The Labour candidate for South Shields has spoken of her ambition to become a minister in a future Labour government.
Emma Lewell-Buck says she is not taking her re-election for granted as she heads into the final week of the general election campaign.
She was elected town MP after a by-election in 2013 and says she is fighting the campaign this time round on what she has achieved in the two years since.
Mrs Lewell-Buck also admits that Labour can no longer take South Shields for granted as a “safe seat”.
“People are questioning more, which I think is a good thing because I love having a good debate with people. We have knocked on doors where people say they have always voted Labour but are now saying they’re not sure, they’re having a serious think about it. I have never taken it for granted and I never will, even if I am successful next Thursday. It’s about respecting your constituents.”
In the past two years Mrs Lewell-Buck’s office has dealt with almost 5,000 pieces of casework for constituents, on issues ranging from housing and immigration to international affairs.
The MP has also been a vocal figure in the House of Commons, where she has one of the highest records for speaking.
She is also proud of the jobs fair she has held in the town and the campaigns she has backed in Parliament, including her part in helping change the law around child sexual grooming which will make it compulsory for an individual to be arrested after one offence of contacting a child for sex.
And Mrs Lewell-Buck is also unapologetic about her long-term political ambitions.
She said: “I got into politics to make a difference and, yes, you can make a huge difference as a backbencher but if you become a minister or a secretary of state the ability to make a difference becomes even stronger and I didn’t come into this not to make a difference.
“This campaign has been just as busy as in 2013 but it has had less of a frantic feel about it. In by-elections it’s all hands to the deck and you have people coming from all over the country to help out.
“This time it has been the constituency Labour Party and core supporters coming out and pounding the streets.
“It’s been nicer talking to voters this time round because you’ve got that record. You have been in two years and people recognise you, so instead of having to introduce myself they’ll say, ‘oh, it’s our Emma, lovely to see you’ and have a chat about something I have done in Parliament. This is very much my campaign.”
The other candidates in South Shields are: Lisa Nightingale (Independent), Robert Oliver (Conservative), Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat), Norman Dennis (UKIP), Shirley Ford (Green Party).
Source – Shields Gazette, 29 Apr 2015
SOUTH SHIELDS currently held by Emma Lewell-Buck (Lab)
Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour),
Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat),
Shirley Ford (Green Party),
Lisa Nightingale (Independent),
Robert Oliver (Conservative)
Norman Dennis (Ukip).
JARROW – currently held by Stephen Hepburn (Lab)
Stephen Hepburn (Labour),
Stan Collins (Liberal Democrat),
Norman Hall (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition),
Nick Mason (Conservative),
Steve Harrison (Ukip),
David Herbert (Green Party).
A Green surge is predicted in South Tyneside at the general and local elections in May as the party confirmed it was putting up candidates in every borough ward for the very first time.
Shirley Ford, who lives in South Shields, was the Green Party candidate in the town at the 2010 General Election.
On that occasion she attracted 762 votes – 2.1 per cent of the poll, finishing a distant fifth behind the victor, Labour’s David Miliband.
But the political climate has changed dramatically in the five years since.
The administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields is also convinced that the candidates set to represent the party across all 18 wards in the borough are the most diverse.
“We are going to have a full slate of candidates. I can confirm that.
“We’ve been delighted at the interest generated and the number people who have come forward, many for the first time.
“Our candidates range from young people – students and apprentices – to people who are retired, from people working in health, in education and those working in environmental science.
“I’m not claiming we have the youngest candidate because I know Labour has a particularly young representative in Hebburn, but I can’t imagine any party has such a diverse range of candidates.”
Mrs Ford believes the Green input in a series of local issues has helped raise the party’s profile.
As an example she cited its intervention against Harton Technology College applying for academy status.
The Greens’ efforts to stage clean-ups in the town’s “rather unloved” Readhead Park and create a ‘friends of the park’ group there have also improved the public perception, Mrs Ford says.
“Attracting more than ten per cent of the vote is, I believe, a realistic goal.
“It was difficult in the past when we had only a handful of local candidates and a much smaller membership base and we were running a much less ambitious campaign.
“We had a great response at the Westoe by-election last October and that has continued since.
“Tony Bengtsson will once again be our candidate there and the reaction when knocking on doors has been very positive. There is no predicting this election. The opinion polls suggests there are many people undecided on how to cast their vote.
“There can be a Green surge and even if we don’t win a ward, second finishes would leave us in a very good position.
“It’s something we could build on in future campaigns.”
The other candidates standing in South Shields are: Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat); Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour); Robert Oliver (Conservative); and Norman Dennis (UKIP).
Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Mar 2015
The Green Party is set to field more than three times as many candidates in the North East as in 2010, in a further sign that the smaller parties could play a key role in the general election.
And the party has turned to an “crowdfunding” website where supporters, or anyone who want to help, are urged to contribute small sums of money to help pay the cost of deposits.
One candidate is even offering donors rewards such as a sketch or a personalised poem if they help to fund his campaign.
It follows the success of the Greens in winning support from one in 20 voters in the region in the European elections last year, placing them almost level with the Liberal Democrats.
The party had just ten candidates in the region in 2010.
But it expects to have candidates in 25 seats on May 7.
However, standing for election can be an expensive business – particularly for a party without funding from big businesses or trade unions.
To help raise the £500 deposit which every candidate needs, the Greens have turned to a website called crowdfunder.co.uk which allows anybody to contribute sums, typically of £5 or more, to a cause.
In return, donors will receive a reward which varies from candidate to candidate.
Michael Holt, who hopes to be the Green Party candidate for Hartlepool, is offering to draw a sketch for backers who donate £5, write a personalised poem for £10 or record a song, on the subject of the donor’s choosing, for £30.
Other candidates are offering more conventional rewards. Donors backing the campaign of prospective Tynemouth candidate Julia Erskine can receive a badge or a mug.
The fundraising has a serious purpose – to allow the Greens to take part in May’s General Election in a way that hasn’t happened before.
It comes amid speculation that the traditional three parties – Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – could lose ground to parties such as UKIP, the Greens and, in Scotland, the SNP.
One opinion poll published this week found that Labour had 27 per cent of the vote in the North of England while Conservatives were on 22 per cent, UKIP on 14 per cent, Greens on seven percent and Lib Dems on four per cent.
The North East has not traditionally been the most fertile ground for the Greens, who have one MP, representing Brighton Pavilion.
Brighton and Hove Council is also the only council controlled by the Greens, as a minority administration. London, the south east and south west each have one Green MEP.
But the party believes it could pick up support in the North East and is campaigning on a series of local issues across the region. In Northumberland they are opposing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and they are also working with residents concerned about planned open cast mining at Druridge Bay.
Greens in Newcastle and Gateshead are campaigning to protect the green belt. Greens have also opposed the closure of the Jarrow NHS walk-in centre in South Tyneside.
Shirley Ford, North East organiser for the Greens and the party’s organiser in South Shields, said:
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75% of constituencies and we are determined to exceed that in the North East. We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the General Election. The way our membership and supporter numbers are rocketing, we are optimistic that we will be able to do that.”
“With local parties right across the region blossoming, we are confident we can raise all the deposits and funds for campaigning.
“And one key way we are doing this is by crowdfunding, with some local parties having already fully funded their candidates’ deposits. We rely on the commitment and dedication of our members and supporters to raise the money we need.”
What they stand for:
In line with the other parties, the Green Party has not yet published its General Election manifesto. The party says that its manifesto published last year for the European Elections provides a good guide to what it believes.
- Opposing austerity and instead creating jobs by investing in a low carbon economy
- Scrapping the welfare cap
- A new tax on bankers bonuses
- Stopping the “privatisation” of the National Health Service
- Bringing schools such as academies and free schools back under local authority control
- Bringing rail franchises back into public ownership
Scrapping the high speed rail line known as HS2
> The Green surge in the North East is interesting because formerly UKIP were claiming to be the alternative vote in the region for disillusioned Labour voters.
I suspect that the Greens are now becoming the alternative to UKIP being the alternative (if that makes sense). Certainly you’d like to hope that any ex-Labour or Lib Dems with principles would vote Green rather than UKIP and its pathetic policies.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Feb 2015
We haven’t yet ordered our coffee and already Shirley Ford, a school administrator and lead campaigner for the North East Green Party, is racing through her lines.
“As of this morning, we had 22 candidates selected with another five possibles,” she says, as we find seats at a quiet South Shields seaside cafe.
“But things are changing so rapidly now. If you had asked me before Christmas, I would have told you something entirely different. We are a small party, we don’t have much money so it is all about candidates’ enthusiasm.”
She seems nervous, but it is an extraordinary time for the Greens. The so-called surge is in full swing.
Calls for Natalie Bennett to be included in the TV leaders’ debates intensified until the dam broke and broadcasters changed their stance in what has been celebrated as a watershed moment for the party. Now, after 20 years on the sidelines, the region’s handful of Green councillors find themselves in the spotlight and, sometimes, the firing line.
“Yes, but that is exactly what we wanted – to be taken seriously,” said Shirley.
And, it seems, times are changing. The party in the region has tripled its number of parliamentary candidates since 2010 and, Shirley, who is sporting a fern green jumper and matching coat, does not by any means predict a win, but she is brimming with optimism.
“Five years ago, we ran just seven candidates and that tells you where local parties’ strength was at,” she says, with a wry smile.
“We stood someone in South Shields, Gateshead, the three Newcastle seats, Tynemouth and Wansbeck. This time round we are looking at standing candidates in all but two seats. We might struggle to stand in Sunderland but things are changing every day.
“We didn’t think that Blyth Valley would have a candidate but suddenly we have had some key people joining there that have made it possible for members to select.”
The media glare, she says, is winning the party support but the Greens’ operation on the ground is gathering strength.
“I think that national and local media does make a difference as to what people think something is happening,” she said. “We don’t have very much money. It is up for members of each local party to raise the money for their deposit and for any research or materials.
“We have to be creative. We don’t have the resources to go and knock on everyone’s door or to carry out a poll of the constituency, but we are doing what we can.”
Shirley, who will stand in South Shields, was an organiser for the local Stop The War Coalition and has lobbied government as part of the Women in Black campaign against injustice, war and militarism.
“I joined the Green Party 11 years ago but I grew up in a family interested in politics,” she said. “I campaigned against apartheid when I was a student and I was always interested in human rights.”
She says people are finding the party via the Greens petitioning on specific issues, such their campaign against the Newcastle/Gateshead One Core Strategy, which could allow for homes to be built on greenbelt.
Greens are renowned for their passion for the environment and so have been smart in joining with organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage to organisation clean-ups.
But what does it all add up to? Where does she think the Green Party will do well in the North East?
“Newcastle East is one to watch – we have been focussing campaign work in the Heaton area and we are very active in Jesmond,” she said.
“We campaigned during local elections on local issues, including on transport and housing. We have been in that area for two or three years building that campaign level up.
“We have been championing more affordable housing and we have seen a good response in the Newcastle North area. I think in Northumberland, in Hexham and Berwick, we will do well. The two parties wanted to link up on energy campaigning issues, such as the Druridge Bay opencast coal mining campaign.
“There has been a lot of – what’s the word – a lot of synergy. They have been linking up on local issues that they are passionate about and I think that comes across.
“We want people to get the message across we want renewable energy projects that are small scale that are not going to be having such a huge impact.”
While it isn’t likely the Greens can unseat the former Labour Minister Nick Brown in Newcastle East, it shows which demographic supports the Greens – students.
“In Durham, the party had been quite dormant but in the county council local elections we stood 15 candidates and we came second in the City of Durham division of Neville’s Cross,” she said.
“A good number of student residents live there. We also did well in other wards in the city where there is a high proportion of students.
“We have maintained the momentum that that gave us.”
So, the Green Party is relying on the region’s student vote?
“That is part of the strategy, to engage students and to encourage students to stand. Some of our parliamentary candidates are students. Middlesbrough and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland are students, while others are Young Greens.”
The Greens are also popular among socialists after announcing the party would scrap Trident, renationalise railways and offer everyone a single payment ‘citizens income’, though the party has yet to set out exactly how that will be paid for.
> Well, just scrapping Trident alone would save around £1.5 BILLION a year, not to mention the plans to spend over £100 billion on a replacement for Trident.
But, Peter Pinkney, the President of the RMT Union, is standing for the party in Redcar as a result, proclaiming that “the Greens are now the party of the left.”
Shirley said the move was welcome news:
“Peter has been a member for quite a long time now and he spoke at the Green Party conference 18 months ago on the whole railway issue. The national part is very excited about it.
“It is really exciting.”
It comes as the Greens announce membership nationally has grown by 120% this year. Now, their leader will share a platform with David Cameron and Ed Miliband.
“It gives people a sense of a change and there might well be a place for a smaller party,” said Shirley.
“This lets people hear our policies and gives people a chance to make their own mind up.
“Last time, we imported the American presidential debate but that isn’t how our system works. You vote for your local candidate on policies and the debates last time didn’t reflect that.”
And it is on local issues that the Greens stand to make the most ground in this election.
The Coal Authority has granted licences for companies to explore parts of the North coast to see if underground coal gasification is possible.
The Green Party is mobilising its forces and it is when talking about this that Shirley is most animated.
“We are going to campaign on this off-the-coast, underground coal gasification because this issue has been bubbling along,” she said.
“We are keeping an eye out to see if there are any actual planning applications for anything onshore for both the drilling rigs and the processing plants.
“The argument that is always made is that we have got to have jobs – jobs jobs jobs – but they don’t think about the jobs that will be put at risk, such as tourism jobs and fishing jobs.”
Shirley is keen for the party not to be seen as an extension of eco-charities but as a party with a social agenda.
“We have petitions on particular issues in lots of places,” she said.
“Here in South Tyneside we have a schools campaign to bring back glass bottles and in Jarrow we have a petition to save the walk-in centre.
“We are trying to find solutions to the things that really matter to people.”
Winning in a region where Labour is so strong will be tough. On this issue, Shirley found herself agreeing with the leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, who branded the North East a “one-party state” ruled by Labour.
Shirley says because of this dominance by the big parties, the Greens’ long game will be to campaign on voting reform.
“It is sad,” she said “It is partly our electoral system. All of the focus is on those marginal seats and if you are in a safe seat then you are very much taken for granted.
“That is one of the things we want to change.”
She added: “In 2010, a lot of people in the North East told us that they support Green but that they were going to vote Labour because of fear that the Tories could get in.
“Well, the Tories did get in anyway.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 11 Feb 2015
The Green Party is aiming to field candidates in all 18 South Tyneside Council wards being contested at May’s local elections.
The plan coincides with a recent doubling of party membership in the borough.
The party is also putting up candidates in both borough Parliamentary seats for the first time – Shirley Ford in South Shields and David Herbert in Jarrow.
The news comes at a time when the party’s profile nationally is rising, courtesy of a surprise endorsement from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron has refused to take part in any television debate until broadcasters agree that the Greens be included too.
“As a democratically elected leader, I have no reason to doubt his motives for doing that, but whatever his motives, his intervention does mean that people across the country are taking a look at us,” said Mrs Ford.
“Something like 300,000 people have signed an online petition supporting our involvement in the debates.”
Later this week, the borough’s Green Party branch is to meet to select candidates to fight for council seats in May, and a public meeting is also being lined up.
Mrs Ford said: “There has been a surge in membership.
“It has more than doubled in the last couple of months, from about 20 to 42, the last time I looked.
“There’s probably a mixture of reasons why that has happened, including the publicity in the national media and the fact that we have been very visible since the Westoe by-election in September last year through our beach cleans, park cleans, the stall we had in King Street, South Shields, and our support for the Gazette’s campaign to cut business rates.”
Green activists were also out in force at The Nook in South Shields on Saturday asking the public to sign a petition opposing Harton Technology College’s plans to become an academy.
Mrs Ford said: “There is definitely a different vibe towards the party now.
“At the last general election in 2010, we stood in a handful of borough wards, but I can’t see a reason why we can’t have candidates for all 18 wards in May.
“That’s our aim anyway. All the members who have signed up in recent weeks will be able to stand. We don’t have any rules that forbid that.
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75 per cent of constituencies, and we are determined to exceed that in the North East.
“We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the general election.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 19 Jan 2015
The Green Party is set to triple its number of candidates standing for Parliament in the North East this General Election.
In 2010, the party fielded seven candidates but this May it will field 25 as support for its campaign grows in the region.
So far, the party has put forward 14 candidates and members are in the process of selecting a further 11.
Broadcasters have so far refused to include a spokesman in the upcoming TV debates ahead of voters going to the polls in May despite the fact the Green Party has seen membership rise by 120% to 40,879.
The Lib Dems’ membership stands at a reported 44,576, while Ukip says it has 42,500 members.
The party will be fielding seven candidates in County Durham constituencies, 10 in Tyne and Wear, five in Teesside and three in Northumberland.
Prime Minister David Cameron has declared he will not take part in a TV debate unless the Green Party is also invited.
> Only, one susposes, because he suspects the Greens will draw in any Labour supporters who still harbour socialist principles. Labour don’t seem at all keen to allow them airtime, so they probably think so too.
Well tough – Labour has lost support of people like myself since they became pale blue under Blair, and Milliband just compounds the problem – not because he looks a bit weird alledgedly but because he really has nothing new to offer – more austerity ? Gee, thanks Ed – enjoy your MPs 10% pay rise.
No doubt if the Greens did become a major party they would over time become just as corrupt and dysfunctional as the other main parties, especially if career politicians of no obvious convictions saw them as a way into power. But in the meantime, where else do those of us who would rather cut off our hands before we voted UKIP register our protest vote ? And they do at least have some policies that generate a little ray of hope that some party may have ideas that look beyond years more of austerity.
The North East regional party coordinator, Shirley Ford, who is standing for the Greens in South Shields, said to have so many candidates is a sign of confidence amongst the party ranks –
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75% of constituencies and we are determined to exceed that in the North East. We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the General Election.
“The way our membership and supporter numbers are rocketing, we are optimistic that we will be able to do that.
“With local parties right across the region blossoming, we are confident we can raise all the deposits and funds for campaigning. And one key way we are doing this is by crowdfunding, with some local parties having already fully funded their candidates’ deposits.
“We rely on the commitment and dedication of our members and supporters to raise the money we need.
“We are receiving requests all the time via email, Twitter, Facebook and when we’re out campaigning, for us to stand candidates.
“People want to be able to vote for a party that has the policies to tackle the economic, social and environmental crises we face.
“More and more people are recognising that the Greens stand for making real bold change for the common good.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 Jan 2015
It’s green for go in South Tyneside ahead of next year’s general election after the borough’s first Parliamentary candidate threw her hat into the ring.
The Green Party has announced that primary school support worker Shirley Ford is to fight for the South Shields constituency next May.
The 50-year-old, of South Shields, says her campaign will centre on public concerns over the state of the town centre and the need for a decent living wage.
The mother of one will also highlight her party’s opposition to the potential extraction of coal to convert into gas along a large stretch of the region’s coastline.
Mrs Ford has experience as a candidate, having previously stood for her home town set at the 2010 general election.
“We have had an upsurge in new members since the Scottish devolution vote.
“People want to hear different voices, different ideas, and it’s not all about Ukip. People want positive choices that don’t just play on people’s fears.
“One of the main issues we picked up during the recent Westoe by-election was public concern over our high street, which is dying, and over the council’s grand, shiny regeneration plan to attract big names to the town.
“We have seen what has happened with these big businesses in the past. They just up and leave if they are not making the profits they require.
“We’d like to see much more support for local small businesses who are loyal and stay in the town.
“Protection for people in the workplace is also on our agenda, and we will be pushing the council and its contractors to bring in a decent living wage sooner than they have promised.”
Mrs Ford is also unhappy at the cabinet system adopted by South Tyneside Council.
“It means the leader of the council and a half a dozen others make all the major decisions, and the backbenchers have no power at all. We want to bring back proper committees.”
Mrs Ford has been the Keep Metro Public campaign’s South Tyneside co-ordinator, opposing privatisation of the Tyne and Wear Metro system.
She has also volunteered in Kenya for a safe drinking water project and has worked for many years on human rights and anti-poverty campaigns.
The Green Party also plans to fight the Jarrow constituency, with a candidate to be announced soon.
Source – Shields Gazette, 28 Oct 2014
Thousands of public sector workers went on strike in a bitter disagreement over pay and pensions, as part of the biggest day of industrial action seen in the country for years.
More than 400 schools in the region were fully or partially closed as teachers downed tools during the walk out.
Joining them were home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners, as well as firefighters, civil servants and transport workers.
Picket lines were mounted outside schools, council offices, Jobcentres, fire stations and Parliament in outpourings of anger over the coalition’s public sector policies.
Nationally, around 1m workers took part in the 24-hour strike, which unions claimed was one of the biggest in the country in years.
The Cabinet Office blamed union leaders for “irresponsible” strikes.
A spokesman claimed most public sector workers had reported for work and “nearly all key public services were being delivered as usual”.
The biggest issue in dispute is pay, after ministers froze public sector salaries in 2010 and introduced a 1% cap on pay rises in 2012 which remains in place.
Thousands joined a march through Newcastle City Centre campaigning against cuts, changes to pensions, pay and work conditions.
Chants of “they say cut back, we say fight back” could be heard as the crowd of teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants led the procession from outside City Pool, near the Civic Centre, as part of the one-day walk-out with teachers also highlighting concerns over children’s education and firefighters raising their fears that cuts risk lives.
Among those lending their support was Blaydon MP Dave Anderson who said: “It’s a really good turn-out. I’m impressed and spirits are really high.
These people do a tremendous job day in day out and we are not looking after them properly. It’s time we did.
“It’s time we said enough is enough. They are at the end of their tether and a cry for help.”
The procession of workers, carrying banners and placards and flanked by mounted police, headed towards Northumberland Street then through the throng of shoppers onto New Bridge Street for speeches on the blue carpet area outside Laing Art Gallery.
Most were delighted at the turnout.
Shirley Ford, 50, an administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields, said: “I was also on the picket line in South Shields this morning and when you’re in a small school it’s hard to sense how everyone else is feeling so this is great to see – and the sun has come out!”
Andy Nobel, executive member for the FBU in North East which is the middle of its own industrial action following the loss of 300 firefighter posts and station closures in the wake of the Government’s austerity measures, said: “Public support during our whole dispute has been fantastic.
“When they’ve heard our arguments there hasn’t been a great deal, if any, adverse public reaction.”
A further eight days of action is expected to be announced.
One firefighter, who did not want to be named, said the chief concern of colleagues was pensions not pay.
Meanwhile, teacher Tony Dowling, 57, the members’ secretary for Gateshead NUT, said: “The main reason is the pension and pay but I’m really on strike because I care about the education of the children.
“Michael Grove is making the jobs of teachers impossible and ruining children’s education.”
Cheers greeted the speakers at the rally who included Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s deputy regional convenor for public services alliance, who called the national turn-out “the second biggest turn of action since the end of the Second World War”.
Gordon Thompson, a councillor from Newsham ward in Blyth Valley, known for his refusal to pay his Poll Tax, was among the supporters at the rally and stressed the importance of making a stand.
And a familiar face lending his support was local actor Joe Caffrey, accompanying his father, retired Unison member Joe Caffrey senior, who was standing up for service providers whose pensions are taking a hit.
The 69-year-old from Whitley Bay said: “I’ve got a pension but I’m here for the people still working, particularly the young people.”
Picket lines were also formed outside some of the region’s schools and council offices, including Newcastle’s Civic Centre and the Department for Work and Pensions, in Longbenton.
Newcastle’s Grainger Market was closed to the public for the first time in two years because of the industrial action.
Reports suggest there was around 5,000 people at today’s march.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 10 July 2014