China links at this time.
Mr Magen told organisers: “I am not sure if you are aware, but I am actually based in China. My UK home address is indeed in Elswick, but I am away for most of the year for work.
“I am happy to stand as a paper candidate but I doubt I will even have time to collect the 10 signatures needed to stand. The run-up to May is always an extremely busy time for me. I am not daunted by the prospect of standing at all.”
In reply local party chiefs told him: “Your offer to stand as a paper candidate is very welcome. We would be happy to collect the signatures for you. I quite understand that you will be too busy to campaign.”
In November last year an email was sent to party members naming Mr Magen among those selected to fight a ward.
News of the party selection emerged after independent grouping Newcastle First announced it was ending a merger with UKIP.
Ernie Shorton, Newcastle First leader, said: “The Newcastle upon Tyne Community First Party agreed to join forces with UKIP because we took a similar position on a number of significant issues, such as tackling uncontrolled immigration, the EU and opposition to high speed rail which will be disastrous for Newcastle’s economy.
“We have discovered that UKIP in Newcastle and Gateshead are a shambles, fielding candidates with little or no experience of campaigning with the regional infrastructure acting as a huge barrier. They selected some candidates they have never met – and one of them was based in China.”
Mr Magen said he had not got to the point of having his name formally listed with the council as a candidate, saying: “As I am based abroad for most of the year, I felt it would be wrong to stand as a candidate and informed the team. I confirm, I have never stood as a UKIP candidate nor have I had any contact with anyone from Newcastle First.”
The would-be candidate has previously stood for the Conservatives, in 2006 in Newcastle. In September last year Mr Magen, director of North East International Education Development, said that having been helped by UKTI to establish the business’ overseas links, it had brought its first cohort of Chinese students to the region for study.
Labour have seized on the spat as “proof” of UKIP’s indifference to local issues.
David Stockdale, vice chair of the local Labour group, said: “This debacle is proof if it were needed that UKIP don’t represent Newcastle’s best interests.”
A spokesman for UKIP said: “We regret that matters with Mr Shorton did not work out as we might have hoped. We wish him all the best for the future.
“The potential UKIP candidate to whom he refers had some links to China at the time he was selected. As soon as it became clear that his work would require him to take up residence in China, he immediately resigned as a candidate. This was the correct decision. There is no story here.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 01 Mar 2014