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 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 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
The North East Party, formed just six months ago, last night won its second seat on Peterlee Town Council in two months.
Newly-elected councillor Karen Hawley comfortably won the Passfield Ward by-election with 429 votes, ahead of Labour on 257.
Cllr Hawley said:
“I am delighted to have been elected tonight and to be joining North East Party colleagues in working to ensure that Peterlee Town Council serves the people of Passfield ward and the people of the town accountably and well”.
The by-election, brought about by the resignation of Peterlee’s mayoress Cllr Margaret Milsom who held the seat for Labour, follows the North East Party’s victory at the Eden Hill ward by-election in December.
It means the party now holds two seats alongside six Independents on the 22-member authority, which remains in Labour control.
Susan McDonnell, the North East Party’s Parliamentary candidate for Easington, said:
“This is another resounding victory for the North East Party in Peterlee, building on our first success only two months ago.
“Her win tonight shows that our messages about scandalous Council Tax levels and the need for much greater community accountability of all elected politicians is really getting through.”
Source – Northern Echo, 13 Feb 2015
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
Mary Cartwright has scooped the first win for the North East Party – formed six months ago – in the first election it has fought.
Councillor Cartwright, who represents the Eden Hill ward of Peterlee, which comes under the remit of Peterlee Town Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won.
“I am determined to serve the people of Eden Hill well.”
Susan McDonnell, NEP prospective parliamentary candidate for Easington said:
“Mary Cartwright will be a fabulous addition to Peterlee Council, standing up for people, independently and well.
“She is a brilliant example of NEP politics in action, a breath of fresh air to the tired old politics of North East England and she has already shown us that we can win.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 19 Dec 2014
The North East Party (NEP), which wants the region to have its own elected assembly with powers similar to the Scottish or Welsh governments, held its first public meeting in Durham City tonight (Monday, June 16).
Chair Hilton Dawson, a Northumberland-born former Labour MP, said: “My experience is policy is made in London without very much thought of the regions, and in particular the North-East.
“We are the least regarded and least favoured region in the whole of England.
“There’s no reason why the North-East should continue to be the poor relation in England and lose out to other parts of the UK.
“We can have world-class standards and services and we can create jobs and prosperity.”
Mr Dawson said £300 less in public money is spent per person in the North-East than London every year – adding up to £750m.
The NEP was first mooted in November, founded last month and hopes to field candidates in 12 North-East constituencies at next year’s General Election.
“We’ve had an amazing level of support. Every day we are seeing a trickle of support coming towards us,” Mr Dawson said.
But Mr Dawson said he was convinced the outcome could be overturned, given a party devoted to campaigning for the cause.
“The only way we will get real devolution and real power is by having a party to challenge Westminster parties at the ballot box and get these issues onto the agenda,” he said.
The NEP wants an assembly with wide-ranging powers, excluding only areas such as macroeconomic, defence, foreign and international development policy.
However, Labour says the North-East people decisively rejected the idea in the 2004 referendum and that democratic decision must be respected.
Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said: “Clearly there is a need for more devolution but we think the mechanisms should be local authorities or local authorities working together.”
Tonight’s launch included a discussion, funding appeal and hustings event. For further details, visit thenortheastparty.org.uk
Source – Durham Times, 17 June 2014
A new political party has been launched with the aim of bringing devolution to the North-East.
The North East Party is aiming to secure powers similar to those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It intends to contest 12 seats in the region at next year’s general election, funded through membership and donations from people who want political independence from Westminster.
The North East Party (NEP) wants to take control of issues such as job creation, public services, including health and social care, as well as education and public transport. It also says it wants to ensure world class science and research is carried out in the region.
The party’s chairman is Hilton Dawson, former Labour MP for Lancaster and Wyre, who lives in Warkworth, Northumberland, and is from the area.
The 60-year-old social worker, who has a wife, two daughters and is a grandfather-of-four, said: “We are the most neglected region in England and until we have real power and real decision making here we won’t be to address the fundamental issues of the North-East.
“This is the poorest region in the country with the highest level of unemployment and the highest level of social deprivation.
Susan McDonnell, a former Peterlee Town Councillor and Labour Party member, is considering standing against Easington MP Grahame Morris in the general election next May.
The 49-year-old, who lives in Peterlee with her husband, and has one son, narrowly missed out on a seat on Durham County Council last year.
Ms McDonnell, the party’s administrator, who works as an office manager for an email marketing company in Newcastle, said: “The purpose of the party is to bring political representation to the North-East.
“We had a referendum on regional assembly and that failed because it was dressed up as another level of bureaucracy.
“What we would aim to try and do is get true devolution for the North-East so we are not beholden to Westminster. We would decide on the key issues that affect the region with our own Government.
“It won’t be a separate country, but we will have devolved power so decisions that affect the North-East will be made here in the North-East by North-East people.”
The first gathering of the North East Party will be held at the Durham Conference Centre on Monday, June 16 from 6pmto 9pm.
For more information:
Source – Durham Times, 27 May 2014