Concern over the government’s plans to acquire the nation’s GP held patient records reaches a state of sublime confusion. The government has directed NHS Digital to start taking medical records from GPs in England and Wales from 1 September 2021. This is with a view to creating a central database of pseudonymised patient data. This […]
Author: Scott Hunter
t begins to look as if Houchen has been a bit careless in his explanation, offering up the truth but not the whole truth. But then to be fair, the statement issued to the press is the work of his PR team. And his team has been less than fastidious in another respect here, which is the allegation that “this nonsense was first concocted by the Labour Party”.
Now that the South Tees site is being redeveloped, a new task has emerged, which is deciding on the preservation of some of its most important structures. Redcar MP and co-chair of Teesworks Heritage Taskforce, Jacob Young, is committed to commemorating this region’s industrial heritage.
So, in the same day, we saw the spectacle of vicious infighting among the parcel of rogues that constitute the Westminster government, and the abuse of someone who held up a mirror to them.
The mayoral system is essentially a presidential one. Except that it is a presidential system without checks and balances in place. And, speaking of presidents, Houchen has learned a great deal of his craft from Trump. Like Trump, he is expert in the use of social media. His PR team puts out a constant stream of news. Information and misinformation neatly entwined.
Make no mistake, the sentiment that prompted the action in Glasgow yesterday is widely shared across Scotland. And, in case anyone is in any doubt about that, this is not the first time that Westminster politicians have fallen foul of Scottish sensibilities. At the beginning of the 1980s Scottish Tories formed a large minority of the country’s electorate. The vulgarity of ‘Greed is Good’ put an end to that. Today the hostile environment policy causes widespread offence across the spectrum.
For days now, the town’s cemeteries have been full of people turning in their graves, as their descendants revoke all that they stood for, an act that has been accomplished with much wringing of hands. But the deed is done, the priorities of the people of Hartlepool have changed, and there’s no going back. One key question remains, however. That’s the question of what precisely the Tories have just acquired.
Sam knows just how difficult it can be to get voters’ attention, not to mention their approval, in an election. It is not just that the main parties have party machinery to support them, it is also the fact that their voices are amplified by the media. There is no level playing field.
Scott Hunter interviews Rachel Featherstone, Green Party candidate for the Hartlepool by-election
The popularity of the Brexit party in recent years may also provide some insight into what is happening in Hartlepool today. What UKIP, the BNP, the Veterans’ and People’s Party and other similar groups have had in common is their anti-immigrant, islamphobic, hang-‘em-and-flog-‘em agenda. The Brexit party dispensed with that, and instead set up with no policy platform at all, other than the realisation of Brexit. Now, under the name Reform UK, the party has a limited platform – most notably opposition to lockdown.
Where opacity means transparency, and jam tomorrow means jam today
So, in order to try to get a picture of what the real issues affecting Hartlepool are, and what its future should be, we need to look beyond these parties, to find the people who have given it some thought and who, importantly, have written their own scripts. These are to be found among the independent candidates in this election.
The starting point for this is the need to deal with rising inequality in the region, capitalizing on the region’s industrial strengths and applying them to the industries of the future, hence the focus on the climate economy and the digital and tech sector. Her aim is to train up to 10,000 people in climate industry skills, either through apprenticeships or through loans and grants to support other workers, developing a training hub for climate jobs, and providing business investment and the creation of a green industrial park.
Save our Steel Heritage and Tees Steel Bridging the World have started a petition demanding that the heart of the Redcar blast furnace be saved and turned into a monument to commemorate 170 years of iron and steel making on Teesside. “Larger than the Angel of the North, the Heart of the Furnace would act […]
We should point out that elections in Hartlepool have often attracted a relatively large field of candidates, as is also the case with by-elections. Put the two together and the final list of candidates may turn out to be quite bewildering. The last time there was a by-election here, in 2004, it attracted no fewer than fourteen candidates. But even before all the candidates are named, the party has definitely already started.
And what did the people of the Headland do when it became clear that their supposedly independent councillors weren’t actually independent after all? Nothing. No fuss. Hartlepool people don’t make a fuss. Some were undoubtedly upset by what had happened, but they expressed their discontent very, very quietly. And the anti-Brexit minority would defend the town by pointing to the Headland and saying “it’s them on the Headland. They’re very Brexity”.
The government’s pay award of 1% to NHS staff has received widespread condemnation for its parsimony. There has been further condemnation that workers in the care sector continue to suffer low pay and poor working conditions.
The surprise inclusion of Darlington at the last minute, makes you wonder just what the strategy was. The press and social media response to yesterday’s announcement has been predictable – Sunak picks a site thirteen miles from his own constituency. It’s not so special; there are government departments in other parts of the country, even Treasury ones. And so on.
Teesside University offers free digital skills courses
Work has started on the business park at the airport. Could it turn the airport’s fortunes around? And who thinks it’s a good idea to encourage H.M. Treasury to set up home there?
In the other small corner, however, what is left of Scottish Labour is in a state of complete anarchy. They know that whatever they do, they lose face. If they support the ballot, there is the prospect of unleashing the wrath of Starmer, the withdrawal of support by Labour in England, and never getting on TV. If they boycott it, they become a laughing stock – once again, as in 2014, when the chips are down, the Labour Party is handmaiden to the Tories.
The response to Starmer’s recent statements indicate that there has been some kind of trade-off, whereby the price of unity is the absence of discussion, and an acquiescence over Starmer’s apparent preference for pragmatism. In reality that is a dangerous strategy.
The electorate owns its own Brexit. And the nationalism on which it depends is alive and well, and so wholly irrational that Labour cannot embrace it. And while it remains in the ascendancy, no progressive agenda can succeed.
To make matters worse, the members of Stockton Council, in the late 1980s, renamed Trafalgar Street, which recalled Britain’s greatest naval victory and passed through an enormous tract of wasteland, and called it ‘Council of Europe Boulevard’.
Now it would be unwarranted to deduce from the opinion of a single bigot, the mindset of English Brexiters as a whole, but we have all seen comments like this before; in recent years applied in equal measure to the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland. So, while the Libertarian ideology of Cummings and his associates does not exclude Scotland per se, parts of England’s electorate do.
Witness, for example, the hesitation of the government earlier in the year to initiate a lockdown. Did we hear cautionary voices saying “the British will not acquiesce in this, they love their liberty too much”? (you certainly found them in the Spectator). But when the lockdown came, people just got on with it, clapped along, and failed to rebel at all (at least not until the famous incident at Barnard Castle.) So, when people started to become cynical about lockdown, who was behind it?
I checked back and found accounts that were full of grandchildren and family gatherings. And, noticeably, short on political messaging. These were people who would be appalled at the idea that they might be seen as zealots for a political cause. These people wanted to convey the impression that their kids and grandkids were their world. Everything else came second. All Facebook users use the medium to project an image of themselves. These were no less valid than anyone else’s.
Redcar and Cleveland MP tweets out a joke about his new haircut, and gets back more than he bargained for. It’s turning out to be an entertaining week for Redcar MP Jacob Young. It started last Saturday with him getting his first bought haircut in three months. He was so pleased with it that he […]