Section: UK

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Opinion

Would you pay for a hug?

Peter Benson

How sad it is that real people and human interactions have been left behind in the need to shelter or shield from Covid-19. And how distressing to hear relatives talk about being denied a visit to their loved ones in a care home where a familiar voice or a song can bring back such happy memories.

Revisiting the Youth Training Scheme in the North East

Stephen Lambert

Falling profits, automation and the demise of heavy industry meant that the number of new jobs was shrinking in the region’s manufacturing industries. By 1981, the number of apprenticeships had halved since the mid-1960s peak, when over a quarter of male school leavers got an apprenticeship.

Please sir, can I have some more?

Sally Young

From the 1970s onward, successive governments have pulled back from the state provision of a nutritional meal. Remember “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher”? Usually the dogma was around the Nanny State – though I’m rather taken with David Baddiel’s comment that the ”people who most object to the Nanny State are nearly all brought up by nannies”. The growth of the food industry, junk food, consumer choice and fast food – also the drive of privatisation, reduction of council costs, crackdowns on benefits and the reduction in numbers of those entitled to Free School Meals resulted in a decimation of the school meals service.

Music

Sunderland indie rock band releases new single

Daisy Windsor

Plastic Glass is no stranger to the local live scene, having played sold out headline shows at venues such as Think Tank (Newcastle) and Independent (Sunderland) as well as supporting indie outfits The Snuts, The K’s and The Pale White. Now working with nationally acclaimed promoters Scruff of the Neck and This Feeling, the Sunderland four piece are travelling further afield, having already played shows in Leeds, Glasgow, Carlisle and Manchester this year before being cut short.

You write the songs

Robina Jacobson

Each of the songs in the album contains a truth and a mood of our times. In their different ways they narrate the course of our lives since the referendum in 2016, and what is most remarkable, through their combined wealth of intelligence the artists offer us hope. Listen to ‘Tea with the Devil’ by Rosemary Schonfeld and you will smile at the clever portrayal of an urbane Devil who has pocketed the consciences of Prime Ministers and Presidents, or throw your arms in the air with delight as Mitch Benn sings all the things you ever wanted to say but didn’t dare.

Opinion

How bad recipes are deflecting attention from truthful debate

Louisa Britain

All in all, I would imagine you might just about be able to cover the full cost of this for ten pounds, if Aldi does sell a small chicken for £2 at all. Not being near enough to Aldi myself to just pop in, I rely on memory, which suggests that £3-4 is more likely. There are utensils to factor in. Do you have roasting tins, a stock pot, a reasonably good knife? Come to think of it, do you even have an oven and a hob?

New coronavirus exit strategy backed by MPs, scientists and health professionals launched today

Kate Bredin

The proposed first step, Control, sets out nine measures to reduce the R number (rate of transmission) below 1, including developing an effective national Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) program; improving clarity of communication around measures required; organised clear media updates on local infection rates; devolving power back to local authorities to deal with local outbreaks; and full financial support for anyone required to self-isolate.

Review

The Untethered soul: the journey beyond yourself by Michael A. Singer

Nicola Tipton

It is not a book to be rushed. I read a chapter at a time, and for want of a better word, ‘meditated’ on its contents, let it sink into my mind before I moved on. I did not read more than one part on any single day and sometimes I only read one chapter and spent time trying to put into practice what I had learned, experienced, through the words.

Let them eat Christmas cake-Tory policy and child poverty

Lesley Anne

How have we come to this is the question I have asked most often in the last week, why is leadership on the most fundamental of issues coming from a young man of 22 with no political experience or ambitions other than to make sure children are fed. I think it’s clear Marcus Rashford’s own experience has given him a deep seated understanding and empathy; he knows what it’s like to be a child who is hungry and to feel the accompanying shame and stigma.

Lucy’s story

Louise Brown

With Lucy’s freedoms curtailed in so many ways she, and many other young people, are certainly having a tough time of it at the moment. With no nights out with friends allowed to ease the pain it’s going to be a long hard winter. Let’s hope Boris Johnson considers this during the current crunch time Brexit talks and gets a good deal for the sake of everybody but especially our young people.

To have and have not: the north’s growing education class divide

Stephen Lambert

The stark reality is to many disadvantaged youngsters living in inner-city wards and the outer-council estates are trapped in over-crowded housing conditions where there’s little space to do homework. Many lack personal computers or laptops – termed ‘digital exclusion’ – a situation compounded by the Covid-19 lockdown.

Food glorious food!

Peter Benson

But this food bank, like all others throughout the UK, is likely to see a new surge in demand as furlough ends and new Tier 2 or 3 Lockdowns are announced, causing losses of tens of thousands of jobs. It’s estimated London could lose 200,000 jobs in ‘hospitality’, and hundreds of thousands more are at risk all round the UK. So, a huge crisis is developing as we approach Christmas.

Poetry Corner

The Lords of Misrule

Suzanne Fairless-Aitken

On the banks of the Thames Between Vauxhall and Ranelagh Big Ben strikes for the masked ball. Welcome to the Pleasure Gardens one and all! A Parliament of Fouls in a world-upside-down, Carnal carnivalesque, Masquerading as government The Lords of Misrule hail Clown Prince Boris, See his gilded masque, bumbling persona, How jolly, how funny, […]

No deal or a bad deal?

Richard Corbett

A minimalist deal would be a bad deal. Anything that reduces our access to the single market for our exports and our supply chains (including for food and medicine), to Europol and police co-operation, to EU research programmes (especially medical research), to cross-border road haulage permits, to the EHIC health insurance card for travellers, to the ERASMUS student exchange scheme, and to much else, would be damaging to Britain, destroying jobs, reducing security, and inflicting red tape and bureaucracy on businesses and citizens alike.

Princesses and makeup at the local virtual xmas market: Part 2

Yvonne Wancke

Jill is keen on the idea of supporting other businesses to help us all overcome challenges and move into 2021 with greater optimism. She says: “I love the idea of the Christmas market as I think and hope this year people want to support small businesses and buy locally if they can.“

BREAKING

Covid hit businesses call for pragmatic approach to secure historic UK-EU agreement – CBI & trade associations

Yvonne Wancke

The CBI and 71 trade associations and professional bodies representing 190,000 businesses and seven million employees are calling for politicians on both sides to carve a path towards a deal. Sectors from automotive to aviation, chemicals to creative industries, and farming and food to pharmaceuticals – are united: securing a quick agreement matters greatly for jobs and livelihoods

Finished at 55?

Stephen Lambert

Despite the publication of the Augar Review, the last decade has seen adult and community education being starved of resources with the virtual disappearance of ‘night-classes’. Day-time opportunities for older adults to update their skills to become plumbers or electricians have been cut to the bone. Yet, these are things that could help the older unemployed worker get back onto the jobs ladder.

Why did the Millennium Bridge turn purple and yellow?

Louise Brown

People with DLD experience lifelong difficulties and it is not yet known exactly what causes it. It is likely to stem from a number of factors, however, including genetic and biological influences. A referral can be made to Speech and Language Therapy services for assessment and diagnosis. Speech and Language Therapists can then provide support for the difficulties DLD causes to enable those with the condition to be successful in work, study and everyday life.

¡No pasarán!

Julie Ward

Justice for Pavlos I visited Athens several times in the summer of 2019 as part of Greek Solidarity missions. On one occasion I was introduced to Magda Fyssas, the mother of the murdered left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas, otherwise known as Killah P (loosely translated as killer of the past). Magda was tired. Ever since her […]

Boris needs to do his homework!

David Taylor-Gooby

A CETA deal would not stop border checks of tariffs on some goods. There would still be checks at borders. If you want to see what this is like, travel to the southern border between Montenegro and Croatia south of Dubrovnik. The queue of lorries being checked, not just for what goods they are carrying but also whether they harbour illegal immigrants, is enormous.

How low will Jenrick go?

Peter Benson

Critics pointed out that relatively prosperous towns such as Glastonbury (low-priority listing) were chosen for inclusion in the Towns Fund publication, but relatively poor towns such as Tynemouth (medium priority listing) were not. For medium-priority towns in the North East like Tynemouth, Sunderland, Seaham and many others, the chance of access to the Towns Fund has not just diminished, it has gone. They have been erased by a centralist, elitist government which focusses solely on the rich and powerful.