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
A hustings debate in the North East erupted into a full scale row between organisers and supporters of a party which said it had been unfairly excluded from the event.
It took place at Tyne Metropolitan College in Wallsend on Tuesday night in which candidates from the Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Green and UKIP parties for the North Tyneside constituency had been invited to share a stage.
However Tim Wall, who is the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition candidate, was not.
Before the debate started TUSC supporters entered the hall to take organisers to task for the omission in an exchange that was filmed.
On it, Mr Wall is seen sitting in one of the seats reserved for those who had been invited, introducing himself to the slightly bemused audience and telling them: “I have a democratic right to take part.”
However, chairman of TyneMet College board of governors, Bill Midgley, is seen firmly telling him: “No you have not.”
Mr Midgley said before the event advice had been from the Association of Colleges (AoC) and they were told they should invite candidates from the three main parties as well as UKIP and the Greens as they all have MPs in parliament.
He added they were also following Electoral Commission guidelines which said it was a requirement that all candidates standing for a constituency should take part unless there was a practical or objective reason not to do.
Mr Midgley said their objective reason had been that they were following AoC guidelines, which said only parties with sitting MPs should attend.
He said that the National Front candidate for the constituency also had not been invited, a link which infuriated the TUSC supporters.
“How dare they tar us with the same brush as a race hate party when we have fought so hard against racism,” said Mr Wall after the event.
Eventually the debate went ahead, without Mr Wall taking part.
However he now says he could take the matter up with the Electoral Commission.
“We feel we were undemocratically excluded from the event.
“TUSC candidates have been invited to take part in hustings events at colleges across the country but not here. It seems to me they are all over the place.”
Mr Wall said that while a new party, formed five years ago, the TUSC was “the biggest of the small parties” as it had candidates standing in 135 constituencies and 600 in the local elections.
Mr Wall said:
“It’s unfathomable what they did. Isn’t this organisation supposed to be educating young people, presumably giving them the idea that democracy is a good thing? Instead they are deciding who they can and can’t listen to.”
Speaking after the event Mr Midgley accused the TUSC of trying to “hijack” the meeting and was adamant they had done nothing wrong and was insistent they had abided by AoC and Electoral Commission guidelines.
“We made it quite clear to them why we had invited the five candidates,” he said.
Ann Marie Crozier, Deputy Principal of the college, said it was TUSC’s prerogative to take the matter up with the Electorial Commission it they wanted to.
However she added: “We’re confident we followed the national guidelines to the letter.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Apr 2015
OFTEC, the UK trade body for oil fired heating, has written to parliamentary candidates in Northumberland urging their party to put fuel poverty high on their list of election pledges. Statistics showed that fuel poverty in Northumberland directly contributed to 100 excess winter deaths in the winter of 2012/13.
In the letter, OFTEC called for candidates to support better measures aimed at reducing fuel bills as well as carbon emissions of homes in Northumberland, including providing cash for households to improve their insulation and replace their old, inefficient boilers.
Malcolm Farrow, of OFTEC, said:
“It is a scandal that 100 people in Northumberland died during the previous winter simply because they could not afford to heat their home properly. There’s a great opportunity for the new government to introduce energy policies that help ordinary households across the county and this is why we have challenged party candidates to support the measures we put forward.”
The letter was sent to Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP and Green candidates in all rural constituencies across Northumberland. It was co-signed by rural communities’ charity ACRE and FPS, the federation of petroleum suppliers.
For more information about reducing your fuel costs visit http://www.oilsave.org.uk
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 22 Apr 2015
Not a single Liberal Democrat candidate will be standing at next month’s local elections in South Tyneside.
The Lib Dems’ no-show at the ballot box, the first in a generation, comes amid fears by one of its former representatives that its brand is now “toxic on the doorstep”.
Until just a few years ago, the party’s candidates at Parliamentary elections in the borough were the natural opposition to Labour.
In South Shields at the 2005 general election, Lib Dem Stephen Psallidas finished second to then-Labour MP David Miliband with almost 6,000 votes, 19.7 per cent of the total cast.
In local elections around the same time, the party, led by Nick Clegg since 2007, could usually guarantee a handful of seats, particularly in the Hebburn North ward.
At one time, it held all three seats for Hebburn North.
However, since the 2010 general election, the party’s fortunes have declined dramatically in the borough.
At the 2013 Parliamentary by-election in South Shields, its candidate, Hugh Annand, lost his deposit, receiving just 352 votes, just 1.4 per cent of the vote, and only narrowly avoiding the ignominy of being defeated by the Raving Monster Loony Party’s contender.
Now, not a single Lib Dem is to contest the local elections in South Tyneside on Thursday, May 7.
The party’s absence from the political scene in South Tyneside comes as no surprise to Joe Abbott, formerly a Lib Dem councillor for Hebburn North.
He said: “It’s something of a shame, but I’m not surprised no-one is standing from the party.
“The reality is that the Lib Dem brand is toxic on the doorstep.
“It all dates back to the party getting into bed with the Tories.”
Mr Abbott is standing as an independent in Hebburn North next month.
He was the Lib Dems’ last councillor in South Tyneside until he quit the party in disgust over its decision to form a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives in 2010 and back his austerity measures.
He stood as an independent at 2012’s elections but lost out to Labour’s Mary Butler.
Meanwhile, the far-right British National Party (BNP) is not putting forward any candidates at May’s Local Elections either.
The party has targeted several ward seats in the borough over recent years, but it isn’t throwing its hat into the ring this time round.
At 2012’s local elections, it contested eight of the 18 South Tyneside Council ward seats up for grabs.
Source – Shields Gazette, 15 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)
With the General Election just weeks away, editors are being hit by a snowstorm of press releases from eager candidates.
Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP, Green – you name it – they’re all falling over themselves for publicity.
Anyway, there I was, checking my emails over egg and chips on Sunday evening, when a message dropped into my in-box from Scott Wood, the Conservative candidate for Sedgefield.
It gives an illuminating insight into the way political parties work and shows how careful candidates have to be in this era of instantaneous new technology.
“Peter, May I get the attached published please,” said Mr Wood’s email. “Great news on investment on our school infrastructure. Sincerely, Scott Wood, Sedgefield Parliamentary Candidate.”
I clicked on the attachment and up popped an identikit Conservative Party template, carefully designed to help candidates personalise a press release and make voters think they’re on the ball. The press release – about schools which had received funding for building improvements – is interspersed with brackets, telling candidates in eye-catching red ink, where to insert their name and constituency.
Well, in Mr Wood’s case, he managed to send me the template without filling in any of the blanks (see the picture). I suspect he thought he’d filled in the blanks but failed to save the changes properly and ended up sending me the Conservative Party foolproof guide to writing a press release.
OK, these things happen and I have no doubt that all the parties send their candidates templated press releases to fill in and send to local papers. And before the accusations of political bias begin to fly, I’d have felt the need to make it public if the election game of Blankety Blank had been failed by a Labour or Lib Dem candidate.
Like me, you might think it exposes a rather cynical view of modern politics, where spin doctors dictate communications, rather than expecting local candidates to be able to think for themselves.
Source – Northern Echo, 30 Mar 2015
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
Rather than accept responsibility for the hardship, stress and anxiety caused by the hated ‘bedroom tax’ the Liberal Democrats have instead chosen to the blame the Labour Party.
In a blog posted on their national website, the Lib Dems claim that “Labour councils chose to punish their residents to score political points” in a deliberate attempt to scupper the housing policy.
The two-faced attitude of the Liberal Democrats is abundantly clear. They joined forced with Labour to defeat the Tories in a vote calling for exemptions for anyone who is unable to downsize.
This is then followed by a blog blaming Labour for the misery caused to social housing tenants and opposing a welfare cut the Lib Dems originally voted for and describe as “our scheme”.
Not a single Lib Dem MP voted against the ‘bedroom tax’ in February 2013.
If the Liberal Democrats are going to be two-faced about anything it should be by cutting the leash attached between them and their Tory buddies.
In the interest of balance the Lib Dems admit “we were concerned about the implementation”. However, that did not prevent the coalition lap-dog from supporting, or should I say rolling over for their Tory masters in supporting and introducing the vicious policy.
The ‘bedroom tax’ has undoubtedly wrecked a number of lives and caused hardship and misery to countless more. So much so that some of its victims have tragically taken to ending their own lives, rather than trying to pay an unaffordable ‘tax’. And it is a tax in my view.
If the Liberal Democrats had just an ounce of respect for the people whose lives they have thrown into turmoil, they would admit the ‘bedroom tax’ is wrong and work with Labour, and other political parties, to end this disgraceful policy once and for all. Unfortunately it appear as if they are more worried about losing face than the shocking impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. Is it any wonder that so many Scots want out of the UK?
Source – Welfare News Service, 17 Sept 2014
The victory means Gerry Keating, returns to Newcastle City Council two years after not standing in Blakelaw following 26 years as a councillor.
The by-election took place on Thursday due to the resignation of Peter Andras in July, who took up a teaching post at Keele University.
Cllr Keating, who registered 711 votes, said he had expected second place Labour candidate Peter Smith (320 votes) to run him closer but said communal bins plans from the authority’s Labour leadership helped his cause.
The former Royal Grammar School teacher explained: “There was a real swing in my favour over the last two weeks, which meant it went from being a two-horse race to a comfortable hold.
“It is difficult to be sure what exactly happened and how Labour managed to lose out on many of the votes it was expected to get, but I think it partly came down to the Labour council’s plans for communal bins which is not popular in Jesmond, as well as us being much better organised.
“What is clear is that West Jesmond does not want a Labour candidate.”
Labour’s cabinet is pushing for the scheme – in which wheelie bins six times bigger than normal ones are placed in back alleys behind properties and shared by residents instead of having individual ones – to enter wards neighbouring South Jesmond following a pilot scheme in early 2013.
Cllr Keating added: “I will bring a lot of experience to the role, and can ferret around in the nooks and crannies of local government.
“I have been out of the council for a couple of years but have been rejuvenated by the break and am up for it. When I became aware a seat was available in the ward where I live, I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity.”
The Lib Dem, who admitted he benefitted from the absence of students during Thursday’s ballot, said improvements to transport, particularly Acorn Road, was a priority, alongside the communal bin issue.
The by-election reflected a swing of 13.6 per cent from Labour to the Lib Dems since May when the latter party won by only 32 votes.
Conservative Duncan Crute received 117 votes,
UKIP’s Daniel Thompson scored 112 and
Shehla Naqvi of the Green Party took 94.
The current composition of Newcastle City Council is Labour 52, Lib Dem 24 and Independent 2.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Aug 2014
This article was written by Nicholas Watt, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 13th August 2014
The Liberal Democrats will pledge in their general election manifesto to introduce a new “yellow card” system to give job seekers who break benefit rules a final warning before sanctions are imposed.
In another sign of their determination to differentiate themselves from their Tory coalition partners, the Lib Dems will say the system needs to be reformed after a trebling in sanctions.
Under the current rules, claimants can lose four weeks of benefit for something as simple as missing one appointment at a JobCentre Plus office.
The Lib Dems say that over the past decade the number of sanction referrals has increased from around 60,000 a month in the early part of the last decade to around 170,000 today. Sanctions can be imposed if job seekers fail to meet simple conditions such as writing a CV, applying for enough jobs or turning up to interviews.
> Or if the Jobcentre adviser hasn’t met their sanctions target for that week.
The party points to figures which show that in 2013 around 6,700 sanctions were overturned each month – 15% of the total – on the grounds that the original decision was flawed. In many cases the claimant provided extra information which helped to overturn the sanctions.
Steve Webb, the Lib Dem work and pensions minister, said: “The Liberal Democrats believe in offering opportunity for everyone in order to build a stronger economy and a fairer society. That’s why we are reforming the benefits system to make sure that work always pays.
“It’s absolutely right that when we pay people benefits that there are expectations of them and consequences if they don’t meet those expectations. But the process needs to be fair and clear.
“There are too many examples of cases where people have been penalised unfairly. The Liberal Democrats want to build a fairer society and that’s why we think that before people’s money is taken away, they should get fair warning.”
> The Liberal Democrats want your vote, and hope that you’ll forget that they have been coalition partners in one of the most draconian governments in recent British history. They’d also like you to forget that we didn’t hear a peep out of them earlier. It might have been nice if they’d discovered their principles a little earlier.
Source – Welfare News Service, 13 Aug 2014