Tagged: Stockton North

Tees Valley General Election Candidates

Darlington: currently held by Jenny Chapman (Lab)

Jenny Chapman (Lab),

Mike Cherrington (Green),

Anne-Marie Curry (LD),

Peter Cuthbertson (Con),

Alan Docherty (TUSC),

David Hodgson (Ukip)

 

Hartlepool: currently held by Iain Wright (Lab)

Hilary Allen (LD),

Sandra Allison (Save Our Hospital),

Phillip Broughton (Ukip),

John Hobbs (Ind),

Michael Holt (Green),

Stephen Picton (Ind),

Richard Royal (Con),

Iain Wright (Lab).

 

 

Middlesbrough: currently held by Andy Mcdonald (Lab)

Craig Baker (Ukip),

Simon Clarke (Con),

Hannah Grahm (Green),

Richard Kilpatrick (LD),

Andy McDonald (Lab).

 

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland: currently held by Tom Blenkinsop (Lab)

Tom Blenkinsop (Lab),

Martin Brampton (Green),

Ben Gibson (LD),

Will Goodhand (Con),

Steve Turner (Ukip).

 

Redcar: vacant – Ian Swales (Lib Dem) standing down.

Christopher Gallacher (Ukip),

Philip Lockey (North East Party),

Josh Mason (LD),

Peter Pinkney (Green),

Anna Turley (Lab),

Jacob Young (Con).

 

Stockton North: currently held by Alex Cunningham (Lab)

Mandy Boylett (Ukip),

Alex Cunningham (Lab),

Christopher Daniels (Con),

Adrian Sycamore (LD),

John Tait (North East Party).

 

 

Stockton South: currently held by  James Wharton (Con)

Louise Baldock (Lab),

Drew Durning (LD),

Jacqui Lovell (Green),

Ted Strike (Ukip),

Steve Walmlsey (Ind Against Social Injustice),

James Wharton (Con).

Regional parties hoping to give London-based parties an election ‘bloody nose’

 

Regional parties hoping to give London-based parties an election 'bloody nose'

 

It was ultimately unsuccessful, but the campaign for devolution in Scotland has fanned the flames of regional rule in the North-East that were never quite extinguished by the 2004 ‘no’ vote.

The North East Party was launched less than a year ago as the independence campaign north of the border was in full swing. On May 7, it will field four candidates in Easington, Redcar, Stockton North and Newcastle North.

Vice-chair Susan McDonnell, who formed the party with former Labour MP Hilton Dawson, admitted they had hoped to have more candidates standing, but people who had initially shown an interest backed away when they realised the effort involved.

“They also had to find £500 for the deposit from their own pocket which may have put them off,” says Mrs McDonnell, who will contest the Easington seat.

The party wants to see a referendum for the the region’s 12 unitary authorities to be replaced by a single North-East government, however Mrs McDonnell stresses that it is not all about devolution.

“It’s about decision making taking place in the North-East by people from the North-East – we’re sick to death of being the poor relation in the North.”

 The party’s manifesto includes other proposals such as replacing council tax with a property tax. £1 billion would be invested in North-East enterprise and jobs from a new land tax, and older people would get free care.

The party has enjoyed some early success with two councillors voted on to Peterlee Town Council, and Mrs McDonnell says its membership is growing fast.

“We’re got quite a large presence on social media and are getting people from all over the region travelling to our meetings – Blyth, Newcastle, Redcar, Hartlepool and Stockton.”

The candidate accepts she may not be able to defeat the standing Easington MP, Grahame Morris, who has a majority of almost 15,000, but she adds: “I’m having a whale of a time.

“I am taking it very seriously but I also understand it’s a game. I’m not so naive to think that I will win on May 7 but I will give Grahame Morris as good a run as he’s ever had – I hope to give him a bloody nose.”

 The candidate welcomes Ukip‘s decision to field current MEP Jonathan Arnott in the Easington constituency, saying the North East Party believes it will split the Labour vote considerably.

The party is one of several regional parties which have appeared around the country in recent years, with many forming an allegiance under the Vote Local banner.

Mrs Mc Donnell says the parties have been launched because of a combination of being disillusioned with the mainstream Westminster centred parties and the referendum in Scotland. The new parties include Yorkshire First, which wants to see a Yorkshire parliament.

Devolution and regionalism expert Arianna Giovannini, who lectures at Huddersfield University, said the idea of regionalist parties was not new.

However, she adds: “What is certainly new is the emergence of regionalist parties in the North of England, ie Yorkshire First, the North East Party, and the Campaign for the North.”

Dr Giovannini says the emerging regionalist parties have great potential, especially if they succeed in joining forces with other organisations and movements, and manage to achieve grassroots support.

But she adds:

“Whether regional devolution in the North of England will succeed or fall may well hinge on the ability to generate democratic momentum, creating a clear, bold, confident and concerted vision for the future.

“However, the story of the Scottish Constitutional Convention tells us that such a process will take time, and cannot be rushed or accomplished overnight. In this sense, the following months and the results and effects of the imminent general election will be crucial in shaping the path ahead.”

The North East Party may not yet be big enough to change the course of the devolution debate in this region, but it is certainly a sign of the growing desire to see greater powers handed over.

Source –  Northern Echo, 09 Apr 2015

Teesside UKIP candidate records Abba parody to poke fun at David Cameron

A Teesside UKIP candidate has turned her hand to karaoke to poke fun at David Cameron and her seat rival.

Mandy Boylett, UKIP’s candidate for Stockton North, has recorded her own version of ABBA’s Chiquitita, which has been posted on YouTube.

The parody mocks the Prime Minister’s “love” for the EU and also sings about the current MP for Stockton North, Alex Cunningham.

Alex Cunningham, you and I know how elections come and they go but this time you’re leaving. You’ll lose your safe Labour seat to the UKIP girl,” she sings.

Ms Boylett adds that Stockton North “is turning purple.”

But Mr Cunningham has said that she needs to be “serious about politics.”

“I have heard about the song but I won’t be wasting my time listening to it,” he said.

“She needs to be serious about politics rather than being silly.”

> You’d have thought that a UKIP candidate might have wanted to murder a song by a British group, not a Swedish one….

Lyrics

David Cameron, tell me what’s wrong?

Your MPs don’t really want you

In their eyes

You’re still in love with the EU

Oh that 1.7 billion

There is no way you won’t pay it

I can see that you think that we won’t notice

David Cameron, tell me the truth

Cos you can’t keep on deceiving

Your MPs

They will really keep on leaving

You were always sure of yourself

Now I see you’ve lost your direction

Saying, yes Angela, will lose you the election

Alex Cunningham, you and I know

How elections come and they go but this time you’re leaving

You’ll lose your safe Labour seat

To the UKIP girl

You will have no time for grieving

Alex Cunningham you’re gonna cry

Because Stockton North is turning purple around you

Over thirty years neglect will come to an end

And we’ll celebrate the purple

Thirty years will come to an end

And we’ll celebrate the purple

So the walls came tumbling down

Your campaign’s a blown out candle

All is gone and it seems too hard to handle

Alex Cunningham tell me the truth

There is no way you can deny it

With yet another smear to try to keep me quiet

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 06 Mar 2015

Tory website leak reveals list of “non-target” seats

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 leak implied the party had also given up on Rochester and Strood, where the MP Mark Reckless deserted the Tories and won a by-election for Ukip last year.

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

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

North East Party launches its first ever manifesto

A new political party campaigning for a regional government has launched its first ever manifesto.

The North East Party, led by the former Labour MP Hilton Dawson, is fielding four candidates at the General Election.

Campaigners want a North East Government to replace councils and the combined authority.

They also want to scrap council tax and replace it with a property tax based on current market value.

The North East Party also calls for £1bn investment in enterprise, raised from a new land tax.

Mr Dawson will also campaign for free care for older people and pledges to secure more money for services if the party is elected.

Violet Rook, Newcastle North candidate, will take on sitting Labour MP Catherine McKinnell at the election in May.

She said: “I have lived in Kingston Park for 30 years and served the NHS for decades as a nurse and midwife throughout the area.

“Standing up for the North East’ means caring for the future of all communities in the region and wanting a fair deal for them now.”

Phil Lockey, the Redcar candidate, who will be fighting Ukip and Labour’s candidate Anna Turley, said:

“Like many thousands from our region, I have experience in the Armed Forces and standing for Parliament in the town where I live is another vital way to serve our Country and our community.

“Leadership is essential and in working for devolution the North East Party seeks to create 2.6 million leaders to take our region forward.”

Susan McDonnell, candidate for Easington, where Labour’s Grahame Morris had a large majority in 2010, said:

“I have lived in Easington almost all my life and consider that we’ve been badly let down by successive Labour MPs every one of whom were men.

“Unlike them, I will not stand for the people of Easington paying higher rates of Council Tax than billionaires living in London.

“I want to represent Easington well and help take the whole area forward , placing many more decisions in our own hands.”

John Tait, Stockton North candidate, added:

“I have spent 19 years as an Independent Councillor in Stockton and I have worked for decades in Higher Education and Industry.

“I want to use the opportunity of devolution and new resources from fair taxation to invest in jobs and enterprise developing ever more successful spin-offs from world class science and technology to benefit the people of Stockton and the North East.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 29 Jan 2015

Stockton MP tells Parliament that police cuts are jeopardising public safety

Further cuts to policing budgets risks further jeopardising public safety, a Teesside MP told Parliament.

Despite assurances from the Prime Minister in 2010 that frontline policing would not be affected, some 8,000 police officers have already been lost from the frontline, said Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North.

Last month Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger, confirmed that further cuts to the Police Grant Settlement will mean a reduction in local police funding of over £4.5m, warning it will place further pressure on an already stretched force.

Mr Coppinger called for the public and local MPs “to speak out about how far they are willing to let ministers go in juggling with public safety”.

During Parliamentary Questions to the Home Office in the House of Commons, Alex said:

“There has been a net loss of 293 police officers from the Cleveland police service since 2010, and our police commissioner says that the budget has been cut by another 5.1%, which could further jeopardise public safety.

“Does the Home Secretary agree that such losses and cuts are the reasons behind the drop in confidence in policing for the first time in a decade?”

But the Stockton MP said the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims was “unable to explain away this loss of confidence” – and sought instead to highlight the admirable manner in which Cleveland Police has dealt with cuts that will see the force £35m worse off than in 2010/11.

Speaking after the question session, Alex said:

“Despite already facing savage cuts, police forces around the country have been told to prepare for more of the same during the next Parliament.

“It is extremely worrying that the Association of Chief Police Officers is estimating that a further 6,000 frontline officers will need to be cut to meet budget reductions between 2015-17.

“Even more alarmingly, I understand that the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police has written to the Home Secretary warning that current funding arrangements will result in his force becoming unsustainable by 2019 and identifying a real risk that his may be the first force to fall.

“I am in no doubt further cutting of policing budgets will further decimate our police forces and place even more pressure on a service already under-resourced and overstretched.”

The MP said with similar cuts to local government services, police officers will be expected to do more with less – “an unrealistic proposition”.

“While Cleveland Police deserve praise for innovative collaboration with partner organisations in managing funding reductions to date, there is only a finite amount of pressure they can shoulder before the cracks start to emerge and these further cuts may breach that tipping point.”

Source –  Midlesbrough Evening Gazette, 07 Jan 2015

Stockton : Plea to end zero hour contracts becomes an internet hit

A stepfather’s impassioned plea to end the use of zero-hour contracts has become an internet hit after his stepson was forced leave his rented home when he could no longer cover the rent.

Stephen Thompson wrote an open letter to his stepson’s employer, JD Wetherspoon, after the family was forced to buy the kitchen worker a new pair of shoes so he could walk to work without getting his feet wet.

And since he posted the letter on Facebook a few days ago, he has been inundated with similar tales from other people who are struggling under the financial burden of a zero-hour contract.

With more than 12,000 likes and 13,000 shares, the post has attracted the attention of people from across the country.

Mr Thompson, who works at a university as a social entrepreneur-in-residence and community engagement coordinator, says he was shocked at how far reaching the problem was for people trying to find secure work.

“My stepson is in 40s and trained for three years to be able to work in catering,” he said.

“I never realised how common the problem was with zero hour contracts, people who just want to work take these jobs but their futures are never secure.

> And this is a large part of the problem – so many people who ought to realise what is going on in this country seem oblivious to it. Mainstream media barely reports it, of course, but even so … and you might at least expect someone who works as a community engagement coordinator to know what’s going on in that community.

Still, he does now, and has done something positive about it.

“When I wrote the open letter, I never expected the response that I have received. I have read some real horror stories in the last few days.

 “The use of these Draconian contracts is having a devastating effect on the lives of people who just want to work for a living.”

In his letter, he writes:

“He is “employed” on a zero-hours basis and earns barely enough to feed himself. He got into trouble with his rent and was evicted from his home. I blame the basis of his employment for this.

“He now lives two miles away from your bar and is obliged to walk this distance to and from work as he does not earn enough to afford public transport. Yesterday my wife was obliged to buy him new shoes as he had worn holes in his existing ones. I think it is appalling that you do not provide your kitchen staff with appropriate footwear.”

And he has contacted his local MP Alex Cunningham to garner his support for the abolition of zero-hour contracts.

 The Stockton North MP said:
“People are suffering, these contracts effect they way people are able to live. Some are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent and some are even struggling to put food on their tables.

“I believe it is time to end the widespread use of zero-hour contracts.”

A Wetherspoon spokesman said:

“Wetherspoon does operate flexible contracts for its hourly paid staff.

“The company operates in a seasonal sector and offer flexible hours to meet demand. Pub managers try to give staff the hours they want.

“Rotas are produced by the manager and published to employees at least two weeks in advance.

“Wetherspoon probably offers more hours per week than any other pub company.”

To read the letter visit facebook.com/Stmedia/posts/10152912900027184

Source –  Northern Echo,  03 Jan 2015

Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign launched to hit back at ‘negativity’ of Benefits Street

A major new campaign has been launched to hit back against any negative portrayal of Stockton from the controversial show Benefits Street.

The Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign is a light-hearted response to what is expected to be a less than flattering portrayal of the borough when the Channel 4 series airs next year.

And people across the borough and beyond are being encouraged to show their love for Stockton by sharing photographs, videos and stories.

A new website – http://www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk – and social media accounts have been set up to kick-start the campaign.

The decision to film the second series of Benefits Street in Stockton caused widespread outrage, with some accusing Channel 4 of using “poverty tourism” to chase ratings.

The first series made stars of some of its cast but was described by critics as “poverty porn”.

After the story broke , Middlesbrough FC fans at the Riverside Stadium unveiled a banner reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.

But despite the fierce local and national criticism of the show, Channel 4 chief executive Ralph Lee said the broadcaster’s output would not be “censored”.

He defended the channel’s right “to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society”.

Leader of Stockton Council, Councillor Bob Cook said:

“We did everything in our power to persuade the producers of Benefits Street to turn their attentions elsewhere. Sadly, you can’t win them all.

“What became clear, though, was that lots of people agreed with us that this is not a good thing for the borough.

“So, we’ve decided to focus our energies on turning a negative into a positive. We’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to respond to a series like Benefits Street is to celebrate, with good humour and quiet confidence, all that is great about our fine borough.”

The campaign will give people the opportunity to share their views on what they love about Stockton.

The council will support the campaign, but now want to “hand it over the public”, said Cllr Cook.

This is a borough-wide campaign for the whole of Stockton-on-Tees. We’re delighted that our local media – The Gazette, Northern Echo and BBC Tees – are in agreement with us and have agreed to unite in their support of us.

“Whether you’re from Stockton, Billingham, Yarm, Eaglescliffe, Thornaby, Norton or Ingleby Barwick, we’d love you to get involved.”

Benefits Street is expected to be aired in March 2015 and the Positively Stockton campaign – also known as “Psst…” – features a major event that same month.

Billed as The Loudest Whisper, the event on Friday, March 13, will see a whispered message passed around the borough – starting and ending in Kingston Road – where the series is being filmed.

The message will be passed from person to person using human chains as well as all kinds of transport, from horses and rowing boats to buses and bikes.

The event, which will also raise money for Comic Relief, is being organised by Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman and proud Stocktonian Mike McGrother.

“There has been an assumption from the producers of Benefits Street that we’re a community that needs to be given a voice,” he said.

“To present this as ‘factual’ television designed to engineer some kind of social benefit is a bit arrogant I think.

“There’s an abundance of community pride in Stockton – it’s just not our style to go shouting it from the rooftops. But if we’re faced with a series that seeks to paint us in an unfair light on national television, we shouldn’t take that lying down.

“Through the Loudest Whisper event and the Positively Stockton campaign, we can dispel the myths that will inevitably be trotted out using the sense of humour, community spirit and understated manner people in our borough are renowned for.

“And it’s all for Comic Relief. Our voices, though quiet, will be heard!”

The new campaign also has the support of Stockton’s MPs.

Alex Cunningham, Labour, in whose Stockton North constituency Benefits Street is being filmed, said:

“There is much for us to be positive about our borough from the talent and resilience of our people to the powerhouse of the local council and other organisations doing their best in difficult circumstances to create jobs, improve our town centres and make life better for us all.

“It is tremendous that our community is reacting in such a positive way.

“Doubtless Channel 4 will claim our campaign would never have happened but for their unwelcome intrusion into our community, but they will be wrong again – there have been many positive initiatives over the years promoting our success, which is perhaps why the borough is seeing its population grow and why it was voted one of the best places in the country to do business.”

James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, said:

“If you look around you in Stockton you see things getting better – more jobs, more investment, a town and community proud of its past and looking to its future.

“We need to talk up what makes us great and this campaign is a brilliant addition to that. Benefits Street will show what they want, we will show the truth and talk up Teesside.”

To find out more about the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign, and how to get involved, visit: www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 Nov 2014

Benefits Street Stockton likely to hit television screens in March 2015

The new series of Benefits Street being filmed on Teesside is likely to air in March next year.

The second series of the observational documentary series is being filmed in Kingston Road, Tilery, in Stockton.

It comes after the first – based in Birmingham – attracted huge controversy.

Sources close to the show havesaid that the first instalment of the second series of Benefits Street is expected to be shown on Channel 4 in March next year – although the exact date is still undecided.

The decision to film in Stockton caused widespread outrage, with some accusing Channel 4 of using “poverty tourism” to chase ratings.

The first series made stars of some of its cast but was described by some critics as “poverty porn”.

Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, accused the broadcaster of perpetuating a “monstrous travesty of reality”.

And Labour’s Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham wrote to every resident of Kingston Road asking them to “think again” about taking part in the documentary.

He also suggested the makers of the programme, Love Productions, should “get out of the town”.

After the story broke  in August that the show WAS being filmed on Teesside, Boro fans at the Riverside Stadium unveiled a banner reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.

Protest against Benefits Street at the Riverside
Protest against Benefits Street at the Riverside

Boro supporters’ group Red Faction were behind the banners unveiled in the south stand of the Riverside Stadium during Boro’s game against Reading.

Group member Steve Fletcher, 27, said at the time: “Shows like this demonise working class people. They need help, not mocking.”

However, the chief executive of Channel 4 defended its decision to make another series of Benefits Street in Stockton.

Despite the fierce local and national criticism of the show, Ralph Lee, boss of the channel, said that the broadcaster’s output would not be “censored”.

Mr Lee told a national newspaper:

We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programmes.

“In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that.

“I defend our right – and the necessity – to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  24 Nov 2014