A campaign has been launched for the north of England to become a breakaway state.
A petition by the Raise The North group calls for people from the region to band together and seek independence.
It is also urging David Cameron to ‘submit to the will of the northern people’.
The separation moves comes after an earlier petition called for the north to join with an independent Scotland.
The #TakeUsWithYouScotland hashtag soon flooded Twitter. More than 40,000 people have now signed the call-to-arms.
The latest petition, posted with the #RaiseTheNorth hashtag, reads:
“There is growing consensus that the north of England should join Scotland.
“Northern England should not ask to leave one governor, only to take on another. For as long as the south has ruled, we have been subjugated and marginalised.
“But the answer is not to allow ourselves to be ruled from Scotland. The Scots may help, but they can’t do it for us.
“It’s time that the people of the north stood as one against Westminster and said ‘no more’.”
Signatory Valerie Quigley wrote:
“It is time for the north of England to get their say. They have suffered from the same democratic deficit as Scotland for many years.
“North England self-government would benefit the area and could make good neighbours and agreements cross-border with Scotland.”
On the back of the Scottish independence referendum there have been growing calls for English devolution.
Places like Greater Manchester will soon have its own directly elected mayor; control of its entire £6bn NHS budget, a national first; and greater control over housing, transport and skills.
But the Raise The North group wants more, with the whole of the north of England breaking away and gaining independence.
At the last general election the North East was one of the few areas in England where support for the Labour party, which fought against Mr Cameron’s Tory government, actually went up.
With the highest unemployment rate in the country and many people either working in the under threat public sector or relying on benefits to boost poor salaries, there have been fears the region is missing out on what has been described as the economic upturn in the country.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 May 2015
Vote swapping was credited with taking seats from the Tories in the 2001 general election, so should claimants be doing it now?
This election is on a knife edge.
The Conservatives are pouring huge amounts of money into identifying and contacting a tiny number of undecided voters – perhaps 40,000 – in key marginals. If they succeed in persuading them to vote Tory, the election may well be theirs.
This is a tactic that won’t even show up in the polls.
So, should claimants – who have the most to lose if the Tories get in – also be resorting to ‘under the radar’ tactics, such as vote swapping and tactical voting?
Vote swapping is a kind of DIY proportional representation, allowing your vote to be placed somewhere where it might count, rather than being pointless.
So, for example, if you are a Labour supporter in a safe Conservative seat then your vote is wasted.
But there may be a Green supporter in a Labour/Conservative marginal with a very small Labour lead. Their heart says vote Green, but their head says that doing so increases the chances of the Tories getting in.
So, you swap votes.
The Labour supporter in a safe Tory seat votes Green. It won’t get the Greens a seat, but it will increase their national vote share. The Green supporter votes Labour, knowing that they’ve helped reduce the chances of a Tory success and also added an extra vote to the Green’s total.
The same could be true if you’re a Labour supporter in a very safe Labour rather than Conservative seat. You may feel that your vote could be put to better use elsewhere and look to do a vote swap.
If swapping votes with a Green or labour supporter appeals to you, there’s the Vote Swap website devoted solely to Labour/Green swaps which you might want to check out.
When we visited, the site claimed to have arranged almost 10,000 swaps already.
Lib Dem/Labour swaps
Labour and Green supporters are likely to be fairly equal in their antipathy towards the Conservatives. So there’s a good chance your vote swap partner will honour their side of the bargain?
But what if you are in a Lib Dem/Tory marginal?
Perhaps you can’t stand either party, but one of them is going to get the seat anyway.
However, every seat the Lib Dems take from the Tories reduces the Conservative’s chances of being the largest party. And the Lib Dems have said they wouldn’t support the full £12 billion in benefits cuts.
So you might be prepared to vote Lib Dem if a Lib Dem supporter in a Labour/Conservative marginal will vote Labour for you.
But could you trust a person claiming to be a Lib Dem supporter to vote Labour, when the party clearly favours another coalition with the Tories?
Well, perhaps. There are undoubtedly still some left-leaning Lib Dems and the Swap My Vote site gives you a chance to make contact and check out their political opinions, because you can only register using your Facebook or Twitter login.
But, even if they don’t keep their end of the bargain, you’re probably no worse off. Your vote will not have helped the Tories and their vote in their own constituency will make no difference.
Does vote swapping work?
Vote swapping is not new.
According to a 2005 article in the New Scientist:
“In the 2001 election, the Lib Dems captured Cheadle in Cheshire from the Conservatives with a majority of 33. Online vote trading had seen 47 Labour supporters in Cheadle agree to vote Lib Dem. Assuming they kept their bargain, these vote-traders turned the tide on the Conservatives. There was a similar result in South Dorset, where a Labour majority of 153 followed 185 internet vote-trade pledges.”
So, it’s legal and it quite possibly does make a difference.
The tactical voting alternative
In some circumstances, an alternative to vote swapping is traditional tactical voting. If you’re in a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal you could vote Lib Dem simply to try to deprive the Tories of a seat.
Clearly, whichever way the seat goes it’s still going to be part of any Tory/Lib Dem coalition. But, as noted above, the Lib Dems have said they will oppose the Conservative’s £12 billion benefits cuts plan, aiming to move it closer to their £3 billion cuts. Whether you believe them is another matter.
But voting Lib Dem will also reduce the chances of the Tories being the largest party, making it harder to argue that a Labour minority government lacks legitimacy.
Is it worth it?
Even if vote swapping is effective, could you bring yourself to trust a stranger with your vote?
Likewise, tactical voting definitely works, but could you put your cross next to a Lib Dem candidate?
Is it better to vote as your beliefs dictate and take the consequences, whatever they might be?
Only you can answer those questions for yourself, but many of our readers would be interested to hear your opinion.
So, please leave a comment below or complete our Vote Swapping and Tactical Voting Survey. It’s anonymous, there’s only 4 questions and the results are posted online as they come in.
Source – Benefits & Work, 27 Apr 2015
Councillor and anti-racism campaigner Dipu Ahad received vile online beheading threats in the hours leading up to demonstrations on Tyneside.
Police are today probing pictures tweeted to the Elswick ward representative.
The images show Coun Ahad’s face superimposed onto the body of a man kneeling before a masked knifeman, as if he was about to be decapitated.
They were posted on Twitter just hours before German anti-Islam group Pegida held its first UK demonstration in Newcastle, alongside a counter-march by Newcastle Unites.
Coun Ahad said the author of the post had since apologised to him via Twitter after receiving condemnation by other users of the social media site.
And he has vowed not to let the troll’s actions put him off standing up for what he believes in.
But the father has admitted he is now living in constant fear for the safety of himself and his family.
Coun Ahad said:
“This was a direct threat on my life. I fear for my physical safety every day now. I’m always looking over my shoulder. But I’m not going to stop fighting for what is right. I’m not going to be intimidated.”
Muslim Coun Ahad, a life-long campaigner against racism and intolerance, was busy putting the finishing touches to Newcastle Unites’ march plans when the picture surfaced on Friday evening.
It appears to be an image of a masked Islamic State fighter holding a large knife above a hostage in an orange T-Shirt, with the councillor’s face photoshopped on to the condemned victim’s body.
Coun Ahad reported the incident to police immediately and officers are now investigating, while taking steps to look after the safety of Coun Ahad and his family.
“When my cat jumps around at night now I have to get up and check there is no one there,” he said.
“I’m more scared for my family’s safety than I am for my own. Every time I go out I am very cautious, I’m always on edge now.”
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said:
“At 7.20pm on Friday police received information regarding a malicious communication having been received via a social media site. Enquiries are ongoing and steps were taken to ensure the safety of those concerned.”
And Coun Ahad said Saturday’s events have confirmed his belief that he must continue to stand-up to hatred and prejudice, even if it means putting himself at risk.
“It is getting to the point now where you wonder whether it will ever stop,” he said.
“But I now believe it will only stop either if I shut my mouth, or if I’m dead. This is obviously just part of my life now.
“Saturday was absolutely amazing. So many people came together from different groups. It was so humbling. I’m so passionate about our communities.
“Getting threatened is not going to stop me. At least this has started a conversation and it’s opened up communication.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Mar 2015
Just for once, we can share some excellent news that neither Cameron nor IDS will welcome.
Plus a huge t£2,500hank you to everyone who responded to our request to support Full Fact’s bid to fact check the election.
With your help Full Fact have now got the £25,000 they need to launch their six week election fact checking project – but it’s not over yet.
Over 120 donations flooded in to the Crowdfunder page during the 24 hours after the appeal in our last newsletter, totalling around £2,500.
The donations included £100 from Cathie Wood, whose brother Mark Wood tragically starved to death after being found fit for work. Cathie left a comment saying:
“You are doing vital work – good luck with it. This donation is in memory of my brother Mark Wood who died due to current govt. policies and lies.”
But Full Fact have until Friday afternoon to carry on. Additional donations will help them extend their fact checking to more newspaper articles, TV programmes and election broadcasts.
Cameron’s ‘obese claimants’ propaganda was just a foretaste of the misleading smears that will be unleashed in the last weeks of the election. Every extra pound Full Fact get will help them challenge such attacks.
So, if you possibly can, please donate a few pounds or publicise the project on Twitter, Facebook , forums and elsewhere.
It truly will make a difference.
Source – Benefits & Work, 25 Feb 2015
Concerned Toon fans have sent out a message to anti-Islamic extremists planning a controversial march in Newcastle on a match day telling them to “Remember we are black and white; we are united.”
NUFC Fans United have put out the message on their website after the demonstration was announced by far right German group Pegida in the city centre on Saturday, February 28 – when Newcastle take on Aston Villa at St James’ Park.
The statement reads:
“The purpose of this notice is to bring to the attention the serious concerns of many Newcastle United supporters that have contacted us regarding the proposed Pediga anti Islam rally being planned in our city on 28th February and the subsequent and inevitable counter demonstration that will ensue.
“The aim of the rally seems to be to protest against what they (Pediga) perceive as an Islamification of Britain. The concerns being voiced are multiple but primarily they centre around the fact that firstly this Far Right German movement have chosen the city of Newcastle upon Tyne; a city famous for its tolerance, integration and warmth of spirit to hold their rally and secondly the fact that the rally is planned for somewhere in the city centre on a match day, (when we entertain Aston Villa) and the possibility for conflict that it might bring to our wonderfully diverse and glorious city, when bigotry and intolerance replaces match day euphoria.
“There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.
“As Supporters of Newcastle United we are asking what kind of message is such a rally sending to players such as Papiss Cissé, Mehdi Abeid, Cheik Tiote and Moussa Sissoko as well as to our wider Muslim community. What kind of message does it send to those who come to study in our colleges and universities, or who visit as tourists to wonder on the splendour of our heritage history? What message does it send to those who may be offered the opportunity in the future to come and work in a city that has prided itself on its warm welcome but will now be tarred with being a city that allowed itself to be associated with those of the German Far Right. Is this the message we want our city to be remembered by and tarnished with?
“If your answer is NO then please join us in ensuring that as strong a message as possible is sent out by the widest section of our Tyneside community as possible to say that this rally is unacceptable, uncalled for and not welcome on the streets of Newcastle. With the support of all like minded football supporters we hope we can all openly bring pressure to bear on the authorities and add to the pressure already being placed by other like minded groups to refuse this group the oxygen of publicity, not least because of the nature of its being but also because of the risk of conflict between football supporters on match day and those who wish to come to our city and besmirch its reputation.
“Remember, we are black and white; we are UNITED.”
Comedian Russell Brand has pledged to march against Pegida in Newcastle.
The political activist and stand up accepted an invitation by Newcastle councillor Dipu Ahad to stand shoulder to shoulder against the “anti Islam” march.
He told Ahad, who is a key figure in Newcastle’s Muslim community, he’d be at the march after the councillor contacted him on Twitter.
The march will be the German anti-Islamic group’s first in the UK.
The counter demonstration will be attended by Respect MP George Galloway, among others.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Feb 2015
A community leader making a stand against an “anti-Islam” demonstration in Newcastle has received beheading death threats from a vile racist thug.
Councillor Dipu Ahad, a key figure in Tyneside’s Muslim community, told how he received a late-night anonymous call saying “you watch; going to kill you, you just watch.”
Mr Ahad, who says he has been the target of racist threats on a number of occasions, said:
“They called me calling me a Black f****** b******. They also said they would chop my head off as well as a f****** Muslim ****.”
The call came as Mr Ahad helped organise a counter-demonstration to Pegida UK’s first British demo, planned to take place in Newcastle city centre at the end of this month.
Now, fears are growing that the protest is attracting members of the region’s Far Right organisations, which Pegida claimed they were trying to “distance” themselves from.
Pegida said last week they planned a “peaceful” demonstration not associated with any extreme Far Right organisations.
Hundreds of people have already gone online to confirm attendance at the rally. The British arm of the highly-criticised German protest movement say their North East following is one of the reasons they will be coming to the city on February 28.
Now, in response, multi-cultural group, Newcastle Unites, chaired by Howard Dickinson, say they will be organising a counter-demo on the same day.
Councillor Ahad, spokesman for the group, said:
“We pride ourselves on the diversity of our communities and our mixed heritages. Newcastle Unites notes, however, an increase in racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Britain and the rest of Europe. In particular a virulent Islamophobia movement known as ‘Pegida’ has emerged recently in Germany where it has been strongly condemned by politicians and faith leaders.
“We are aware that local racists are intent upon importing the ‘Pegida’ message into the UK and are organising an Islamophobic march through Newcastle.
“Newcastle Unites believe that such a development will only serve to stir up racism and division, undermine community cohesion and besmirch the name of Newcastle in the eyes of many in the UK and indeed around the world.
“We believe Pegida must be stopped from spreading their message of racist hate and intolerance and from getting a toe-hold in Newcastle and the UK.
“In the event of Pegida’s provocative march going ahead Newcastle Unites is committed to organising a vibrant, peaceful, multicultural and multi faith counter demonstration that will involve people from the widest possible backgrounds.
“The aim of the protest would be to send on clear and simple message that Pegida is not welcome in Newcastle. The people of Newcastle and the North East must all stand together in unity in the face of Islamphobia, anti Semitism and all other forms of racism and fascism.”
Councillor David Stockdale, from the Blakelaw ward, is backing the counter-demo.
“Pegida’s UK branch like to present themselves as reasonable and harmless. In planning their Islamophobic rally in Newcastle they claim to be operating completely independently of the usual extreme-right gang who frequent EDL and National Front demonstrations in the region.
“Nothing could be further from reality. A simple search of their Facebook and Twitter profiles reveal the truth. It’s the same people pedaling the same racist hate under a different banner.
“When I confronted Pegida about this they blocked me from commenting on Facebook and Twitter but the North East EDL seemed to take exception at being challenged. They spent much of the weekend cowering behind their anonymous Twitter account trying their best to intimidate me with not-so-subtle threats. I don’t encourage anyone to engage online with these bullies and I should have followed my own advice by ignoring them.
“I am fully behind the counter-demonstration being organised by Newcastle Unites. This is a broad Coalition of the Left who are coming together to stand up and speak out against Islamophobia, racism and intolerance.
“We will be standing shoulder to shoulder with Newcastle Unites in opposing the intolerant views of Pegida if they descend on our city. I encourage anyone who can to come along to the counter demonstration.”
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, dozens of Pegida chapters have popped up online, prompting some reports that the group is establishing a bigger presence across Europe.
Plans for the counter demo came on the day MPs warned social media users who spread racial hatred could be banned from sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
An All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into anti-Semitism wants prosecutors to examine whether prevention orders like those used to restrict sex offenders’ internet access could be used.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 09 Feb 2015
The Green Party has announced its candidate for Darlington in the forthcoming General Election will be Michael Cherrington.
Following the increased profile of the Green Party nationally, a Green Party group for Darlington has officially been formed, with the intention of fielding a candidate in each ward for elections to Darlington Borough Council, as well as contesting the Darlington constituency.
The Darlington Green Party group is looking for people to help them campaign in the town or who are willing to stand for council.
Mr Cherrington, who lives in the town and works in social care, said he had seen the negative impact of cuts to health and social care on people living in Darlington.
He added: “I have served vulnerable people in communities for the past twenty years and have and will continue to ensure that inequality levels are challenged so all Darlington residents have good opportunities and benefit from a better quality of life.
“People must be at the centre of all activity – I will ensure I listen to your concerns and needs.”
The Darlington Green Party group launched its campaign with a stall on High Row on Saturday and is campaigning on the grounds of social justice and long-term economic and environmental sustainability.
To contact the Green Part in Darlington email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01325-242498. The group can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
The General Election will take place on May 7.
The parliamentary candidate for Labour is sitting MP Jenny Chapman, the Conservative Party candidate is Peter Cuthbertson and the candidate for UKIP is David Hodgson.
No other parties have declared their prospective parliamentary candidate for Darlington.
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Jan 2015
Plans to put a more positive spin on a North-East town ahead of the airing of the next series of Channel 4’s Benefits Street are underway.
TV company Love Productions chose Kingston Street in Stockton to film its second series of the popular Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall show, dubbed by some as “poverty porn“.
The next series is expected to air in March and Stockton Borough Council says it is expecting a less-than-flattering portrayal of the town.
Now businesses are throwing their weight behind a campaign to shine a positive light on Stockton.
The Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign has a website – http://www.positivelystocktonontees.co.uk – and social media accounts have been set up for people to share photographs, videos and stories about the area.
Now, thanks to donations from local businesses, the best submissions will be rewarded in a monthly prize giveaway, the first of which is afternoon tea for four at Wynyard Hall.
Council leader Bob Cook said:
“We came up with this campaign to create a space where people can share their views on what they love about Stockton-on-Tees and we’ve been delighted with the response so far.
Mike McGrother, Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman, said:
“What has been lovely about the response so far is the overwhelming reaction from across the borough – and beyond.
“We may not have the revenues and reach of Love Productions – but what we will do in response is a much ‘lovelier’ production all round.”
To find out more about the Positively Stockton-on-Tees campaign, and how to get involved, visit:
or follow the campaign on Twitter @positivelySOT
Source – Northern Echo, 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