Category: Politics

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.”

The secret diary of Dominic Cummings, aged 48 1/2

Alistair Cowan

Later on, me and Lee went and had a smoke in the No 10 bike shed and talked about what a sissy BJ is hanging around with soppy girls. Lee is great. He’s dead hard. He showed me the flick knife he smuggled from his school trip to Boulogne.

Escaping the plague in the ‘otherworld’: a journey to Skye

Robin Tudge

So hitting the islands was very welcome. Off Mull, we watched seals watching us aboard a whale-watching boat tour, that took in Minke whales blowing and breaching, porpoises shyly showing their fins, and leery dolphins. We were treated to the whales, dolphins and flocks of seagulls and gannets cooperating to massacre a shoal of fish, the whales going deep to herd the fish to the surface, the dolphins corralling them, the gannets dive-bombing into the water at 60mph.

Resisting the far right in the North East

Stephen Lambert

There remains a real danger that UKIP or even Nigel Farage’s re-launched Brexit Party into the new Reform Party could become more racialised. If Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy and programme fails to deliver in the North and Midlands, these parties could enjoy a future resurgence in the region’s urban towns and coastal communities. They already hold a number of council seats in both Hartlepool and Sunderland, and they polled well in local elections in Newcastle’s east end.

The UK’s political generation gap is bigger than ever

Stephen Lambert

Age apartheid, with a generational divide in voting habits and political attitudes, has become a feature of post-Brexit Britain. For Stephen Burke, director of the think tank United for All Ages, the UK is increasingly divided by age and generation. The UK has an ageing populace. In 2020, the over-65s numbered 12.2 million, exceeding the number of those under-18.

Opinion

Johnson’s Groom of the Stool skips out of no.10 …

Scott Hunter

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?

Kindness breeds kindness

Daisy Windsor

It doesn’t matter if you missed World Kindness Day. It can go on all year. And kindness really does breed kindness. It is infectious in a good way, and it makes the giver of kindness feel so good. It really is win-win!

Observing elections: a tool for democracy

Julie Ward

I was observing the USA elections as part of an international virtual civil society mission under the auspices of Democracy Volunteers. We observed in pairs, applying the ‘four eyes’ principle, attending online events and monitoring media reports. My partner and I were assigned New York State where Covid-19 has been rife since the outset and continued to dominate the headlines throughout the election period. I also undertook some additional media monitoring of the Chicago Tribune, reading on one occasion a concerning report of voter intimidation by a ‘Proud Boys’ flyer campaign near a polling station.

UPDATED

How low will Jenrick go? UPDATED

Peter Benson

The public accounts committee (PAC ) of MP’S issued a highly critical report on the actions of Mr Jenrick on the 11th November with the chair of the PAC suggesting that the distribution of funds gave “every appearance of having being politically motivated “

Carbon capture: where there’s green there’s gold

Julia Mazza

Then there’s the politics. Tees Valley’s Conservative Mayor Ben Houchen has claimed ownership of the CCUS idea, a handy way of shoring up support for his new mayoral role. The South Tees Development Corporation has no Labour representatives on its board. After the May 2019 local elections of the five member councils – Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Darlington – the Labour Party controls no council outright.

A real living wage is good for both North East workers and employers

Stephen Lambert

6,500 British employers now pay their staff the Real Living Wage of £9.30 an hour including Newcastle and Sunderland Councils. The implementation of the RLW has benefitted 1,200 city council employees. These staff are primarily based in schools or are ancillary workers, such as cleaners and cooks. Most are £1,100 better off as a result of this pay policy.