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
He is one of the most significant figures in British political history, with a monument in his honour in the centre of Newcastle and a number of stately homes linked to his life in Northumberland.
Yet the 250th anniversary of the birth of Earl Charles Grey is set to go almost unmarked in his home region with just a solitary event planned – and that marking the blend of tea which takes his name.
Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey, was born and bred in Northumberland, and a statue of him sits on top of the monument erected in his honour in the heart of Newcastle. Grey Street – once voted the finest street in the UK – is named after him, as is Grey College at Durham University.
During his four-year spell as Prime Minister, he was responsible for fundamental changes in British society, including the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and the Great Reform Act of 1832 which is credited as launching modern democracy in Britain.
And yet today, exactly 250 years on from his birth, the only event planned in the region to celebrate Earl Grey is a two-day event in June organised by EAT! NewcastleGateshead Initiative.
Last night, the current resident of Earl Grey’s birthplace, Fallodon Hall, near Alnwick, said she felt a sense of personal “guilt” that the milestone is being allowed to pass by and large unmarked.
Lucia Bridgeman said: “Who is the person who has got the resources and contributes the imagination to create something out of a historical moment?
“We have got the do-gooders in the villages doing magazines, we have got the county council that has got no money, we have got other people who are too busy doing their jobs.
“In a sense Northumberland owes the Greys a huge amount but there are not many Greys left, it is a family that has died out. That might be the reason his memory has faded locally, his family has faded with him.”
Mrs Bridgeman said Earl Grey was part of a “great political family” and argued his memory lives on regardless of a lack of fanfare.
She said: “I think just the Grey family have had a huge impact on Northumberland and the county which is acknowledged because of the statues and other physical memories of them. It is no disgrace to their name that this is not being acknowledged.”
The solitary event in commemoration of Earl Grey is inspired by the tea which was named after him.
Tea and Cake Planet, A Weekend Adventure in Brewing and Baking, runs at The Boiler Shop, Newcastle, on June 28 and 29.
Northumberland Tourism, the body responsible for attracting visitors to the country, did at least put out a press release flagging up the anniversary and encouraging people to visit the gardens and arboretum at Howick Hall near Alnwick, where Earl Grey lived and where the tea that bears his name was dreamt up.
In the release, the organisation’s Jude Leitch said: “Earl Grey is one of Northumberland’s favourite sons and his classic tea blend is enjoyed around the world.
“Many tea-lovers have already made the pilgrimage to his birthplace at the beautiful Howick Hall Gardens and we’re sure more will follow in 2014, the 250th anniversary of his birth.”
The Northumbrian who ended slavery
Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, was born at Fallodon Hall, near Alnwick, on March 13, 1764, before moving to nearby Howick Hall.
Grey was elected to parliament for the then Northumberland constituency in 1786, aged just 22.
He became a part of the Whig Party, the origins of which lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule.
In 1806, Grey, by then Lord Howick, became leader of the Whigs. A year later, he entered the Lords, succeeding his father as Earl Grey. In 1830, the Whigs took power, with Grey as PM.
Under his leadership, the government passed the Reform Act 1832, which saw the reform of the House of Commons, and the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.
In 1834 Grey’s spell as Prime Minister ended. He died in 1845 and was buried at Howick.
Earl Grey Tea is named after Charles. The tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for him, to suit the water from the well at Howick, using bergamot in particular to offset the taste of the lime in it. Twinings came to market the product and it is now sold worldwide.
Grey’s Monument in Newcastle was built in 1838 in recognition of his passing of the Reform Act. .
The Greys were a sprawling political dynasty. One descendant, Sir Edward Grey, was Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of the First World War. His role in attempting to head off the conflict was dramatised by the BBC earlier this month, witn Ian McDiarmid playing Grey.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 13 March 2014