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
A defector from Labour to the Greens in South Tyneside is to challenge the man who took his job at May’s Local Elections.
Matthew Giles, 24, was formerly the youth officer for Jarrow Constituency Labour Party, but he lost a ballot last September to Adam Ellison, who has now taken over the role.
Now Mr Giles has left Labour and will stand for the Green Party against Mr Ellison in Hebburn North on Thursday, May 7.
The recording studio sound engineer, of Mill Crescent, Hebburn, joined the Labour Party four years ago but believes his anti-war and anti-austerity views have in recent months put him at odds with the local party.
Despite his departure from Labour, he has pledged to “run a positive campaign with no sniping”.
“I don’t think my views fitted with the party. I was offered the chance to be a Labour candidate in Westerhope, in Newcastle, but I wanted to represent the place where I lived, but I couldn’t get considered by the party locally.
“I felt I was being prevented from going further because of my views and my refusal to toe the line.”
Since joining the Greens at the end of last year, Mr Giles said he had found the party “a perfect fit”.
“It’s been an incredibly positive experience, and the people involved with the party locally are really enthusiastic.
“On the doorstep we have heard from people wanting to vote Green but have been unable to because of a lack of candidates. They end up voting Labour as the lesser of two evils.
“I’m planning to run a positive campaign, with no sniping. We’re under no illusions we are going to win everywhere but it’s about building up our base and giving people the chance to vote Green in every ward.”
Meanwhile, in his role with the Tyneside branch of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Mr Giles is helping organise a rally in Newcastle on Saturday against Pegida, the anti-Muslim organisation.
It is to be attended by campaigning comedian Russell Brand and controversial MP George Galloway.
Wilf Flynn, secretary of Jarrow Constituency Labour Party, said he felt Mr Giles was “jumping onto the Green bandwagon”.
“I can’t accept that Matthew wasn’t given a chance with the Labour Party, he was on our Local Government Panel and he could have stood against Adam when he beat Ian Harkus in Labour North.
“I find it strange that Matthew is not standing in the ward where he lives – Hebburn South.
“Perhaps he didn’t feel he could take on Eddie McAtominey.
“He was our youth officer and then lost the next time on a ballot to Adam. Matthew knows his own mind but I feel he’s jumped on the Green bandwagon.
“I don’t have a crystal ball but I don’t foresee a wedge of Green MPs after the next election – but every vote taken away from Labour will make it more likely that Cameron gets a majority.
“I know Matthew wouldn’t want that.”
> I do dislike this constant emotional blackmail – if you don’t vote for us its a vote for the Tories – that Labour seem to be constantly indulging in.
The fact is, quite a few people who did vote Labour did so simply because there was no viable left wing alternative, and they wouldn’t touch Ukip with a bargepole.
The Greens have evidently filled that vacuum and now provide an alternative for those who see Labour as virtually identical to the Tories – Matthew Giles’ comments about his anti-war and anti-austerity views not fitting in are probably quite widespread among the new Green supporters.
Source – Shields Gazette, 24 Feb 2015
Who decides the result of the next General Election?
Unless something changes, it’s largely going to be older and better-off people.
Because those are the people who are most likely to vote.
And it’s a problem that MPs themselves have warned could lead to a crisis in our system of government.
But the problem doesn’t begin on election day, which will be May 7 this year.
It starts earlier than that, when people register to vote – or fail to do so.
An estimated 7.5 million people who are entitled to vote at an election in this country are not correctly registered.
This means they are registered wrongly, for example because they have moved house and haven’t updated their details, or simply haven’t registered at all.
Politicians have to listen to people who vote. But one way or another, they are also aware of who votes and who stays at home.
As a result, some sections society risk having less influence than others over decisions made by the Government.
Studies also show that young people are less likely to be registered to vote at elections than older people.
A study in 2011 found that only 55% of people aged 17 to 18, and only 56% of people aged 19 to 24, were registered to vote.
By contrast, 82.3% of the eligible population as a whole was registered – and 94% of people aged over 65.
It means older people have more influence over who wins the election.
People on lower incomes are also less likely to be registered.
A report by the Electoral Commission, an official watchdog, last year found that 79.6% of people in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs, or people dependent on benefits, were registered to vote – compared to 87% of professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, or senior managers.
The Electoral Commission also found that some black and ethnic minority groups are significantly less likely to be registered to vote compared to those identifying as white British.
It all means that some people’s views matter more than others in our system of government. And politicians know there’s a problem.
A report by a committee of MPs, the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, last year warned:
“Low levels of registration and turnout among students and young people are serious problem now and could get worse.
“If a generation of young people choose not to vote, and then continue not to participate at elections as they grow older, there will be severe and long-lasting effects for turnout at UK elections, with consequent implications for the health of democracy in the UK.”
But if it’s a problem for MPs, it’s a bigger problem for people who go unrepresented in Parliament.
Politics and the work of government affects all our lives. And this election could decide some big issues – how we improve the NHS, how we ensure future generations don’t inherit massive debts, how we provide jobs and training for young people and much more.
Comedian Russell Brand caused a stir when he suggested last year that people shouldn’t vote. But the problem with that idea is that if you don’t vote then people still get elected. It just means they are chosen by somebody else.
This election is set to be the most unpredictable in decades. Nobody knows who is going to win.
And there are more credible parties to choose from than before – with the Greens and UKIP running major campaigns, alongside the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Other local candidates could also have an impact in some seats.
The good news is that it’s now easier than ever before to register to vote.
People can register online for the first time, at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote . It only takes five minutes and it helps to ensure that your voice is heard.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Feb 2015