Protestors gathered outside of a Tyneside immigration centre to demonstrate about the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.
A group of around 40 people gathered with banners, loud hailers, and music outside UK Visa and Immigrations Nortfolk Street Office in North Shields on Monday afternoon.
The reporting centre is soon to close amid a Home Office shake up of how it provides immigration services in the North East.
The demonstrators were campaigning not to bomb Libya and “let migrants pass safely,” to “shut down all immigration prisons in Britain” and to “end destitution” and provide “decent housing for all.”
The event, organised by Beyond Borders Tyneside, was part of Refugee Week – a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the country, and aims to promote better understanding of why people seek sanctuary.
> From our postbag…
I thought you might like the filmed programme- ‘QuestionDine 2015: Election Candidates with chips’.
In the short video, prospective parliamentary candidates sit down for supper with young volunteers to discuss the big political ideas.
From immigration, economic growth and the EU to free speech, humanitarian intervention and building homes ourselves; they put cracking questions to candidates. But, do they get answers they are looking for? You decide.
You can watch the short video here:
> Same vid as at top of post, but with extra written information…
We would be delighted to get your feedback/comments on the video and would very grateful if you would embed the video and share this programme with your friends and networks who may be interested.
A UKIP election hopeful has been heckled for his party’s ‘xenophobic’ policies by leading members of Newcastle’s Jewish community.
Eric Josephs, a former co-chair of the North East Jewish representative council, shouted at UKIP parliamentary candidate David Robinson Young, ‘that’s xenophobic’ as he outlined his views on immigration at a synagogue in Gosforth, Newcastle during a hustings event.
He was backed up by a man whose family escaped Nazi Germany with three days before war broke out, who said that if there had been UKIP’s favoured Australian style points system in 1939 ‘believe me, I would have died’.
Mr Robinson Young, a leading city barrister running in the Newcastle East constituency , strongly denied the accusation.
He said: “I am not xenophonic and no-one in my party is xenophobic.
“We don’t have a problem with immigration, but we have a problem with the politically motivated immigration system at the moment.”
However German born Walter Knoblauch, who lost his grandmother, aunt and great-uncle in the concentration camps, backed up Mr Josephs’ outburst.
“What you are saying is abhorrent. If there had been a points system in 1939 when I arrived here, believe me I would have died. I left Germany three days before the war broke out. We did not have time to build up points.”
Mr Knoblauch, who lives in Gosforth, arrived from Munich to Newcastle, with the assistance of Newcastle man Stanley Holmes who worked for the Tyneside Industrial Development Board. Mr Holmes was instrumental in bringing many German Jewish families to Newcastle and invited Walter’s father Herman to set up a shoe businesses, Knorbrit Products, at Orchard Street, Newcastle, and later Laco Shoes.
Walter’s brother John also ran Victory Shoe shops at the Grainger Market, Shields Road and Gateshead High Street before he died in 1982.
Mr Robinson Young said during the hustings event ahead of the General Election that cases where refugees are escaping ‘tyranny’, including current African migration across the Mediterranean sea would be considered in a different light by UKIP if they were to get into power following the May 7 General Election.
He said: “If people are genuine refugees from tyranny by all means lets look at them as this country did for you.”
Liberal Democrat Newcastle city councillor for West Gosforth, Jackie Slesenger, said from the audience that she was immensely proud of the citizenship ceremonies that take place in Newcastle every year with up to a 100 people from around the world who have chosen to make Britain their home and asked Mr Robinson Young to think again about ‘what he says about immigration’.
He said: “No-one thinks carefully about immigration can possibly say they don’t like immigration.
“People who do that are ignorant. I’m not ignorant and we have nothing against immigration, it’s the system. We do not have a race problem, we have a space problem. This country is filling up.”
He also said it was important to focus not just on the number of immigrants coming to the UK, but the quality of the people arriving, and the skills and professions they have to offer the country.
The hustings event organised by the Representative Council of North East Jewry was held at the Synagogue Hall, Graham Park Road.
Also present were Newcastle Central parliamentary candidates, Chi Onwurah for Labour, Nick Cott for the Liberal Democrats and Simon Kitchen for the Conservatives.
Daniel O’Brien Thompson, the UKIP candidate for Newcastle Central, did not take part in the hustings, but was present in the audience.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Apr 2015
A leading Stockton councillor has thrown his hat into the ring at the last minute to contest the Stockton South seat at the General Election.
Steve Walmsley, leader of the Thornaby Independent Association (TIA), is running as candidate for the Party of Dissent.
Cllr Walmsley describes the newly registered party as “a party of independents against social injustice and savage austerity cuts”.
The former Labour councillor split from the party back in 2003 “because of disillusion with politics without conscience and having to tow the party line no matter what”, and set up the TIA with friends.
He said he didn’t take the decision to stand in the May election “lightly”.
“What really swayed me was the fact that mainstream parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal, say much and offer little apart from a continuation of austerity which has brought misery to so many of the most vulnerable,” he said.
“And so this election should be about people making a choice about what kind of society they want to live in.
“If they want an uncaring, dog eat dog society where the poor, helpless and outsiders are stigmatised and blamed for economic meltdown whilst the greedy culprits continue to live in the lap of luxury, then they should vote for more of the same with any of the aforementioned parties.”
Cllr Walmsley believes Parliament should be “nationalised in the sense that those the public elect should work exclusively for the general public”.
He also believes that councils should be “localised, released from the stranglehold of political parties and handed back to the people who pay the bills and who ultimately bear the brunt of political folly and indifference”.
Immigration should also be “seriously and sensibly” tackled, he said.
Source – Middlesbrough Gazette, 13 Apr 2015
UKIP’s deputy leader has confirmed the party is targeting Northumberland’s Blyth Valley seat.
Nigel Farage’s second-in-command, Paul Nuttall MEP, was in the coastal constituency for the second time in a matter of weeks and said the seat – which is widely regarded as safe Labour territory – is a target for Ukip, while neighbouring Wansbeck was also “of great interest”.
Sitting Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell’s majority has dropped to 6,668 in 2010 from 17,736 in 2001.
The 71-year-old – who is for having a referendum on membership of the European Union – said Ukip was running an “ageist” campaign.
He added this election will be the last time he stands but he was nonetheless confident of a Labour victory.
It comes three months after Ukip opened its North East headquarters off Blyth high street, just a stone’s throw away from Mr Campbell’s office.
“Demographically, it is perfect for Ukip if you look at the people who came over to us at the recent election,” said Paul Nuttall, who is an MEP in the North West.
“We are investing in the constituency and building for the future.
“We are going to put in a very good performance – but it isn’t just about the short-term political gain, this is a long-term target seat.
“With Hartlepool, Blyth sticks out and we did very well in the South Shields by-election too, remember.”
Ukip has remained tight-lipped about its target seats but the MEP could not deny Blyth is now ranked among them.
He could not cite any polling data which says Blyth voters are shunning Labour but confirmed the party will be throwing resources at the campaign there.
“The reports that we hear are very positive, as are the ones we get from Wansbeck,” said Mr Nuttall.
“I’m not going to deny that we are parking our tanks on Labour’s lawn in Blyth. Barry Elliott is a great candidate and he has a good team around him.”
“Ukip has nothing to offer Blyth. We do not have a problem with immigration at all.
“Ukip has talked about being a target for a while. In the North East for them, it is Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, South Shields and us.
“I don’t know why they are targeting me. We are canvassing every day, I was out knocking on doors this morning. I hear that they tell people that I’m too old and that I should retire.
“I have a few years left in me yet. People don’t like ageism. Ageism is just as bad as racism.
“If they can manage to turn over my 6,668 majority then I haven’t done my job for the people of Blyth.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015
Immigrants working on construction sites should be able to speak English, a North MP has said.
Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, said it is vital immigrants have a “reasonable understanding” of the language so health and safety isn’t put at risk.
The Shadow Welfare Reform Minister said some of her constituents have “completely fair” concerns about immigration and insists Labour would address them.
“I think people have legitimate concerns,” she said. “They are also concerned about people not being able to speak good English.
“These are totally fair and totally reasonable concerns. On a building site you do need to have a reasonable understanding of English for health and safety purposes.
“You are working in a team and everybody needs to be able to understand what you say. If you go to the A&E department you want to speak to someone who can speak English.
“That is completely reasonable and fair.”
The Bishop Auckland constituency is home to just 800 non-UK nationals (of a total 89,500), which equates to just 1%.
In County Durham overall, there are 13,700 non-UK-nationals in County Durham (2.7%).
The MP’s words come after Bishop Auckland Mayor Colin Race defected from Labour to Ukip.
She said people are worried about the impact on wages and immigrants claiming benefits that will be wired overseas.
“In general, people think that some immigration is good, particularly for things like high-skilled work in the NHS, but they want more controls,” she said.
“They want reassurance that a Labour government would control immigration better and so I tell them that we will re-establish checks on the borders for people coming in and going out.
“The really big thing people are worried about is the impact on jobs and wages. They feel that people from Eastern Europe are prepared to work for less than they are and that some employers are exploiting that and that this pushes down wages.”
> Are they really prepared to work for less ? Or could it be they see the apparant size of UK wages compared to those at home and it looks good, but they fail to take into account that costs – housing, food, everything – are also higher ?
And then they find themselves here working for less, but paying out more.
She added: “Labour plans to raise the minimum wage and to stop employers recruiting overseas while not offering jobs to local people. I think people are right to be concerned and they want us to tighten up. We will tighten up.
> How about UK citizens working abroad ? Shouldn’t their jobs have been offered to local people too ? What’s going to be done about that ?
“I think it is fair that people want us to say that people aren’t allowed to claim benefits for children overseas.”
The Labour MP also took a swipe at Ukip, led by Nigel Farage, for being “all over the place” on policy and being anti-women.
“They are a bit of a one-man band,” she said. “I suppose that the other long-standing parties, by definition, have to make the difficult decisions.
“Farage still benefits from being the new kid on the block. Once you get past the Europe issue, they are all over the place.
“They seem to change their policies regularly.”
She added: “I think they are very conservative with respect to women.
“In their eyes, women should have a very certain place. They want to take us back to the 1950s with respect to women.”
Source – Sunday Sun, 15 Feb 2015
With a general election looming ever larger on the political horizon, the main parties are now unveiling the policies they think will secure them victory.
The economy, immigration and benefits are among the battlegrounds which they will be fighting over in the next four months.
Another is the heavily unionised public sector which has undergone swingeing cuts since the Coalition Government came to office in May 2010 and historically has been the favoured whipping boy of the Tory party.
And so when David Cameron’s party revealed plans to make it harder to call strikes in certain “core” public services if it wins the general election, it came as no surprise.
A policy along those lines, after all, was floated last year by Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster general Francis Maude.
There was also no surprise in its backing by the employers organisations the CBI and the British Chamber of Commerce, or in its universal condemnation by members of the TUC.
Yet, while certain sections of the media need no invitation to attack the public sector, and its day of action last year caused discomfort and annoyance amongst the public – not least the sight of rubbish piling high in places like Newcastle – it is still a risky strategy.
For a start, it opens the Government up to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards.
After all, the present Coalition Government is made up of the Lib Dems and Tories who between them received 38% of the total number of the UK’s eligible voters – 18m out of 45.5m – and below the 40% threshold it wants to demand of the public sector it is targeting. The Tory share of this was 23%.
In her heyday , Margaret Thatcher won around 30% of the total available vote and, during the present parliament, the Tories voted down a Lib Dem motion to introduced an alternative voting scheme which arguably would have made parliament more representative of the people’s views.
Meanwhile, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny also got his calculator out to further hammer home the point. He said:
“Only 16 out of 650 elected Members of Parliament secured the support of 40% of those entitled to vote in their parliamentary constituency area election in 2010.
“Only 15 Tory MPs out of 303 secured that level of support. They had no hesitation in forming a government in 2010 without securing 40% support from the electorate.”
Another point is that, particularly in the North East, the public sector which employs many in the region, is not as hated as the Tories might think. So such a policy strategy could be a vote loser here.
Gill Hale, regional secretary of Unison in the North East, said:
“They are the anti-public sector party – you only have to see what they are doing to the NHS and what they have already done to local government.
“Industrial action is taken as a last resort, and when we’ve had to take it we’ve had very good public support. I don’t think it will be a vote winner.”
Meanwhile comments by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, in which he denounced the plans as “brutal” and “ill-conceived”, echo those of Ms Hale.
He said the Conservative proposals were “entirely ideologically-led and a brutal attempt to strangle the basic rights of working people in this country”.
Mr Cable added that a 40% threshold would be “odd”, when MPs do not have to overcome such a high hurdle to be elected.
Under the plans, a strike affecting health, transport, fire services or schools would need the backing of 40% of eligible union members.
Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a simple majority of those balloted.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC says the Conservatives’ proposals would have “profound implications” for civil liberties.
They would also end a ban on using agency staff to cover for striking workers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for action to take place and curbs on picketing.
The package of measures will feature in the party’s manifesto for May’s general election.
In explaining the plan, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said a planned London bus strike set to take place on Tuesday had only been voted for by 16% of people entitled to take part in the ballot, and called the walk-out “ridiculous”.
“I think before a strike is allowed to go ahead it must havemuch more support from the union members and cannot be called by politicised union leaders,” he said.
But Ms O’Grady said that participation in strike ballots and other types of vote should be improved by introducing online voting, in “safe and secure balloting”.
At the moment, strikes can only be called based on the results of a postal ballot – which “don’t do the job”, Ms O’Grady added.
She said the government “continues to oppose this proposition”, although Mr McLoughlin replied he would be willing to talk “in more detail” about such proposals.
However, his partner in the Coalition Government, Mr Cable, goes further.
He said: “If there is to be trade union reform, it should be to allow electronic voting in ballots which would improve the turnout and legitimacy of polls.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the Conservative Party’s proposed changes would have a “chilling” effect, and added the way to “resolve disputes was through negotiations – not to intimidate and silence by legislation”.
Ministers have repeatedly clashed with trade unions over pay – with a 1% cap on increases in the public sector – as well as changes to pensions and retirement ages.
It was during the day of action last summer when hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took part in a day of strike action across the UK, that Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “time to legislate”.
But Ms Hale added:
“We already have some of the most draconian laws in Europe regarding industrial action. There are so many obstacles we have to get over.”
However, Mr McLoughlin said:
“It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for. That causes misery to millions of people; and it costs our economy too.”
He said the changes, which would be introduced in the first session of a Conservative-led Parliament, would “increase the legitimacy” of strike action held by unions.
“It is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hard-working taxpayers who rely on key public services.”
CBI deputy director general Katja Hall commented:
“Strikes should always be the result of a clear, positive decision by those balloted. The introduction of a threshold is an important – but fair – step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.”
However, the TUC has previously said imposing a minimum turnout would leave unions with “about as much power as Oliver Twist”.
Labour criticised those plans as “desperate stuff”.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the proposed measures would make it virtually impossible for anyone in the public sector to go on strike and would shift the balance completely in favour of the government and employers, and away from dedicated public servants.
He said: “The UK already has tough laws on strikes – there is no need to make them stricter still.”
But John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “In the eyes of businesses large and small, these proposals have merit, as they would help ensure essential services and the freedom to work in the event of strike action.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 12 Jan 2015
I’m one of the judges for the New Acts of The Year and we’re about half way through the contest. One thing that I and other judges have noticed is the general lack of political and philosophical engagement with the world among novice comedians. There are also a worrying number of acts who either have no material or have nothing interesting to say. Some have even ventured into misogyny, homophobia and casual racism in a feeble attempt to get laughs. What we also tend to find is that, rather than present a quirky view of the world, some of these novice comedians are giving us a spoken version of their CV. Is this what people are being taught to do at the many stand-up comedy courses that have proliferated since the early 1990s? I think it is. Whatever the case, British stand-up comedy is on its sick bed.
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Britain is often supposed to be a ‘soft touch’ for immigrants looking for an easy life. Only yesterday, the Mayor of Calais lectured MPs on creating an ‘El Dorado’ for the world’s poor, citing in evidence the £36-a-week emergency payments given to asylum seekers with no other income. Yes – £36, or one third of the basic state pension – is apparently the hallmark of El Dorado.
Worries about migrants and welfare go back a long way. I want in this blog to discuss the response of the German immigrant community in Britain to these fears, which partly arose from British distaste for the German tramping system (where young craftsmen picked up new skills by travelling from one place of work to another) and partly from middle-class German pride over the community’s respectability.
Quite how many Germans were living in early 20th century Britain is uncertain. The 1911 census recorded…
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UKIP’s first MEP for the region has talked of his party’s ambition to shatter the dominance of long-standing Labour strongholds.
Former maths teacher Jonathan Arnott, who lives in Guisborough, Teesside, said Ukip is now challenging for power in areas across the North East which have traditionally voted Labour for half a century because Labour had lost touch with the working class.
Jonathan said: “At the recent European elections in Redcar, Ukip secured 11,087 votes, compared to Labour’s 8,548. In Stockton, Ukip got 13,862 votes, with Labour on 12,579. And in Middlesbrough, a long-standing Labour stronghold, UKIP gained 8,695 votes, with Labour on 8,429.
“We’ve got to build on those results so that we’re not just seen for our views on the European Union and immigration. Our no tax on the minimum wage policy is going down well in working class areas.
“At the moment, we’re gaining a lot of support in Blyth, Northumberland. Many of our supporters in these areas say they feel abandoned by Labour.”
During the May European elections Labour topped the North East poll with 221,988 votes and Ukip got 177,660.
The Conservative vote dropped by around 10,000 to 107,733 and under the European voting system the result was enough for Martin Callanan, leader of the Conservatives in Europe and a 15-year veteran on the parliament, to lose his seat.
Labour took two of the North East’s three European parliament seats, with one going to UKIP.
But that gain has not been matched elsewhere in the region, with UKIP not holding a single parliamentary seat and only having a handful of councillors.
> And in Tyne & Wear, lets not forget, they lost 50% of their councillors and now have just one.
It is not widely thought that UKIP will be actively targeting sitting North East MPs as it is more likely to concentrate its efforts on other parts of the country.
Mr Arnott said that Prime Minister David Cameron’s failure to block Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming the next president of the European Commission has left the prime minister “outnumbered, humiliated and utterly isolated.”
He said “The whole process is a sham, in so many ways. Whether you got Schultz or Juncker doesn’t matter anyway, virtually no-one in the UK has heard of either of them.
> But perhaps that’s down to the kind of coverage the EU gets in the British media ?
And Britain is not Europe – just a small part of it. The EU’s not just for our benefit.
“The Prime Minister went to war over the appointment of the next commission president but it was a war that he was clearly going to lose.
“There is an increasingly bad relationship between Britain’s leaders and the leaders of many other European countries.”
> Which UKIP would make even worse…
Source – Newcastle Journal, 07 July 2014