An election bungle has seen a North East election hopeful’s campaign message directed at voters 150 miles away.
A billboard urging voters to back Charlotte Haitham Taylor, Conservative parliamentary candidate for North West Durham, on May 7 has been erected in Cleethorpes.
Mrs Haitham Taylor, a fine artist, will take on Labour candidate and former MP Pat Glass for the seat along with Owen Temple, the Liberal Democrat candidate, Bruce Reid, Ukip candidate, and Mark Shilcock standing for the Green Party.
But somehow, her campaign material ended up in Lincolnshire. Mrs Haitham Taylor said the error was made by the media agency responsible for putting up the posters.
“It is deeply regrettable that the media agency have somehow managed to put up one of my election posters 150 miles away from where it should be.
“This has caused undue confusion for voters in Cleethorpes and for this I am very sorry.
“As soon as I was notified I took immediate action to remedy this. I am doing everything within my powers to ensure that the media agency correct their mistakes in a timely fashion.”
The 20ft-long poster on the main road into the seaside town has a giant photo of Conservative candidate Mrs Haitham-Taylor with the banner headline “A new vision for North West Durham”.
It is positioned just feet from a “welcome to Cleethorpes” sign.
Conservative candidate for Cleethorpes, Martin Vickers told the Grimsby Telegraph: “It’s nothing to do with me. They are allocated to a PR company.
“I know nothing about it. It is obviously a mistake.
“It is a national company which organises it. The company which is going around the country has made a mistake.”
Mr Vickers said he would report it to his party’s headquarters.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 Apr 2015
Bishop Auckland: currently held by Helen Goodman (Labour)
Christopher Fraser Adams (Con),
Rhys Burriss (Ukip),
Helen Catherine Goodman (Lab),
Thom Robinson (Green),
Stephen Charles White (Lib Dem)
City of Durham: currently held by Roberta Blackman-Woods (Labour)
Roberta Carol Blackman-Woods (Lab),
Liam Finbar Clark (Ukip),
Jon Collings (Ind),
Rebecca Mary Louise Coulson (Con),
Jonathan Elmer (Green),
John Eric Marshall (Ind),
Craig Martin (LD).
Easington: currently held by Grahame Morris (Labour)
Luke Christopher Armstrong (LD),
Jonathan William Arnott (Ukip),
Steven Paul Colborn ( Socialist Party of Great Britain)
Chris Hampsheir (Con),
Susan McDonnell (North East Party),
Grahame Mark Morris (Lab),
Martie Warin (Green).
> It’s good to see that Steve Colborn is still fighting on. His letters in the local press are always worth reading. I can honestly say that if I lived in Easington he’d get my vote.
North Durham: currently held by Kevan Jones (Labour).
Malcolm David Bint (Ukip),
Laetitia Sophie Glossop (Con),
Kevan David Jones (Lab),
Peter James Maughan (LD),
Vicki Nolan (Green).
> I’m almost sure Laetitia Glossop is a character in a P.G. Wodehouse novel ?
North West Durham: currently held by Pat Glass (Labour)
Pat Glass (Lab),
Charlotte Jacqueline Louise Haitham Taylor (Con),
Bruce Robertson Reid(Ukip),
Mark Anthony Shilcock(Green),
Owen Leighton Temple (Lib Dem)
Sedgefield: currently held by Phil Wilson (Labour)
Stephen Patrick Glenn (LD),
John Paul Leathley (Ukip),
Greg William Robinson (Green),
Phil Wilson (Lab),
Scott Wood (Con).
Failed Durham Free School (DFS) was a “haven for every crap teacher in the North-East”, a Commons debate was told last night.
Ministers were told that staff who had left other nearby schools – after “competency procedures” – had been given new jobs at the controversial Durham City secondary.
The allegation came as city MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said most people fighting its closure – ordered by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, last week – had “no direct knowledge of the school”.
Instead, they were relying on “very selective comments from the Ofsted report”, amid a national newspaper campaign claiming the watchdog is “waging war on Christian schools”.
In fact, Ms Blackman-Woods said, DFS had been “rated inadequate across all categories” – which was “highly unusual even for a free school”.
But, in reply, schools minister Nick Gibb defended the decision to open DFS, in September 2013, insisting it had passed “rigorous” tests set by the Department for Education (Dfe).
He told MPs:
“We were satisfied that the governing structure had the capability to deliver an outstanding education to its pupils.”
The debate was held eight days after the Education Secretary sprung a surprise by announcing DFS would be shut because “what Ofsted found is enough to shock any parent”.
But, in the Commons, North West Durham MP Pat Glass said:
“I was aware that there were very high levels of teachers working at Durham Free School that had already been through competency procedures with other local authorities.
“A head teacher in the region told me that the school had become a haven for every crap teacher in the North-East – that’s what he said to me.”
And Ms Blackman-Woods set out in detail the school’s key failings, which had made the closure decision “obvious”. They were that:
* “Students’ achievement is weak”.
* “Governors place too much emphasis on religious credentials when they are recruiting key staff”
* “Teaching is inadequate over time”.
* “Teachers’ assessment of students’ work is inaccurate and marking is weak”.
* “The behaviour of some students leads to unsafe situations”.
The Durham City MP said the school had promised to be “caring”, but added: “It had moved from being caring to possibly scary for those young people.”
Of 43 letters she had received opposing the closure, only 18 had come from parents at the school.
Mr Gibb said DFS had received “£840,000-odd of revenue and capital funding” for its 92 pupils – plus a ‘pupil premium’ top-up for poorer youngsters.
Source – Durham Times, 28 Jan 2015
A committee of MPs will today call for tougher rules before the setting up of ‘free schools’, to prevent a repeat of the Durham Free School fiasco.
The Department For Education (DFE) is urged to impose stronger checks before giving the go-ahead in areas with surplus places and a large number of outstanding, existing schools.
And it is told to publish the impact on neighbouring schools – not only when an application is made, but after a free school is opened.
The recommendations go to the heart of criticism of Durham Free School (DFS), which has been condemned as inadequate by watchdog Ofsted and will close within months.
Critics, led by Roberta Blackman-Woods, Durham City’s Labour MP, argue DFS should never have been opened, in September 2013, and is a scandalous waste of money.
It attracted only about 90 pupils – in a city with high-quality schools, with empty places – and was expected to take another eight years to reach its target size of 630.
And it angered local people by opening temporarily in the former home of Durham Gilesgate Sports College, in Gilesgate, which had been controversially closed amid budget cuts.
The saga will be raised in the Commons tonight, in a debate led by Ms Blackman-Woods, who will demand that ministers reveal the full financial details behind the DFS failure.
Ministers are also under pressure to come clean about the role of Michael Gove’s former adviser, Durham-born Dominic Cummings, and his mother, in establishing the school.
Before that debate, today’s report by the Conservative-led education committee also accuses the Government of “exaggerating the success” of academies and free schools.
“We are saying the DFE needs to look very carefully before it agrees to set up a free school in an area that already has sufficient good places and good schools.
“Durham Free School was a waste of public money – £4m was thrown away – and Michael Gove did absolutely nothing about it.”
Free schools have the same freedoms as academies, but have been typically set up the charitable arms of private firms, or groups of parents, or teachers.
There are now 1,884 secondary academies (60 per cent of the total) and 2,299 primaries (13 per cent), after outstanding schools were encouraged to convert.
Source – Durham Times, 27 Jan 2015
Poloticians with “plumby” accents are squeezing out working class MPs from Parliament, a leading North councillor has warned.
George Dunning, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said “career politicians” with “silver tongues” are being parachuted in ahead of real people in the corridors of power.
Coun Dunning, who worked in the Teesside steel industry for more than 30 years, said he was recently interviewed by a Labour panel of councillors who struggled to understand what he was saying.
“I don’t talk with plumbs in my mouth because I was born and raised as part of a working-class Teesside family,” he said.
“The Labour panel said I tended to raise my voice during debate and this made me difficult to understand.
“Obviously these people didn’t know I spent 30 years or more working in steel and 10 of those with no hearing protection.
“What annoys a lot of us, is, although we are a diminishing breed in steel, chemical and manufacturing, we are still around and we should have adequate representation in Parliament.
“I think it’s a kick in the teeth when members of your own political party struggle to understand why you talk the way you do.
“We’re working people with working-class backgrounds.
“Let’s see more real people in Parliament and not just the increasing breed of career politicians.”
The Teesside council leader is not alone in raising the issue of accent.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, who was born and raised in Ashington, accused Parliament of being hostile to working-class northerners.
He said: “We’ve got an elite in Westminster which, quite frankly, frightens me.
“They haven’t been anywhere or done anything, and when you’ve got an accent like mine, they think ‘Well, that man doesn’t know too much.”
> Mind you, you know what they say about the Ashington accent…
A woman goes into a hairdressers in Ashington and says “give me a perm.”
“Ok“, replies the hairdresser, “I wandered lonely as a cloud…”
His Labour colleague, Pat Glass, who represents North West Durham, last year gave her take on the culture within Westminster.
“If they spot a northern accent they start shouting about it to put you off,” she said.
Coun Dunning backed Mr Lavery’s words and credited the Northumberland MP as one of the few “real” working-class politicians in the Houses of Parliament.
“Ian Lavery’s comments hit where it hurts,” said Coun Dunning. “That being the elite class of MPs at Westminster feeling Ian’s blunt words. Then the truth always does, especially when stressing the lack of real people in Parliament.”
Source – Sunday Sun, 11 Jan 2015
Labour MPs in the North-East have shrugged off predictions of a UKIP surge at next year’s general election – insisting their seats are not at serious risk.
The party’s MPs spoke of their confidence despite Labour’s disastrous performance in the Rochester and Strood by-election, where UKIP scored a stunning success.
> But wasn’t the turnout only 50.6% ? Not so stunning, when the majority of the electorate (those who didn’t vote and those who voted otherwise) did not vote for UKIP.
Of course, the UKIP winner was actually a rat leaving the Tory ship, defending the seat he won under their flag. He got 16,867 votes (42.1%).
At the last election, standing as a Tory, he got 23,604 vote (49.2%). the turnout then was 64.9%. Not such a ringing endorsement of UKIP after all.
On the other hand, the Green Party overtook the Lib Dems and scored their best result since the 2010 General Election – but the media are so in love with UKIP that they ignored that.
And they denied they were drawing up new strategies to combat the phenomenon of a party once famously ridiculed, by David Cameron, as a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.
Nigel Farage’s party is widely acknowledged to have broadened its appeal beyond being an anti-EU pressure group and can claim to have more working class backing than Labour.
Researchers have suggested some North-East constituencies – Hartlepool, Bishop Auckland, South Shields and Middlesbrough – may be vulnerable to a UKIP surge.
And, at last May’s European elections, the fast-rising party topped the vote in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar and Cleveland.
UKIP has refused to release its target seats in the North-East and Yorkshire, but is widely believed to have identified Hartlepool as its most likely success.
However, Iain Wright, the town’s Labour MP, said: “I think UKIP shout about it, but it’s all talk. I speak to voters all the time and they really don’t mention them.”
That was echoed by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald, who said: “The response I get on the doorstep is overwhelmingly supportive of Labour policies to tackle inequalities head on.”
And Durham North West MP Pat Glass pointed to three county council by-elections in her constituency since last May 2014, all of which Labour had won “convincingly”.
She added: “My view is that, whilst UKIP will take some votes in the North-East, they will not come close to winning any seats.”
Helen Goodman, the Bishop Auckland MP, acknowledged growing concern about the level of immigration, but argued her voters were being won round to Labour’s solutions.
At the 2010 general election, UKIP won only a tiny share of the vote in, for example, Hartlepool (seven per cent) and Bishop Auckland (2.7 per cent) – giving it a mountain to climb.
Indeed, Jonathan Arnott, UKIP’s North-East Euro-MP stopped short of predicting sensational gains for his party in the region next May.
Instead, he said: “At the European elections in May, UKIP won in Redcar and Cleveland, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton.
“UKIP are the only viable challengers to Labour across the North-East and we are expecting a two horse race come next May.”
Source – Northern Echo, 22 Nov 2014
> Why do the media seem so intent on boosting UKIP ? I’m reminded of this year’s Sunderland City Council elections, in which UKIP’s performance was described in the national media as astounding.
So astounding, in fact, that they won 0 seats.
In fact, across Tyne & Wear as a whole, they suffered a 50% loss (losing one of their two local council seats – they might have lost both, but the other wasn’t up for election this time around). Yet on this evidence we’re told that they’re going to sweep to victory.
MPs have spoken out to back firefighters, following a four-day strike over pensions.
Labour MPs from the North East urged Ministers to negotiate with firefighters.
And Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, hit out at plans to make firefighters work until they are 60 before they can receive their pension.
Currently, firefighters can retire at 55 but plans to make them work another five years are one of the contentious issues that have led to the strike.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Campbell said:
“I worked down the coal mine for 29 years, and I watched old men of 60 struggling at the coal face. What must it be like for firemen of 60 trying to save lives from fire and flood?”
He was answered by local government minister Penny Mordaunt, who said:
“We need older workers to stay in the fire service because they have great expertise. By offering protections on pensions and jobs for older workers and good practice for fire authorities to follow, we will ensure that in future they have the protections that Labour did not introduce.”
> Sounds like “we need to keep on older workers because we can’t be arsed to train younger ones.” ?
The last Labour government raised the retirement age to 60 for people becoming firefighters after April 2006. The Government’s plans would increase the retirement age for every serving firefighter, including those who expected to retire at 55.
Other changes include changing the way pensions are calculated, which effectively means people will receive less, and increasing contributions.
Fire Brigades Union members began a four-day strike at the start of the end of October .
North West Durham MP Pat Glass asked:
“We have just come through the longest firefighters’ strike in 38 years. When will the Government stop their politically motivated and disingenuous behaviour in this dispute and genuinely sit down with the Fire Brigades Union to settle this, as the Governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are doing?”
Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell asked the Minister:
“Why does not she treat them with the respect that they deserve?”
And Stockton South MP Alex Cunningham highlighted a letter from Mrs Mordaunt to a Labour MP in which she said:
“I am conscious that we will only have the ideas for the service to meet future challenges and aspirations if firefighters are engaged and feel an ownership for the service. Trust and good morale are key to this.”
He asked her:
“How does refusing to change a single word of the regulation improve morale, and how does refusing to negotiate improve trust?”
The Minister insisted that firefighters received “one of the best schemes in the public sector”.
“There has been extensive debate and consultation on these matters. I have dealt with any outstanding issues in the past few months, including those of the transition of armed forces pension schemes into the firefighters’ pension scheme and fitness protections.
“The regulations have now been laid, and it is evident from the questions coming from the Opposition that they do not understand the scheme. It is an excellent scheme, and to say otherwise would be to do firefighters a disservice.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 Nov 2014
THE trauma of the miners’ strike would have been avoided if Arthur Scargill had pursued “partnership” with the Government, a minister claimed today (Tuesday) – to howls of disbelief.
Matt Hancock, a business minister – answering an historic Commons debate – argued the real “betrayal” was the miners’ leader refusal to ballot NUM members before the strike.
And he told MPs: “It was a difficult process and it could have been done far better through partnership, rather than through an adversarial nature.”
The minister also argued that the pit closure programme which sparked the bitter 1984-85 dispute had paved the way for economic success in the decades since.
“The transition of an economy dominated by outdated heavy industry into a modern service-based economy was necessary and is the basis of the nation’s prosperity now – and that is not much disputed these days.”
> I’d say it’s very much disputed, just not by politicians with their heads up their arses.
The comments provoked angry Labour shouts during a three-hour debate into fresh evidence about the Thatcher Government’s conduct in the 1980s
Incredibly, Labour’s motion passed, after the Coalition failed to oppose it – despite it stating the 1980s Government “misled the public about the extent of its pit closure plans and sought to influence police tactics”.
Ministers were revealed to be aware that Ian MacGregor, the National Coal Board (NCB) chief, was plotting to close 75 pits, at the cost of 65,000 jobs – not the 20 that ministers and the NCB claimed.
The papers showed that Margaret Thatcher considered deploying troops during the strike, by declaring a state of emergency.
And MI5 was used to put union officials suspected of smuggling suitcases full of money donated by the Soviet Union under surveillance.
The debate heard passionate stories about the impact of the strike – both on the people affected at the time and on the “devastated” communities left behind.
Roberta Blackman-Woods (Durham City) said, of the Government: “They have no idea of the devastation in these communities – and they are doing it again by cutting the funds to local government.”
Pat Glass (North West Durham) said: “The scars of 1984-85 are still there and they won’t be healed until all this is publicly exposed.”
And Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) – a miner himself in the 1980s, when a police officer “spat in my face” – said Lady Thatcher and other ministers had “lied from that despatch box”.
But John Redwood, the head of Lady Thatcher’s policy unit at the time, said he advised her not to use the Army, adding: “She said ‘Of course it won’t be’ – and it wasn’t”.
Source – Northern Echo, 28 Oct 2014
Rail union campaigners opposing Government cuts to jobs and services are calling on local authorities in the region to support them.
The RMT is warning fares will rise under Government plans for the refranchising of Northern and Trans-Pennine Express trains.
Now, RMT boss Mick Cash is calling on MPs to back an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, put forward by Stockton North MP Alex Cunninghgam, rejecting the Government’s consultation on the plans and setting out concerns about the line’s future.
So far, North East Labour MPs Pat Glass, Stephen Hepburn, Mary Glindon and Dave Anderson have signed the motion.
Mick Cash is asking councillors and local authorities to back their campaign against rail cuts as it sends out 10,000 postcards throughout the region to raise awareness.
Liverpool City Council has officially registered its opposition to the Government’s plans and the union is hopeful others will follow suit.
It comes after Northern Rail opted to slash some of its off-peak fares in a move the union claims was motivated “purely in the name of profit”.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said demand for rail travel is growing and claimed any plan to cut jobs made no sense.
He said: “The fight to stop the outrageous carve up of jobs and services under the Northern and Trans-Pennine Express franchise plans is gathering pace by the day and is sending out the clearest possible message to the Government and Rail North that they need to scrap this attack on transport services.
“Let’s not forget that the core of the Government’s future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, restrict services, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate.
“That attack on the fare-paying public has already begun with the abolition of off-peak fares and only an all-out and coordinated fight can stop the savage assault on rail in the North.
“RMT today launches the next phase of the fight to both inform the public and fight the savage cuts being lined up for these Northern rail franchises, and to get MPs signed up to EDM 174 opposing this carve-up.
“It is absolutely essential now that we keep up the pressure.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Oct 2014
Tories who selected a parliamentary candidate who lives 240 miles away to stand in County Durham have been accused of being “deeply patronising” to voters.
Charlotte Haitham-Taylor, the Conservative vying for the safe Labour seat of North West Durham, has rented a home in Shotley Bridge and was chosen to stand for the party in August.
However, she is also a councillor at Wokingham Borough Council, and this week faced calls to stand down from her role as Lead Member for Children’s Services.
Opponents in Berkshire say she cannot be a ‘part time head of department’, but rivals for the Durham seat say Ms Haitham-Taylor should not have been selected by David Cameron’s party to run in the North East seat at all.
Owen Temple, the Liberal Democrats’ candidate, said: “The Conservatives’ approach to our constituency is deeply patronising.
“Election after election they put up a candidate from the other end of the country (Maidstone in 2005, Cambridge in 2010, and now Berkshire) who is never seen again once the election is over.
“If they want to be taken seriously they need to develop a local candidate. The problem is there just are no local Conservatives.”
Pat Glass, the incumbent Labour MP for the constituency, said: “I think that Ms Haitham-Taylor needs to be open about where she lives.
“It appears that she is telling people in North West Durham that she is local and has moved to Shotley Bridge whilst at the same time telling the people of Wokingham that she is only renting in Shotley Bridge and her home is in Wokingham.
“I think that the people of North West Durham deserve to be represented by someone that not only lives in North West Durham but also shares an understanding of the issues that are important to them and affects their daily lives but also shares some collective history with them.”
When approached for a comment, Ms Haitham-Taylor said she had rented the Shotley Bridge home at her own cost and had committed considerable time with voters in County Durham already.
However, the Tory campaigner, who is a mum-of-one and a professional fine artist, also made a press statement hitting out at her critics in Wokingham and insisting her role with the Berkshire council was more important.
She told the BBC: “I can understand why they might have concerns but I want to assure them that I absolutely prioritise my duties of lead membership for children’s services.
“That is incredibly important to me. I will not desert my role in order to put my canvassing in North West Durham ahead of that.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Sept 2014