Tagged: philosophy

Hilton Dawson – North East party leader

It seems that Hilton Dawson has a history of triumphing against the odds.

The native Northumbrian has twice overcome substantial Tory power bases at council and parliamentary level to get into office.

That was in the North West where he lived and worked for around 20 years.

Now back home, he hopes to repeat his David and Goliath act at the next general election in May with the North East party he helped form and is chairman of.

And this time three of the four seats his party are contesting at Easington, Redcar, Stockton North and Newcastle North are held by Labour with who he was a member for 30 years.

But he doesn’t see it as a betrayal of his political roots, just loyalty to his personal roots.

“There isn’t anyone who stands up for the North East directly,” he said.

“My experience of parliament and working with national policy makers is that huge decisions are made in London by people who don’t know about the region.

“We need to get these big decisions – about jobs, housing, health, wellbeing, transport – made here.”

To do this, it aims to secure devolved powers similar to those enjoyed by Scotland and Wales.

“We want real powers to borrow and invest, which will produce high-quality integrated public services,” Hilton said.

“In Scotland in particular, they have far better public services than we do a few miles south over the border.”

The idea for it was born out of a debate in 2013 at the Newcastle Lit & Phil Society about whether it was time for ‘Wor Party’. A lot of people attending thought it was.

The North East Party was officially registered last May. It had its first annual general meeting in June then in December after a three day meeting it thrashed out its manifesto.

Read what you will into the fact these discussions took place in a room above a funeral home in Shotton Colliery.

“Very salubrious surroundings,” laughed Hilton at the memory but he is very pleased with the result and hopes to cause as much of a stir as his first attempt to change things as an eight-year-old schoolboy.

Born in Mona Taylor’s Maternity Home in Stannington, his parents were both teachers. He was raised in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea where he was a pupil at Moorside First, locally known as the Colliery School.

It was there he recalls he became second in command in a pupils protest about the state of the school’s food.

The soup was particularly terrible that day,” said Hilton.

“We marched up and down the playground all over dinner time. We all really enjoyed it.”

The Head, Mr Kirsopp (none of the kids knew his first name, of course), “emerged lugubriously at the end of lunch time” recalled Hilton.

We looked at him with some trepidation then he ceremonially rang the bell and we went inside. Nothing more was said about it.”

This obviously whetted his appetite. After later completing his studies at Ashington Grammar School he gained a place at Warwick University to study philosophy and politics.

“Philosophy to understand the world and politics to change it,” he said.

Hilton recalled Warwick as a bit of a political hotbed in the 1960s with plenty of sit-ins and protests.

It was after his first year there he married Susan, who he met at school.

After graduating they went to stay for a time on a Kibbutz in Israel.

“We wanted to experience a collective way of life. We had idealistic expectations of it. The work was very hard but rewarding.”

Then they returned home as Susan was pregnant with their first child, Catherine.

He found work at the Choppington Social Welfare Centre, moving into a council house in Scotland Gate.

“It was one of the most educational experiences of my life,” said Hilton.

“I worked with the people of the community on many fantastic things. I was part of this rough, tough, incredibly warm hearted community organising anything from play groups for youngsters to events for the older residents, working with the people there to make things happen.

“At different times I would run the bar, put three tons of coal in the central heating, paint the walls, but most important of all I learned how to talk to people.

“The teachers’ son grew up an enormous amount.”

Having worked with social workers on projects there he became interested in the profession, getting a job at Bedlington.

“The attitude of people on the estate changed straight away. While they were still friendly it was a case of you’re a social worker now, there’s a difference.”

Hilton said he worked with a fantastic team determined to make a difference to the community and it was when he became involved in mainstream politics, joining the Labour party in 1978.

The university anarchist saw at Choppington what a group of dedicated local politicians were doing for the community,” he said.

Hilton got onto a well respected course at Lancaster University.

“It was the top place to go,” he said. “It had the Centre for Youth Crime and The Community.”

He and wife Susan packed their bags and with daughter Catherine headed to the North West.

Soon after his second daughter Helen was born.

“She always says you lot speak funny. She is from the North West the rest of us are from the North East,” said Hilton.

He got heavily involved in child care and child protection issues, managing children’s homes as well as fostering and adoption services.

He worked his way up to social work manager, on call 24 hours a day.

“I could be called out at any time of the night dealing with all sorts of matters – a child on the roof, what are we going to do about it. Six kids who need housing now at 2am. It was stressful but I loved the job.”

His job resulted in a lot of community involvement and he decided to stand in the Lancaster City Council elections for the Ryelands ward in 1987.

“It had always been Tory and no-one ever understood why – it had a huge housing estate on it,” said Hilton.

The penny eventually dropped that while Tory supporters would vote come election day, hardly anybody from the estate ever did.

After much canvassing, that changed.

It was one of the most seminal moments of my life,” said Hilton. “A huge phalanx of people came out of the estate to vote, knocking on doors as they went to persuade other people to vote.”

Hilton won the ward for Labour.

Then 10 years later in 1997 he stood for parliament in the Lancaster and Wyre constituency, formed after boundary changes from the old Lancaster constituency.

Since the Second World War Lancaster had been won by the Tories at every election bar the 1966 poll.

No-one expected us to win,” he said.

The media, even an eminent professor of politics. told me I had no chance.

“But I’d learned if you just engage with people, have a clear message and work hard at the grass roots you can win,” he said.

After winning the seat after a re-count he became well known for his championing of child related issues – he was named the 2004 Children’s Champion in the House of Commons – however it led to run ins with party bosses.

He objected to its policies on asylum seekers suggesting they be refused benefits would see their children left destitute.

Hilton described it as “immoral” in a Commons debate.

And then there the Iraq war – “a terrible time,” he recalled.

Hilton was one of the Labour MPs who backed a rebel backbench amendment that the case for war with Iraq was “unproven”.

So while he loved his first four years in Parliament, his enthusiasm waned considerably after he was re-elected, again after a recount, in 2001.

By 2005 he had decided it was time to move on and quit before the general election to return to children’s services.

He became CEO of Shaftesbury Young People which works for children both in care and in need and later chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers.

In the meantime he had returned to his native North East, he and wife Susan buying a house in Warkworth which boasts a spectacular view of Warkworth Castle.

“I found I was able to commute to London from Alnmouth which is on the East Coast mainline.”

He also found time to fight for the Lynemouth and Ellington seat in the 2008 Northumberland County Council elections.

“It was the only safe Labour seat I have ever fought – and I got whupped,” said Hilton ruefully.

“I had the arrogance to think I could do it all in a month thinking I could repeat what I did in Ryelands over a much shorter period of time.

“It proved a very important political lesson.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 31 Jan 2015

“You would vote for independence too,” says North-East based Scot

With the Scottish independence referendum only days away, journalist and university lecturer Neil Macfarlane explains why he would vote yes. And why he thinks you would too

I’m a Scot who lives in the North-East. There are loads of us – chuck a paper aeroplane out your front window and you’ll probably hit one. I’ve lived happily here for years, but it won’t surprise those who know me that I would like Scotland to vote yes to independence next week.

I hope this happens because I don’t think the three main Westminster parties represent my politics any more. I like the idea of getting rid of nuclear weapons, of universal education, and I worry about the future of the NHS and the welfare state.

I think it’s sensible to increase immigration to help reverse decades of emigration by Scots like me and my family. I feel uncomfortable about parties of all stripes blaming foreigners and the poor for all problems.

I think the UK government and media is too focused on London. I think many people in the North-East feel the same about these issues.

I don’t know for sure if an independent Scotland would be richer or poorer but I do think it would be governed by people with its interests at heart. I like England and English people very much and I don’t think Braveheart is a good film.

My generation (mid 30s) are among those most likely to vote Yes. The media often explain this away by pointing out we were impressionable teens when Braveheart was released. It’s a funny observation – comfortingly so for some – but not quite right. There’s a more crucial formative figure than William Wallace.
Margaret Thatcher came to power only months before I was born, and was Prime Minister for over a decade as I was growing up in Edinburgh. It didn’t make sense that this could happen when it seemed to me that everybody I knew voted against her.
I remember my dad ranting at the telly and the chants of “milk-snatcher” in the playground. I still remember the day the teacher announced her resignation. The entire class of 11-year-olds erupted in celebration, on their knees with clenched fists, or jumping on their chairs. No one complained about young people being disengaged with politics in those days – we didn’t have the choice.

Thatcher remains the longest serving Prime Minister of my lifetime, yet she was repeatedly rejected by the people of Scotland at the polls. When our teachers taught us about democracy, and how generations had fought and died to preserve it, something didn’t fit.

By the way, feel free to swap “Scotland” in the paragraph above for “Middlesbrough“, “Sedgefield“, Sunderland” or “Bishop Auckland“.

Pretty much all of this applies to the North-East, too. Sometimes people dismiss the independence movement by asking if there should also be separation for the North-East, for Manchester, or Liverpool.

Personally, I don’t see why not – if that’s what the people want. But the argument misunderstands what Scotland is. It is not a region of a country. It is its own country and always has been.

The United Kingdom only came into being 300 years ago as an agreement between two nations to form an alliance. Scotland was not conquered. Its remarkable achievements in science, philosophy, engineering, literature and statecraft had been established for centuries before 1707, and that spirit later combined with the same from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make the union thrive.

This time last year most Scots liked the idea of the UK being a partnership of equals, and a sizable majority were happy enough to keep it that way. That has now changed.

The No campaign has been horrendously misjudged. Scots always believed they could be independent, but most doubted if they should. The Conservative-Labour-Lib Dem Better Together campaign then set about claiming that Scotland would collapse into disarray if left to its own devices. The campaign was dubbed “Project Fear” – by the No camp themselves.

Scots were told: You can’t keep the pound, you can’t stay in the EU, your aspirations are pipe dreams and we’ll rebuild Hadrian’s Wall to keep you out when it all goes wrong.

Their latest effort was billboards claiming: “Vote no if you love your children.” The polls are at 50:50, are they saying half the people in Scotland hate their kids? It’s so long since the Scots heard the positive case for the union, they’re beginning to suspect there isn’t one.

In the face of this onslaught, the Yes campaign has flourished. Grassroots activists have packed out town halls across the country making their case, bloggers have amassed followings to make newspaper editors cry with envy.

People who have never voted are being helped to register, and volunteers are putting on buses to give them a lift on polling day. Discussion on social media is dominated by funny, spiky, imaginative Yes voters.

There are touring arts festivals. Millions have been inspired by the idea that Scotland could become a fairer, more successful country, and by the promise of progressive policies that would never be offered by three Westminster parties all fighting over the same ground.

This isn’t petty nationalism. It is an inclusive movement. Every resident will be given a Scottish passport on day one of independence. One of the most high profile campaign groups is English Scots for Yes, who give away teabags branded: “Have a cuppa, vote yes.” There are groups for African Scots, Italian Scots,Polish Scots. I am proud of the fact I don’t get a vote but those who live in Scotland do, regardless of where they were born.

It’s even spreading beyond the border. A recent poll showed an even higher proportion of people in the North-East back Scottish independence. I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have asked: “Can we come too?

The response to all of this has been a wishy-washy offer of more powers for the Scottish parliament, without saying exactly what those powers might be. This was George Osborne’s first intervention since he announced Scotland couldn’t keep the pound – a move which actually caused an increase in support for independence. At this point, the Chancellor could knock on every door in Scotland offering a free carwash, foot rub and £1000 cash and the polls would still rise for Yes.

While the SNP published a manifesto for Scotland’s future a year ago, Labour and the Tories are now trying to scramble a response with only days to go. Why not before now? Perhaps because they weren’t listening, because it’s too far away, because there are too few voters… because it was never a priority for them.

It’s a feeling the Scots, and we in the North-East, know all too well.

Source –  Northern Echo, 11 Sept 2014

The Tory ideological mission

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reblogged from Another Angry Voice

Nobody should be surprised that the Tory party serve the interests of the wealthy minority.

The fact that the Tory led government is packed full of millionaires who buy into the “greed is a virtue” philosophy ofneoliberalism is one strong indicator that the serving of wealthy establishment interests should be expected. Another, even stronger indicator is the fact that the Tory party is funded by a rogues gallery of tax-dodgers, banksters, private health interests and landed gentry.

The Tory party is absolutely crammed with people suffering a smug sense of superiority over the masses. These people believe that they are special and a cut above the rest, because they’re rich, because they’ve been Eton & Oxbridge educated, because they were born into establishment families, or perhaps (like Iain Duncan Smith) because they suffer a misanthropic hatred for most of…

View original post 958 more words