General election apathy reigns supreme in South Tyneside.
That was the conclusion to be drawn from talking to a cross-section of would-be voters approachedin King Street, South Shields.
There are now just over two months to go before the nation decides on its next government.
The odds are on another coalition pact, with neither the Conservatives or the Labour Party predicted to win an overall majority.
But on the streets of the borough, we found little appetite for any of the parties jostling for our votes in the coming weeks.
Retired panel-beater Russell Dodds, 74, of Biddick Hall, South Shields, said:
“I am a bit mystified by the whole political scene.
“Nobody seems to have answers on anything, from the Middle East to pensions and even the Metro system, which is always breaking down.
“I’m sad to say there is a blandness about politicians these days.
“You have to look for the difference between the parties. No one really stands out.
“Look at Nigel Farage. He’s always pictured looking happy with a pint of beer in his hand, but does that really make him qualified to run the country?”
Ex-shipyard worker Norman Ogden, 72, of Hebburn, said:
“It’s hard not to be cynical about politics when you hear about MPs fiddling their expenses and former ministers being filmed trying to bolster their incomes.
“At the same time, hospitals are struggling because there are not enough nurses.”
South Shields shopper and retired foundry supervisor Leslie Milburn, 75, said:
“There used to be an old saying that it’s six and two threes. Now, it’s six and three twos.
“There is more choice as far as the number of parties, but there is less choice because everyone is the same.
“I’ll vote, but only because if I don’t vote, it will be my own fault if we get the worst option in.”
South Shields shop worker Stephanie Doxford, 23, voted for the first time in 2010, and she intends to do so again on Thursday, May 7.
“I’ll definitely be voting, although part of me thinks they are all as bad as each other.
“I voted Conservative in 2010, and I’m inclined to do so again, but I’ll hear what the other parties say in the run-up to the election.
“Ed Miliband doesn’t come across well to me. It all seems about badmouthing the other parties. I don’t really know what his party stands for.
“I think the election will be close, but my instinct tells me it won’t be a coalition this time, that the Conservatives might get an overall majority.”
Retired Merchant Navy bosun Denis Atkinson, 67, of Jarrow, said:
“I’d be inclined to stick with the Conservatives. I think David Cameron is doing a pretty good job, particularly with the economy.
“Why change things when we’re heading in the right direction?
“I know this is a Labour heartland, and I was Labour years ago, but I think the tide is turning away from them, even here in the North East.”
The most of apathetic of those we spoke to was unemployed George Pattison, 45, of Jarrow. He said:
“I won’t be voting. I never vote. I don’t believe in politicians. I get on with my own life and make my own decisions. I want nothing to do with them.”
> That’s not apathy though, is it ? It’s someone actively making a decision and carrying it through.
Aource – Shields Gazette, 28 Feb 2015
The Green Party is aiming to field candidates in all 18 South Tyneside Council wards being contested at May’s local elections.
The plan coincides with a recent doubling of party membership in the borough.
The party is also putting up candidates in both borough Parliamentary seats for the first time – Shirley Ford in South Shields and David Herbert in Jarrow.
The news comes at a time when the party’s profile nationally is rising, courtesy of a surprise endorsement from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron has refused to take part in any television debate until broadcasters agree that the Greens be included too.
“As a democratically elected leader, I have no reason to doubt his motives for doing that, but whatever his motives, his intervention does mean that people across the country are taking a look at us,” said Mrs Ford.
“Something like 300,000 people have signed an online petition supporting our involvement in the debates.”
Later this week, the borough’s Green Party branch is to meet to select candidates to fight for council seats in May, and a public meeting is also being lined up.
Mrs Ford said: “There has been a surge in membership.
“It has more than doubled in the last couple of months, from about 20 to 42, the last time I looked.
“There’s probably a mixture of reasons why that has happened, including the publicity in the national media and the fact that we have been very visible since the Westoe by-election in September last year through our beach cleans, park cleans, the stall we had in King Street, South Shields, and our support for the Gazette’s campaign to cut business rates.”
Green activists were also out in force at The Nook in South Shields on Saturday asking the public to sign a petition opposing Harton Technology College’s plans to become an academy.
Mrs Ford said: “There is definitely a different vibe towards the party now.
“At the last general election in 2010, we stood in a handful of borough wards, but I can’t see a reason why we can’t have candidates for all 18 wards in May.
“That’s our aim anyway. All the members who have signed up in recent weeks will be able to stand. We don’t have any rules that forbid that.
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75 per cent of constituencies, and we are determined to exceed that in the North East.
“We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the general election.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 19 Jan 2015
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck is hoping to spark a debate in Parliament on the state of UK high streets – after admitting the decline of the town’s main shopping thoroughfare “breaks my heart”.
The MP has become alarmed at the number of retail outlets closing in King Street over recent months.
The decision by Marks and Spencer to exit the town after 80 years was a particular body blow.
However, other retailers have left or are about to leave, including Mothercare, Thorntons, Internacionale and Greggs restaurant.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “I’m looking in the very near future either to get a debate in Parliament, or if not, write to communities secretary Eric Pickles, about what the Government intends to do to support our high streets.
“It’s really sad that we have got shops leaving King Street. People automatically say ‘oh, it’s the council’s fault’, but the council does not set business rates and they don’t own those buildings.
“It’s the Government that sets business rates and Labour’s got plans to cut and freeze business rates, and for an energy price freeze to help small business.
“I don’t understand why the Government won’t implement those things because it would actually see a revival of our high streets. I was in King Street recently and it was really sad to see. I used to go there when I was a kid. Each time I see that another shop is closing, it breaks my heart. I think the Government needs to do something about this. They can’t just sit on their laurels.
“Of course, it’s not something which is particular to South Shields, it is happening across the country. I’m going to try and get a debate in Parliament.
“If I can’t get that I will at least write to Eric Pickles and I will give the Gazette a copy of his response, so people can see that I’m at least trying to do something.”
Town Hall bosses have no control on either the setting of rents in the street or on rate levels, which are set by central Government and merely collected locally by the council.
A council spokesman told the Gazette recently that business rates are a “major bone of contention” – but explained that they are set by Government, not the council.
South Tyneside gets to keep 50 per cent of the business rates it collects in the borough, with the other 50 per cent going into a central Government pot.
Out of that, a proportion is redistributed to the council to recognise the local authority’s financial needs.
The last revaluation of properties for rating purposes was carried out in 2008, the next being proposed for 2017.
The council itself pays business rates for its offices, schools, day centres and all other buildings it occupies, in exactly the same way as other private sector occupiers.
Source – Shields Gazette 30 April 2014