A UKIP candidate has spoke of his deep shame after making sexually explicit comments about well-known female columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
John Leathley, 23, who hopes to represent Sedgefield , and who is also standing for Stockton Borough Council in the Hardwick area, was communicating with other young Ukip members on Facebook last November when he made sexually explicit remarks about the centre-left journalist.
Mr Leathley apologised in a statement issued through Ukip, saying:
“I would like to apologise unreservedly to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
“I read what I wrote now, I am shocked by them and am appalled and deeply ashamed of my words.
“The comments were made during a private conversation in the evening clearly were never meant to be publicly released, and they should never have been said.
“I am very sorry and regret deeply being so coarse, it is out of character but no more excusable for that.”
The Durham University student had previously declined to apologise in the university’s student newspaper, stating:
“I have no comment to make other than this is the work of an individual who is taking comments from a private conversation between a group of friends dated months ago in a malicious attempt to tarnish my name and reputation.”
“If this is what people who go into public life are going to be like then God help us. I saw the apology and of course I’m not going to give any credence to it at all.
“You don’t apologise because you are found out. Was he drunk? If he wasn’t, then what he said was absolutely appalling. It’s sexist, it’s racist, it’s violent.”
Source – Durham Times, 06 May 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).
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
Thousands of the region’s teenagers risk losing their right to vote in the general election after a Government blunder, MPs are warning.
Local authorities are failing to register “attainers” – 17-year-olds who could be adults by May 7 – after errors in letters drafted by the Cabinet Office, they say
Now figures reveal an extraordinary 80 per cent fall in attainers on the books of just one council, County Durham.
If the slump – of just over 3,000, in just one year – is replicated across the region, it would mean that close to 20,000 first-time voters could lost their vote.
The controversy was raised in a recent Commons debate by Kevan Jones, the North Durham MP, who described the situation as a “scandal”.
In North Durham constituency, there were 647 attainers on the register in February last year, but that number has plummeted to just 126 one year later – after the mistake.
The pattern is repeated in Bishop Auckland (a fall from 662 attainers to 118), Durham City (from 625 to 177), Easington (from 641 to 95), North West Durham (from 689 to 156) and in Sedgefield (from 513 to 97).
Mr Jones said:
“We could put the fall down to a drop in the birth rate in 1997 – clearly there was a lack of passion in North Durham – but that is obviously not the case.”
And he said:
“That must be done, otherwise many 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before May 7 will assume that they will get a vote, but will not get it.”
Under the old system, where the head of the household registered all voters, a section of the form asked for the names of any 17-year-olds to be added.
But the sentence is missing from letters sent out under the new system – of individual electoral registration (IER) – which is being introduced to combat fraud.
In reply, the deputy Commons leader Tom Brake, promised to write to Mr Jones, but stopped short of agreeing to instruct – and fund – town halls, to correct the problem.
Meanwhile, Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman criticised a separate barrier in the way of young people attempting to register – the requirement to provide a national insurance number.
She told ministers:
“A letter with a young person’s national insurance number arrives before they are 16 and we are suggesting that two years later teenagers will know where that letter is and have kept it in a safe place. I cannot think of anything more naïve.”
Source – Northern Echo, 16 Feb 2015
The Conservatives appeared to write off their chances in a swathe of North-East constituencies, in a leak on the party’s own website.
Eight seats in the region are described as “non target” for the May general election, suggesting little effort will be put into trying to win them.
Unsurprisingly, the eight include some ultra-safe Labour seats where the Tories are miles behind, including North Durham (12,076 votes), North West Durham (9,773) and Sedgefield (8,696).
In others, the Conservatives were in third place in 2010, so face an even bigger mountain to climb in May, in City of Durham (14,350 votes behind) and Redcar (13,165).
However, the list also includes Darlington, where Labour’s Jenny Chapman finished just 3,388 votes ahead of her Conservative opponent five years ago.
Furthermore, Darlington was a Tory seat until it was lost by Michael Fallon – now the Defence Secretary – at the 1992 general election.
Ms Chapman said: “I am surprised. They need to change their attitude, because this is the kind of high-handed assumption that drives voters away from politics.”
But Peter Cuthbertson, the Conservative candidate in Darlington, said: “I think there’s every chance of victory – I’m picking up enthusiasm for change in Darlington.
“I have seen this list, but I have not had any communication with my party about it, so I don’t know whether it is true.”
Asked what help he was receiving from Conservatives headquarters, Mr Cuthbertson said: “It’s down to local people to muscle their own resources. I’ve got no expectation that they will campaign for me.”
Stockton North is also on the list, although Labour’s majority is only 6,676, as is York Central (6,451), where sitting Labour MP Hugh Bayley is standing down.
Other constituencies are described as “non target” because they have big Tory majorities, including Richmond (23,336) and Thirsk and Malton (11,281).
The blunder occurred when a staff member at Conservative HQ uploaded the photographs of hundreds of Tory candidates, of which 112 were categorised as “non target”.
The mistake was later corrected, but not before the list was recorded by a freelance journalist, who published the information.
Source – Northern Echo, 12 Feb 2015
A “Westminster elite” of Labour MPs look down on people with Northern accents, a politician from the region has claimed.
Wansbeck’s Ian Lavery, himself a Labour MP, said that when MPs hear his North East accent they think “that man doesn’t know too much” and claimed his party has too many politicians who haven’t worked “on the factory floor”.
But he today claimed the remarks were not a criticism of party leader Ed Miliband – saying they were about getting more working-class MPs into Parliament.
The Northumberland MP was recorded making the remarks at a conference on social mobility in London organised by the think-tank Class.
“I’ve got to say there are some superb Labour Party MPs,” he was reported to have said.
“Sadly, there’s not enough MPs who’ve actually worked on the coalface, on the factory floor.
“We haven’t got enough ethnic minorities, we haven’t got enough disabled people in, who have actually been there.
“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’.”
Mr Lavery, a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers, said some national media had “willfully misrepresented what I said” and stressed that he fully supports Mr Miliband as his party’s leader.
“My comments were about the need for more working-class MPs and in no way a criticism of Ed or his office.
“For the record, I believe s absolutely the right man to bring in policies that will be of great benefit to people in the North and across the country.”
It comes after former Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared to criticise Labour leader Mr Miliband.
The ex-Sedgefield MP told The Economist that May’s General Election was shaping up to be one “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”.
> Sounds good – remind me, which is the left-wing party ?
Asked if he was implying that the Conservatives would win, Mr Blair is reported to have said yes.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Jan 2015
A charity is urging the Government to take urgent action to help more than 250,000 households in the North-East and many more across the UK living in fuel poverty.
National Energy Action (NEA) estimates 276,782 households in the North-East are unable to heat their home to a comfortable and healthy level – 8.9 per cent of the population.
In Yorkshire and the Humber this figure stands at 244,850 – 10.9 per cent of the population.
Last year, 1,710 of the 5,700 excess winter deaths across both regions were attributed to cold homes.
And NEA claims one person dies every five minutes due to the “UK cold homes crisis,” with an estimated 4.5 million British homes affected.
Research has revealed many vulnerable people are forced to choose between eating properly and heating their homes due to soaring energy prices and dwindling incomes.
In response, NEA has joined forces with other charities, local authorities, health agencies, community groups, MPs and energy efficiency installers and manufacturers, to urge the Government to take action.
Its Warm Home Campaign calls on the Government to provide automatic energy discounts and targeted energy efficient measures to low income families and vulnerable people in hard to heat homes.
Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield, County Durham, has backed the campaign.
In his constituency, an estimated 3,756 households are living in fuel poverty.
“It is devastating and something needs to be done – people’s lives are at risk,” he said.
“Having a warm home is something many of us can take for granted and it is important we raise awareness of the full extent of the problem.
Maria Wardrobe, director of external affairs at NEA, said:
“The Prime Minister, ministers and MPs have been forewarned that local health services will not be able to cope this winter with cold-related hospital admissions and repeat GP visits.
“The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of £1.5bn treating cold related illnesses and 10,000 lives could have been saved last year alone.
“In the longer term we need an ambitious fuel poverty strategy that prioritises the improvement of energy efficiency in low-income households.”
For more information about the campaign or to make a donation to NEA visit nea.org.uk
Source – Northern Echo, 01 Jan 2015
> I think it’s worth adding a comment made – by workingagepoor – to the above item…
I am not the only one but I cannot afford to heat my home exccept for very short periods of time. No amount of energy efficiency or other measures alter this fact.
Safety messages such as keep one room in your house are meaningless if you cannot afford to turn your heating on.
The temperature in my house is often below that which we are told places a person at risk of hypothermia.
Each slight percentage fall in my income makes this situation worse. Poor people don’t know how to cook, are feckless, scrounge benefits, work will make you better off are the messages that today’s politicians send us.
I can survive, I will fight but when will people wake up and start seeing what is being done to those at the lower end of society.
Meanwhile whilst people sit in their cold homes that have been made colder by austerity measures placed upon them so that they pay for the deficit brought on by greed and corruption by politicians and financiers who protect their own wealth by inflicting hardship upon others.
Bombs are being dropped on people of another nation in yet another conflict at great expense. These people and others that we have inflicted pain and misery upon are also fighting back. Politicians cannot realise that ultimately all of this cruelty comes back to them.
Pause to consider what we are becoming. Do not commemorate wars that killed millions. Stop being blinkered. Don’t think of how you yourself can be better off. Help those less fortunate than yourself.
Peace and kindness will bring more warmth to a person than any amount of heating. I have a roof over my head for which I am grateful but I do not want to be a part of a system that destroys the homes, children and lives of others.
But his key statement on the nation’s finances also confirmed that local councils face years of further deep cuts.
And the Chancellor’s big surprise, changes to Stamp Duty leading to lower bills for many buyers, will have limited impact on the North East because low property prices in the region mean many home buyers don’t pay the duty anyway.
The Autumn Statement also confirmed that outdated Pacer trains still in use on some routes in the North East will be replaced.
Mr Osborne told the Commons that his goal was to create “a more balanced national economy” and that meant creating a northern powerhouse “as a complement to the strength of our capital city, where we bring together our great cities of the North.”
He announced £20m for a Ageing Science centre in Newcastle, to “back the brilliant work on ageing being conducted at Newcastle University”.
There was also £28m for a world-class research and development centre, to be called the National Formulation Centre, that will specialise in the development of products such as medicines and chemicals, based in Sedgefield.
And documents published by the Treasury also revealed plans for a Great Exhibition in the north.
But local authorities face at least five more years of further dramatic cuts in spending, the Autumn Statement confirmed. Funding from the Treasury for local services is to be cut by more than a fifth by 2019-20.
The figures are included in forecasts published by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the official Treasury watchdog, as part of the statement. It predicted that the main grant provided to local councils will fall from £60.3bn in 2014-15 to £50.5bn in 2019-20.
Mr Osborne insisted: “I do not hide from the House that in the coming years there are going to have to be very substantial savings in public spending.”
This would mean cuts of £13.6bn in 2015-16, as previously announced, and “two further years where decisions on this scale will be required”.
He added: “We’re going to have to go on controlling spending after those years if we want to have a surplus and keep it.”
Another key announcement was a change to stamp duty, previously charged on homes costing more than £125,000.
Buyers eligible for the tax paid one per cent or more of the purchase price. In future, stamp duty will only be paid on the portion of the price which is above the threshold, leading to significant reductions for some properties.
However, an analysis of house prices shows that average prices in the North East are below the £125,000 threshold anyway, which means many buyers will not be affected as they pay no stamp duty.
Average house prices are £120,545 in Newcastle, £124,338 in North Tyneside, £123,766 in Northumberland, £99,837 in South Tyneside and £85,438 in Sunderland.
Nonetheless, buyers of more expensive homes will make savings as long as the property is worth less than £937,000.
Responding to questions from Conservative MP Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, and Labour Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, the Chancellor also said there would be help for airports in the North if they were hit by a potential cut in air passenger duty in Scotland, following the announcement that aviation duty will be devolved to the Scottish government.
Responding to the statement, Newcastle East MP Nick Brown pointed out that the Chancellor had announced Britain was awarded the lead role in the next international effort to explore the planet of Mars, adding:
“The Chancellor spoke more about Mars than he did about the North East of England. His Northern Powerhouse is located over 100 miles to the South of Tyne and Wear.
“His statement contained no commitment to any type of workable regional policy in the context of further Scottish Devolution. This is grotesquely one-sided. Even his stamp duty changes were focussed on London and the South East.”
But Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith, who represents Berwick, said:
“The Autumn Statement sticks to our strategy to deal with the deficit, enabling us to release funds for key Liberal Democrat priorities that bring fairness and a stronger economy.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 03 Dec 2014
> Never any money for welfare, always plenty for warfare..
RAF fighter aircraft were poised to launch air strikes against Islamic State (IS) jihadists after Parliament gave the green light for military action.
At the end of a marathon Commons debate, MPs voted by 524 to 43 – a majority of 481 – to endorse attacks on the militants in Iraq in support of the United States-led coalition, with Labour backing the Government motion.
> Of course Labour did… Cameron probably told them there were weapons of mass destruction only 45 minutes away. Well, it worked last time they voted us into a war…
Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs – meeting in emergency session – that Britain had a “duty” to join the military campaign as IS posed a direct threat to the country.
“This is not a threat on the far side of the world,” he said. “Left unchecked, we will face a terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean, bordering a Nato member, with a declared and proven determination to attack our country and our people.
“This is not the stuff of fantasy – it is happening in front of us and we need to face up to it.”
The US and its Middle-Eastern allies have already carried out dozens of bombing missions in a bid to stop IS over-running Iraqi positions.
The vote gives British military planners the go-ahead they have been waiting for to launch attacks on IS positions in Iraq – but not in IS-controlled parts of Syria where the group has training camps and command-and-control bunkers.
The first wave of attacks is expected to be carried out by RAF Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft based in Cyprus.
Flying from Cyprus will give RAF fighters an hour over IS-occupied Iraq – more than enough time to choose their targets. The Royal Navy is also expected to deploy submarine-launched cruise missiles.
The Prime Minister recalled parliament following an official request from the Iraqi government. The Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour leaderships all supported air strikes although some MPs expressed fears that the UK would get drawn into a wider conflict.
However, three Labour MPs – Grahame Morris (Easington), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) and Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) were among the rebels opposing air strikes.
Two others – Jenny Chapman (Darlington) and Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) – did not vote.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, said:
“I think there had been a compelling case made. There are two or three elements that really convinced me, because any decision that parliament has to take to commit British military resources is a profound and sombre one.
“The first is this wasn’t Britain unilaterally going into a country almost like an invasion, this was at the request of a democratically elected government of Iraq who is very concerned about the collapse of that state.
“There is a regional coalition, with Arab states involved, it is classed as legal and there are no ground troops.
“That criteria, proportionality, regional cooperation and legality expressed by a democratically elected country, those were the things that clinched it for me.
“Of course, it goes without saying the atrocities that ISIL are carrying out, beheadings of British citizens, threats to others, the recruitment of Jihadists from Britain, we have to stamp this cancer out.”
Mr Wright said he had considered the views of his constituents, some of whom had contacted him ahead of the vote, before committing to the Government’s motion.
“This is an issue where people appreciate the complexity, people appreciate that is not the same issue as was Syria last year,” he said.
“It was split half and half. People were saying you have to go in, they have beheaded some of our people, you have got to stop this, there’s a humanitarian crisis and then I had people saying we should not commit to air strikes, violence doesn’t help.
“You have to weigh up the arguments and work out what you think is for the best.”
Mr Wright said he was aware of the dangers of so-called ‘mission creep’ once the bombings began, but felt there would be adequate oversight .
“You are always going to have to have close scrutiny from the parliamentary process, that goes without saying,” he said. “This will come back to the House.
“What was really striking in the minutes after (the vote) is that this was not done flippantly by any member of parliament, there was a really sombre mood in the house and in the corridors of Westminster afterwards. People were realising the gravity of what we have done, but thinking that given the situation this is probably the best approach.”
Sedgefield Labour MP Phil Wilson, ( Tony Bliar‘s successor) said he backed the strikes because: “ISIS is a barbaric terrorist organisation which needs to be eradicated. It is only right that we play an appropriate role in its destruction.”
In the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury backed British air strikes, saying: “The action proposed today is right.”
But he warned: “We must not rely on a short term solution, on a narrow front, to a global, ideological, religious, holistic and trans-generational challenge.
“We must demonstrate that there is a positive vision far greater and more compelling than the evil of [IS].
“Such a vision offers us and the world hope – an assurance of success in this struggle – not the endless threat of darkness.”
All the Tyne & Wear MPs (except Stephen Hepburn in Jarrow) voted for military action. Are we really suprised ?
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Sept 2014
Here is a full list of the 43 MPs who voted against
Jeremy Corbyn (Teller)
Rushanara Ali (Formal abstention)
Lib Dems (1)
Plaid Cymru (2)
SNP (5 and teller)
Angus Brendan McNeill
Mike Wishart (Teller)
> I’ve posted this vid of the Dead Kennedys Kinky Sex Makes The World Go Round before, but it bears repitition. Dates from the Thatcher/Reagan era, but just change the names to Cameron and Obama and see if you can tell the difference…
The region’s MP’s reacted angrily to David Cameron’s plans for a constitutional revolution after Scotland rejected independence – accusing him of a political fix.
Labour MPs warned the plan – “English votes for English laws” – would strengthen the influence of the Conservative heartlands over Westminster, while doing nothing for the North-East.
> Well ? Did anyone seriously expect anything different ?
And they demanded the overhaul instead focus on devolving power down from Westminster, in parallel with firm promises already made to Scotland on tax and spending.
The stance – echoed by Labour leader Ed Miliband – puts the region on a collision course with both Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg, who plan to rush through a solution to the so-called ‘West Lothian’ question.
Under the fast-track timetable, firm plans will be unveiled in January – from a committee headed by Richmond MP William Hague – delighting Tories who fear the rising UKIP threat.
In reality, change looks impossible before the May general election, but the “English votes for English laws” proposal is, nevertheless, a political nightmare for Labour.
Mr Cameron suggested Scottish MPs would lose voting rights over tax issues, potentially leaving a Miliband administration – with 41 Scots MPs currently – unable to pass a Budget.
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) attacked a “crude attempt to cobble this together on the back of an envelope”- calling on the prime minister to put devolution first –
“In our region, we will find that our position gets relatively worse. It might be a good solution for people in Hertfordshire, but I don’t think it’s a good solution for people in Durham.”
Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) –
“Cameron completely missed the point. He should not be using this as an opportunity to increase the Tory stranglehold over England.”
Kevan Jones (North Durham) –
“Cameron is pandering to his right wing and UKIP – this is not going to help the North-East at all.
Jenny Chapman (Darlington) –
“He should be talking to people in the North-East about what they want and what extra powers they want, rather than making a back-of-a-fag-packet declaration.”
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) –
“I’m astounded by the naivety of the prime minister in thinking that all he needs to do is change the way Westminster votes.”
Grahame Morris (Easington) –
“A Tory-dominated English Parliament, which continues to concentrate power and resources in the affluent South, will worsen existing regional inequities and frustrate the legitimate desire for greater autonomy for the North East.”
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) –
“In any settlement, there has to be something for the regions and I think that has to be more powers over economic development.”
But Liberal Democrat Ian Swales (Redcar) – while agreeing devolution must go “further and faster” – said it would be “absurd” not to restrict Scottish voting rights at Westminster.
He said: “We may end up with some form of English parliament, but should first make it work by MPs only being able to vote on issues that affect the country they represent.”
The MPs agreed any notion of a regional assembly was “off the agenda” – arguing instead for new, combined authorities to be strengthened with economic powers.
Some constitutional experts warned of chaos ahead, arguing Westminster could end up with “two Governments” – one for defence and foreign affairs, the other for the likes of education and health.
And the respected Institute for Government think-tank also argued the “debate on English devolution” must be part of the post-referendum settlement.
A Government source rejected suggestions that Mr Cameron was fast-tracking the ‘English votes’ issue, while devolution was left in the slow lane.
He said: “We believe we have done a lot devolving powers within England, through the likes of City Deals – and they have been welcomed by business and political leaders in the North.”
Source – Northern Echo, 20 Sept 2014