People tempted to vote Labour or Green in Berwick should switch to the Lib Dems in order to keep out the Conservative candidate, a senior politician has said.
Tim Farron, former Lib Dem president and tipped to be the next leader of the party, made the call with less than a week to go before the General Election.
It comes as the polls show Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Lib Dem Julie Porksen locked in a dead heat for electoral victory in the Northumberland constituency.
Mr Farron said:
“We need everybody who is not a Conservative to get behind Julie Porksen.
“If you vote Labour or Green next Thursday, you might wake up and feel good about yourself, but in five years’ time if we have a Conservative Government, they may bitterly regret it.”
> Fuck me ! The arrogance of the man.
The voters of of Berwick voted Lib Dem last time… and in five years time they had a Conservative government, aided and abetted by those very same Lib Dems !
So did the rest of us, and yes, we do bitterly regret it.
He said Lib Dems candidates were winning the ground campaign in their heartlands and are poised to clinch victory in Berwick.
“Lib Dems are made of hardy stuff and there is a reason why people in Berwick and Westmorland have been so kind to us,” he said.
“We have a ruggedness and an industrialism that is reflected in those constituencies.
“We live and breathe community politics. We believe that national politics comes from what happens on the ground, not from focus groups or national opinion-testing.
“We find out what is happening by speaking to people all year round and that is why we will win Berwick.”
But Anne-Marie Trevelyan accused the Lib Dems of negative campaigning. She said:
“Voters should be able to vote for the party they support.
“It’s great to have a Green Party candidate here, especially one as capable and committed to Alnwick as Rachel Roberts.
“If the Lib Dems are worried about their vote share, perhaps they should try offering positive messages rather than running aggressive negative campaining against their rivals.”
Mr Farron, who visited Berwick this week, also criticised the Conservatives’ commitment to offering a referendum on leaving the European Union.
“There are two enormous risks to us leaving the EU,” he said.
“The agricultural policy brings in billions of pounds to the livestock and dairy farming industry, which are mostly in the North of the country.
“People don’t realise that direct and single farming payments from the EU are all that stand between the industry and ruin.”
Mr Farron said while this was a tough campaign for the Liberal Democrats after five years of coalition with the Conservatives, the future had a bright future.
“If we didn’t have a Liberal party, you would have to invent one that would stand up for rural communities; for traditional British civil liberties; for environmental issues; for affordable housing,” he said.
“Historically, there has been no other party that stands for that combination of things. I think the future will be strong for us.”
Mr Farron added the SNP and UKIP were a divisive and dangerous force in British politics, but that politicians of all parties had to respect the choices of the electorate.
“If you are a politician that plays on nationalism and on wrapping your politics in a flag, like Farage does, then you are a dangerous person.
“Nationalism is about excluding other people. Patriots love their country and nationalists hate their neighbours.
“I think it should be worrying to everyone in Scotland but we have to be big enough to accept whatever our neighbours choose on May 7.”
> The message that comes through, I think, is really the same as from Con and Lab… things may be starting to change, and it scares us. Therefore we must try to smear the newcomers, because we feel that political control is somehow our right… we don’t feel we should have to earn it.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 May 2015
Campaigners hoping to turn Northumberland in a Green Party powerbase defied dreary weather to officially launch their election battle.
Natalie Bennett’s party will fight all four Northumberland constituencies at the General Election next month, placing energy, anti-austerity, public services and transport at the heart of their strategy.
Taking shelter under bright green umbrellas, the candidates chose Druridge Bay Visitor Centre, near Amble, for the event, close to the site of a planned opencast mine, which the Greens are petitioning against amid fears it will damage the environment.
The party’s candidate for Hexham and chairman of the Northumberland Greens Lee Williscroft-Ferris, said:
“Today has been a huge success.
“Despite the poor weather, many Green Party members from across the four Northumberland constituencies have come to Druridge Bay to show their support as their candidates officially launch their general election campaigns.
“Although we are each fighting hard in our own areas, we share similar concerns. These include an urgent need to improve public transport and protect our public services, as well as a mutual objective of fighting against the unsafe exploitation of our natural resources through fracking, open cast mining and underground coal gasification.
“We offer a people and planet-focussed alternative to ‘business as usual’ politics and to the narrative of austerity – the number of people here today proves that there is a genuine appetite for a positive, Green vision of hope here in Northumberland.”
It comes as the Greens celebrate being the third-largest party, in terms of membership, in England as the party enjoys unprecedented exposure in the TV leaders’ debates.
While the Greens are not anticipating victory in Northumberland a surge of support for them could make a decisive difference in the key marginal of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Following the retirement of long-serving Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith, Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan is neck-and-neck with Lib Dem Julie Porksen, but the Greens’ candidate Rachael Roberts is holding her own.
Dawn Furness is taking on Labour’s Ronnie Campbell – who polled a 6,668 majority in 2010 – in the Blyth Valley constituency while Chris Hedley also faces a tough opponent in Wansbeck where Ian Lavery will stand for Ed Miliband’s party.
The Save Druridge campaign has a petition, which can be found online: http://www.savedruridge.co.uk
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Apr 2015
Berwick constituency, vacant following the retirement of Sir Alan Beith (Lib Dem).
►Nigel Revell Coghill-Marshall (Ukip)
►Scott Dickinson (Labour)
►Neil Humphrey (English Democrats)
►Julie Pörksen (Liberal Democrats)
►Rachael Roberts (Green Party)
►Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative)
The Duke of Northumberland’s business venture has been accused of “riding roughshod over the planning system and local communities to make a quick buck.”
Northumberland Estates is also “inundating the county with planning applications which are out of proportion to existing communities,” according to Julie Pörksen, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Berwick.
The estates has defended itself claiming there is an identified need for 23,000 new homes in the county and that its schemes amount to only a fraction of that number.
It has also hit back at Ms Pörksen labelling her comments “inaccurate and inflammatory” and adding “a cynic might think there was a general election in May.”
Ms Pörksen spoke having attended a public meeting at Warkworth, called by residents who are concerned at the number of houses being proposed for their village – many by the estates.
In recent times we reported on similar scenarios involving the venture at Alnwick, Rothbury and Shilbottle.
The would-be MP has now criticised the estates for submitting excessive applications at a time when Northumberland County Council is still preparing the core strategy of its local plan, with that to ultimately provide guidance on development in communities.
She said: “In the absence of a core strategy for the county, Northumberland has become a free for all for developers.
“Northumberland Estates own a huge amount of land in and around many of our villages and towns and as a result hold a great deal of power over the future of communities such as Alnwick, Rothbury, Shilbottle and Warkworth.
“It is very disappointing that Northumberland Estates are not using their power responsibly and have chosen to inundate the county with planning applications which are out of proportion to existing communities.
“Sustainable development of housing stocks is needed in Northumberland as in some villages young people have nowhere to live, however the estates are not meeting this need but riding roughshod over the planning system and local communities to make a quick buck before the rules change.
“Greater consideration should be given to the impact of proposed developments so any development creates a positive impact on communities, schools, jobs and tourism, parking and traffic issues and the environment.
“I hope the estates will rethink their approach to Northumberland and that the county council will give fair consideration to the views of everyone who has made their views known in the planning process.”
Colin Barnes, director of planning and development at the estates, hit back:
“The council’s recently published local plan sets out a requirement for over 23,000 new homes in Northumberland in order to address problems of population decline, affordability, an ageing population and a lack of investment.
“Our applications meet only a small fraction of the housing which is needed.
“As a major local business and investor in the county we would happily explain the how planning system operates, which is both transparent and democratic, as the comments made are both inaccurate and inflammatory.
“A cynic might think there was a general election in May.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Jan 2015
SNP politician Christine Grahame’s proposal to contest the Berwick constituency at next year’s General Election has been ruled out.
Ms Grahame, who represents Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale in the Scottish Parliament, had previously expressed her willingness to be a candidate in the English seat currently held by long-serving Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith.
She felt it would secure the SNP leadership a place in any UK-wide television debates to be screened in the run-up to May. That way the SNP could claim to be standing right across the UK because it would have candidates in England as well as Scotland.
However, the idea has been rejected by the SNP executive.
Ms Grahame said:
“I am disappointed but not surprised that the SNP’s governing body has rejected my offer. I, of course, accept the ruling.”
The idea sparked debate among voters on both sides of the border.
The proposal certainly captured the imagination south of the border, with some predicting she could collect a significant numbers of votes from disaffected Berwickers.
While she was never likely to win a seat that is seen as a two-horse race between Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Liberal Democrat Julie Porksen, an SNP candidate might have been able to pick up support from voters disillusioned, most recently, by the failure of the coalition partners to commit to dualling the last 25 miles of the A1 up to Berwick.
Ms Graham’s proposal also received a favourable reaction from the North-East Party, which seeks greater devolution for Berwick and the north east of England generally.
“I have contacted Hilton Dawson, of the North-East Party, offering to assist them in their campaign if they think that would be helpful.
“But to stand in Berwick to promote devolution for the north east and to lay to rest the scare stories about Scotland cutting itself off from England in the event of independence (I am English born) I required approval from my party’s executive.”
Ms Grahame is no stranger to Berwick’s political scene.
In September she took part in the BBC’s pre-referendum ‘Scotland and Us’ debate at The Maltings, arguing that Scotland breaking away from England would be good for the area and would stimulate the case for devolution of powers to the north of England.
And in the run up to the 2008 general election she lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the town to “return to the fold” although politicians warned it would be too complicated and would cause major upheaval.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 12 Dec 2014
A Seahouses patient awaiting an operation has challenged a health boss to get from his village to Hexham Hospital on public transport.
It comes after the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) introduced new national guidelines last month which mean strict criteria has to be met before a patient is eligible for transport.
One of many patients affected in the rural north of the county, Mr Vickers of Seahouses – who has surgery scheduled for a ruptured Achilles tendon – says he cannot physically reach his appointments on time without the service.
Journey times to his appointments at Hexham hospital by bus would take in access of four hours. Even then it is impossible to reach earlier appointments on time; or get back the same day following later appointments.
A taxi would cost him £120, plus £10 an hour waiting time, or £80 for a one-way trip.
In a letter CCG chief Dr Alistair Blair , Mr Vickers wrote:
“I challenge you to get from Seahouses to Hexham hospital and back to Seahouses in one day using pubic transport and keeping appointment times.”
“Your criteria is depriving me my human rights for proper medical treatment in Northumberland.”
Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Julie Pörksen said:
“I was shocked to hear about the impact the changes were having on ordinary people. It is completely unacceptable to expect older people and those who are not in the best of health to make arduous journeys.”
> Surely its unacceptable to expect anyone to have to do those sort of public transport journies ?
Ms Pörksen said she had spoken to one patient who was told to get a taxi to their appointment then reclaim the £100 fare from the hospital.
“This is simply ridiculous,” she said. “There is an assumption that the high cost of a taxi fare could be met and that it would be OK to get that money back from the hospital.
“What patients need is to be able to use patient transport if a realistic and sympathetic assessment of their needs shows that it is justified.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Groups said:
“From 20 October 2014, we implemented the Department of Health’s national policy where all new patient transport bookings are subject to a short assessment. The assessment includes asking a few questions about how you would normally travel for day-to-day activities and if friends or family normally take you to your appointments.
“The purpose of this assessment is to make sure that the people who require ambulance services are prioritised and that the NHS is making the best use of the funding it has available. This means that we can free up emergency services as these appointments are planned using dedicated patient transport vehicles and means that patients don’t have to wait as long.
“We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and some people who have previously used this service may find that they are no longer entitled to patient transport. If this is the case, then the booking service is offering information and advice on alternative forms of transport.”
She added: “We have introduced a script at the end of the eligibility assessment that allows people to tell us if their journey into hospital is very different from their everyday trips and then affects their health. This will allow us to make sure that we are not disadvantaging those people who have to make long or complex journeys for their healthcare.
“People also now have the opportunity to tell us any other information that they think may influence the decision to get patient transport to their appointments.
“We are committed to ensuring that patients who live in rural areas are not disadvantaged by the implementation of the criteria, however, we still need to ensure that this is applied fairly across the region.”
If patients have any concerns, queries, or you are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 29 Nov 2014
SNP politician Christine Grahame insists that she is serious about contesting the Berwick seat at next year’s General Election and says she has had “loads of supportive messages”.
The level of interest can certainly be verified by the Berwick Advertiser – over 4,500 read the story online in one day and a Facebook link to it received over 3,500 likes.
Ms Grahame initially came up with the idea of contesting the Berwick seat as a possible way to get SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on to the national platform in the run up to the general election and taking part in the televised leader debates.
Last month the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky jointly wrote to David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage inviting them to take part is a series of multi-platform party leader debates. The directors of BBC Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, sent out separate invitations to the main political parties in each nation to discuss setting up general election debates.
The Berwick seat is currently held by Sir Alan Beith who is standing down in May. First elected in 1973, he is the longest serving Lib Dem MP and, in 2010, he had a majority of 2,690 over his Conservative rival.
Ms Grahame told the Advertiser:
“I await consideration by the SNP of my proposal which is a serious suggestion to reflect the similarities between the requirements of Berwick and its near neighbours in the Scottish Borders.
“I would, as always, be campaigning to win the seat but would continue in my role as MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.
“I know the good that devolution can do and would fight to bring this to Berwick and the north of England. In addition I believe we need to ensure that good cross border relations continue.
“My focus is, as always, on social justice and democracy which, of course, crosses borders.”
The Conservatives have the Berwick seat in their sights with the retirement of Sir Alan, and their candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan said this week:
“I believe that all voters should have the opportunity to vote for the person and party of their choice, and I know from my own doorstep canvassing, that there are some Berwick residents whose views resonate most closely with the SNP.”
Liberal Democrat candidate, Julie Porksen, was a little less welcoming of the idea of Ms Grahame as a rival candidate:
“For the SNP to stand a candidate in the Berwick constituency in order to get into the leader’s debates is a publicity stunt and does nothing to improve the lives of those living in north Northumberland.
“The real choice facing people here in the next election is between Lib Dem action on the A1, local health services, jobs and education, or the Tories whose policies, like regional pay, would do great damage to Northumberland.”
Jeremy Purvis, a Berwick native and former MSP who lost his Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale seat to Ms Grahame in 2011 and now sits in the Lord as Lord Purves of Tweed, said:
“It seems a remarkable move from someone who worked so hard to become a Borders MSP,
“If anyone was looking for evidence that the SNP is an anti-English party, then sending Christine Grahame to Berwick should do the trick.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 27 Nov 2014
> The Northumberland “I’m more local than you are” cat fight rumbles on…
A would-be MP is urging her political opponents to sign a fair-fight pledge after a row over being local.
Election leaflets put out across the Berwick Constituency from Liberal Democrat candidate Julie Pörksen have sparked comment.
The latest leaflet appears to pick on Conservative candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan because she worked in London, and question her status as a Northumbrian.
Ms Trevelyan said: “I am genuinely surprised that the Lib Dems decided to try to pick a fight on my local credentials as I have been fighting for Northumberland and ‘being local,’, for nearly 20 years.
“Whereas their candidate has been working in London for a firm of spin doctors and as a member of Nick Clegg’s team for the last 20 years. She stood as a council candidate for a London council seat recently claiming that she was local to Pimlico, one of the poshest parts of central London, having been there bringing up her kids for 10 years.
“Perhaps the Lib Dems who now seem to be running things locally would like to sign a pledge for a fair-fight campaign. In the last general election, against Sir Alan Beith, we were able to have a civilised campaign where every candidate presented their plans and credentials honestly, without criticism of others.
“I came into politics because I hated all the spin peddled by Tony Blair and hoped I might be able to bring some blunt honesty to representing our patch. Over my eight years as Conservative candidate voters have always said that is what they want, so perhaps the Lib Dem camp could join me and others in signing a fair-fight pledge.”
Ms Pörksen said: “I grew up here in the Berwick constituency – many farming people know my father. One of the reasons I am so passionate about the right for free post-16 transport to college and school is because I used to get the bus to Ponteland High School in the eighties so know first-hand what it’s like growing up in rural Northumberland with poor public transport, dependent on parents – to be able to get to school should be a basic right.
“However, like many Northumbrians, the lack of local jobs forced me to move away. Moving back to Northumberland was the best thing I could ever do for my children. I want to represent the area where I grew up and which I love in Parliament to make sure future generations aren’t forced to make the same decisions I had to, that there are well paid jobs and decent opportunities here for our young people.”
> The locality question doesn’t appear to have touched Alan Beith, the current MP, who was born in Cheshire.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 08 Aug 2014
> Cat fight ! The ConDem coalition obviously doesn’t extend to Northumberland…
A parliamentary candidate in Northumberland has been accused of hypocrisy after claiming to be local to the county – but also to London.
Julie Pörksen, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Berwick, has been criticised by Conservative opponents after they discovered literature from when she ran for council in London describing her as ‘local’.
They say the claim is at odds with Mrs Pörksen’s assertions to be ‘local’ in the Berwick seat.
The candidate has defended her local credentials in the county, while her party has laid into the Tories accusing them of “silly attacks.”
Mrs Pörksen’s rivals took to social media to post a leaflet from 2010 when she stood for election for the Lib Dems at Pimlico, London.
The leaflet describes her as a “local mum” and “local resident.”
The Tories say the leaflet is at odds with Mrs Pörksen’s claims in the Berwick constituency, with her website describing her as “a key local campaigner” and press releases referring to her as “local” and “Northumbrian.”
They have also highlighted the fact she lives in the Wansbeck constituency, at Hepscott.
Richard Wearmouth, Conservative chairman for Wansbeck, said: “I am shocked by these revelations, Julie Pörksen has gone out of her way to portray herself as the “local” candidate for Berwick.
“Indeed, she and her colleagues based their campaign in the recent Longhoughton by-election on the fact that they were local campaigners and criticised the Conservative candidate for living just outside the ward even though he had previously lived in the ward for many years.
“The fact that it now emerges that Mrs Pörksen not only does not live in the Berwick constituency, but has recently campaigned for a London council seat describing herself as the ‘local’ candidate in Pimlico, leaves her open to the accusation of hypocrisy.”
Mrs Pörksen responded: “I grew up here in the Berwick constituency – many farming people know my father as a leading light in the local NFU.
“However, like many Northumbrians, the lack of local jobs forced me to look to move away.
“Moving back to Northumberland was the best thing I could ever do for my children and my family is in the process of moving to Rothbury where my children start school in September.
“I want to represent the area where I grew up and which I love in parliament to make sure that future generations aren’t forced to make the same decisions I had to, that there are well paid jobs and decent opportunities here for our young people.”
A local Lib Dem spokesperson added: “When people vote next May, they aren’t going to be swayed by silly attacks.
“They will ask themselves who will fight for us – a former city corporate financier whose local party receives funding from a Russian businessman, and whose party wants local workers to get paid less than those down south; or Julie who was brought up here and will fight for local people to get the A1 dualled, health services in Berwick improved and make sure our new school gets built in Alnwick.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Aug 2014
Liberal Democrats have been accused of “unbelievable hypocrisy” after they announced they want effectively to axe the bedroom tax.
The change of heart follows a vote at last year’s Liberal Democrat party conference when delegates backed a motion proposed by North East activist Julie Pörksen which condemned the policy for “discriminating against the most vulnerable in society”.
Mrs Pörksen, who is set to be the party’s candidate in Berwick, Northumberland, next year, welcomed the Lib Dem announcement, saying: “The whole premise behind the policy was flawed.”
But as recently as February, the party’s MPs failed to back calls led by a North East Labour MP to axe the bedroom tax.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery proposed legislation to end the policy, but just five Liberal Democrat out of 56 voted for it.
The recent u-turn came after a paper produced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – but published on the same day David Cameron conducted a high-profile Government reshuffle – highlighted the hardship caused by the policy.
Mr Lavery said: “I’m completely lost for words. Is it any wonder that the public question the honesty and integrity of politicians and the political parties?
“This is obscene electioneering from a party whose credibility has vanished. The Liberal Democrats supported the bedroom tax with equal passion as the Tories – it’s a matter of public record.
“They failed to support my 10 minute rule bill, which highlighted all the problems they now wish to raise.”
And Newcastle East’s Labour MP Nick Brown said: “It’s completely hypocritical. If they hadn’t supported the Tory government in the first place then this misery wouldn’t have been inflicted on public sector tenants.”
Known officially as the removal of the spare room subsidy, the ‘bedroom tax’ involves cutting housing benefit by 14% for many tenants in council or housing association properties if they are considered to have a spare bedroom, or by 25% if they have two or more spare bedrooms.
Officially, the goal was to encourage them to move into smaller properties.
But the DWP paper reveals that only 4.5% of households affected in the North East have managed to find a smaller council or housing association property to move into.
Others had simply been forced to pay the extra rent. The paper said: “57% of claimants reported cutting back on what they deemed household essentials and 35% on non-essentials in order to pay their shortfall.
“A quarter of claimants (26%) said they had borrowed money, mostly from family and friends (21% of all claimants); 3% had borrowed on a credit card and 3% taken payday loans.”
Despite this, only four out of ten households affected had managed to keep up with their rent – while the rest went into arrears.
The new Liberal Democrat policy is to cut benefits only for people who are actually offered a smaller home and refuse to move, which means the cut is simply axed for the overwhelming majority of people currently affected.
But despite being part of the Coalition government, it remains to be seen whether Liberal Democrats will succeed in actually changing Government policy.
Mrs Pörksen said: “Liberal Democrat ministers now need to persuade the Tories to agree with them and bring some humanity back into the welfare state.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 July 2014