Category: Politics

Is religion dying out?

Stephen Lambert

The current position of religion is far more complex. Spiritual beliefs are alive and well and are still the motivating factors in some people’s lives, even if they’re not expressed through organised churches or denominations. This has become pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Homelessness is blighting the north of England – a radical housing programme could alleviate it

Stephen Lambert

Although the number of rough sleepers in Newcastle is much lower than Manchester and other core cities, with up to 20 individuals sleeping out in the city centre on any given night, many thousands more make up the ‘hidden homeless’. Some sofa-surf in friends’ flats. Others sleep in cars or stay in charity-run hostels, grotty B&B hotels and other costly forms of temporary accommodation. According to the housing campaign group Shelter, a staggering 320,000 people are homeless in modern Britain.

W(h)ither women’s work

Sally Young

Although it’s been illegal in the UK to pay women less than men for fifty years, a 15.5% gender pay gap still exists. This year the Equal Pay Day in the UK was 20 November, the day women effectively start to work for free because, on average, they are paid less than men. Sadly there will be many redundancies after furlough and the perilous state of childcare means a disproportionate number of these are likely to fall on women.

International day for disabled people: the need for an inclusive approach

Julie Ward

In 1984 I found myself running an arts and disability agency for the north of England, and encountered the tail-end of the mass segregation programme that had resulted in millions of people with mild to severe physical and mental disabilities being locked away in large institutions, forced to do menial work for pocket money and with little say about any aspect of their lives. The arts activities that my organisation ran often opened up deep emotional scars from years of abandonment, disregard and abuse. Paintings, poems and performances were littered with powerful symbols of imprisonment and freedom.

Covid-19: a catastrophe for women

Ann Schofield

Women on low pay, are not just having to choose between the basics of eating and heating, as many families living in poverty prior to Covid-19 had to do. They must now choose between food, warmth and all the required expensive sanitizers and masks needed to keep their families safe. In ensuring their family’s survival, many women are going without essentials. This includes safe, hygienic sanitary products which they can no longer afford and aren’t freely available because of the closure of centres and schools that distribute them.

Part 5 Teesside airport: does Houchen have any mates at Stobart’s?

A S Hunter

Throughout the report the joint venture partner is referred to as ‘the preferred operator’, and in one table TVCA Chief Executive Julie Gilhespie is charged with identifying one by March 2019. However, on page fifty-one of the document there is an apparent lapse in their editing, and in a table Stobart is named where presumably ‘preferred operator’ should be.

Johnson, Patel and accountability: a personal account of bullying

Anne Greaves

I don’t know what marks someone out as a victim or what makes someone a bully, but bullying seems to be widespread. My older daughter Helen was bullied all through high school. She was just different, and that’s not allowed, apparently. She was difficult, wayward and demanding but she was also bright, funny, creative and loving. She was certainly not a girly girl, and that was a no-no back in the 90s when she was at school. I’m hoping things have improved since.

Private schools lie at the root of the UK’s inequality

Stephen Lambert

70,000 youngsters are now educated in private boarding schools. Till recently in decline, they’re going through a revival partly due to the popularity of Harry Potter films. As the author Alex Renton points out in ‘Stiff Upper Lip’, wealthy families from the Far East, Russia, Germany and Saudi are sending their boys and girls in huge numbers to these establishments to boost family status and to enable them to make the right connections and ”meet the right people”.

3p in my bank account: the story of Tony and Boris – both ‘just about managing’

Peter Benson

Tony is so proud he hates asking for help and always says there are so many others who are worse off than him. He volunteers at a charity in London; manning the library, sorting new books received, and handing them out. He loves it as he is on a rota and has a few buddies. There he is valued. He would never reveal just how badly-off he actually is as he doesn’t want people to know.

Forget fraud: it’s getting people to vote that counts

Stephen Lambert

Universal suffrage has been achieved for the majority of working people aged 18 and over. Yet some people still find it hard to vote in elections. For instance, people with physical disabilities sometimes face barriers, with 67% of polling stations not being accessible. Partially sighted or blind people experience obstacles to even make it onto the electoral registration system. In some councils, the forms aren’t easy to read or makes sense of.

BREAKING

The government needs to do more to save the High Street: a response to the Arcadia group administration news

Yvonne Wancke

Jessie Joe Jacobs, candidate for Tees Valley Mayor said: “Our High Streets are the heart and soul of our communities, my family’s business Jacobs’ carpets began on Stockton High Street and I am committed to seeing new life breathed back into it. Today’s news about the Arcadia group is desperately sad but we won’t go down without a fight.”

Britain and Ireland: a shared history

Judi Sutherland

I don’t feel responsible for what happened long before I was born. At the time of the Great Hunger, my ancestors were living lives of rural poverty as farm labourers in Scotland and England. None of them would have been able to vote for the British government that despised the Catholic Irish and conspired to keep them in poverty. I don’t feel responsible, but as an Englishwoman in Ireland, I have to be sensitive to the difficult history of our two countries. As last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests indicated, we Brits have a lot to learn about our country’s history of colonial rule.

The pandemic of violence and what to do about it

Julie Ward

So what can we do to stem the tide of gender-based violence apart from the usual petitions and letters to MPs? We need a system change across society starting with sex and relationship education so teachers and school governors should work together to implement age appropriate lessons. We need to increase women’s visibility across all sectors at the highest level, which means empowering girls to study STEM subjects and encouraging women to stand for election at every opportunity; it is heartening that we already have women police and crime commissioners in the region with more women standing in the forthcoming elections.

Covid-19 spending lacks scrutiny and is often misdirected

Giuseppe Bignardi

The lateral flow test that the government intends for mass testing is potentially less sensitive than RT-PCR, especially when used by self-trained members of the public. Is there a point in using tests that miss half or more of the infection cases? The introduction of population screening, with awareness of the test results, is likely to inform behaviour, but misplaced ‘reassurance from missed cases could potentially increase [infection] transmission’.

A way out: international day for the elimination of violence against women

Jessie Joe Jacobs

It is for this reason that we need more women in political positions, more women leading our councils and combined authorities and more women leading our economies. We need a balanced plan for people and places to thrive, ensuring women are given the priority they deserve. We need to champion women’s empowerment and women’s well being and to lift our voices to challenge violence against women in all its forms. I am standing for Tees Valley Mayor next year and this is what I hope to achieve.

Every ten seconds…

Peter Benson

But who is really looking out for the hungry in the UK? It seems to be down to all of us and businesses around the UK and an army of volunteers who so generously give their time energy and often money to volunteer in a charity food bank.

What say you, Home Secretary?

Alistair Cowan

Likewise my hilarious quip about starving the entire island of Ireland to death was widely misrepresented. I only intended to starve southern Ireland to death.

Part 3 Teesside Airport: Airline competition?

A S Hunter

Industry insiders have said that the Aberdeen and Belfast routes are the ones that are most commercially viable. But it is far from certain that there is sufficient demand for two airlines to compete for the business. Given the promotion that Loganair is getting, it looks as if Eastern is on its way out of Teesside. But are they being forced out, or are they trying to find an excuse to leave?

A renaissance of affordable homes is needed in the North East

Stephen Lambert

One striking exception to this was the ‘Byker Wall’ development in 1968 to 1982 – a block of 620 maisonettes with colourful architecture and sensitive landscaping. Five years ago the estate was transferred to the Byker Community Trust and has £20m investment since 2012. It won an award in 2017 – ‘Best Post War Neighbourhood’ at the Academy of Urbanisation.

A mind to extend?

Colin Gordon

The tale is that stories, or scares, about possible attempts to extend the Transition have been coming out of the ruling Vote Leave faction in the centre of government. This faction, or some of its members, have been having an internal soap opera/meltdown moment and (ostensibly) losing some key personnel to the grey area of ‘working from home/gardening leave’.

‘Good Trouble’ for the international day of the child

Julie Ward

Children growing up in post-pandemic, recession-hit Brexit Britain will have many challenges as they face a shrinking job market, mounting debts and a future cut off from their European peers, denied the right to travel, work, live and fall in love across a union of what was 28 different countries.

Left in the dark, left in the cold: why charities and social enterprises are worried about the replacement for EU funding.

Michal Chantkowski

The mainstream government funded support schemes, such as the ‘Work and Health’ and former ‘Work’ programmes are widely criticised for multiple reasons. They appear to be focusing on low hanging fruit, on clients who need little support in order to progress, while putting minimum effort into supporting those with complex needs or facing multiple issues, and at the same time channelling money into multi-nationals and corporations and Tory donors instead of supporting charities and social enterprises.

Review

‘Whites: On Race and Other Falsehoods’: a reflection

Anne Yvonne Gilbert

If you haven’t read it, Uwagba’s purpose in writing was to “sum up the tithes of co-existing with whiteness”. Fair enough, if I was black I’d be shouting too, but then she goes on “I just wanted to communicate the burden of whiteness, the mental and emotional trauma. This burden is placed on black people by the “progressive, liberal people that I interact with.” Wait a minute! The progressive liberals fighting racism and injustice in all its forms? Those liberals?

Protest at the Port of Tyne on the eve of deadline for Brexit talks.

Louise Brown

“With the EU summit on 19th November being seen as the deadline for a draft Brexit Deal, a protest took place at the Port of Tyne. This was to highlight the difficulties we will face importing and exporting goods into and out of the UK, if we crash out without a deal or if a bad deal is secured. We cannot necessarily rely on a trade deal with the US either to bail us out because Biden has stated for this to happen the Good Friday Agreement needs to be respected which is not scheduled to happen with the Internal Markets Bill. With less than 50 days to go before the transition period ends, let us not forget that the North East stands to be the worst affected by a No Deal Brexit.”