Saturday, April 30, 2005
Sunderland AFC, Coca Cola Champions 2004-5_________________________________________________________________
Fans celebrate last night's win at West Ham United
After a thrilling 2-1 away win at West Ham last night, Sunderland were crowned Coca Cola Champions to mark their return to the Premiership in style. Marlon Harewood opened the scoring for the Irons, his third goal in successive games against the lads, however Julio Arca levelled the scores before half time and in the second half Sunderland dominated. Substitute Stephen Elliot claimed a superb winner after quick build up play to set up wild celebrations both on and off the pitch.
There will be an open top bus parade through the city of Sunderland on Monday 9th. May, when the team can be presented to thousands of fans along the route, as well as showing off the Championship trophy, it will be a very proud moment for Mick McCarthy and all of the team.
Legends pay tribute to the Champions - click here
Match report - click here
The final match of the season is at home against Stoke City next Sunday (1.00 p.m. kick off), I understand that 44,000 tickets have already been sold, so tickets are now becoming harder to get.
Get match tickets - click here
Blair and Howard move away from the Iraq issue
Michael Howard and Tony Blah have today moved away from the Iraq issue and questions over Blah's honesty, to try and refocus their campaign strategies. With just four days remaining before the vote New Labour continue to hold a healthy lead in the opinion polls, but turnout could prove crucial.
Jill Lawless in the Guardian - click here
Thursday, April 28, 2005
It's good for the sole!_________________________________________________________________
For the first time in twenty years I've joined in! I volunteered my services for one of the political parties (after a lengthy absence) and took delivery of a batch of leaflets destined for the Lytton Park estate. It's not far from home, and I reckoned a good stiff walk would do me some good!
I'd almost forgotten what it felt like marching up and down garden paths in a pair of heavy leather soled shoes, with a shower in the offing, getting the backs of your right hand scratched by unruly letter flaps, and then trying to remember where you left the car!
It turned out to be not so bad, the showers were quite light, and having overdressed for the occasion, a little rain was a relief. The whole estate took an hour and a half, so after a long day at work it helped build a healthy appetite. Mrs. Curly and the kids think I've gone quite mad!
The least we can do to engage in the democratic process is to turn out and cast our vote, the next step is to volunteer some help to one of the candidates, following that, make a choice about whether or not to join a political party. If you don't like the way that some things are done (on your behalf) and you want to change something, it's often easier to do it from the inside, rather than trying to influence events from the outside.
If you are seriously interested in politics and how the decision making process affects the lives of those around you, you may as well think seriously about being a candidate yourself. You don't need to be in a political party, many independent candidates have success in local elections and sometimes one or two win a seat in Parliament (although, this is exceptional).
Bad Blah Day
Seems that Tony Blah has had to defend himself all day long about the allegations that he lied about the central reasons for going to war against Iraq. 10 Downing Street released the full text of the reports from the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. At first Lord Goldsmith advised that participation in the attack would be an unlawful act (on March 7th. 2003), yet only 10 days later he changed his advice to conclude that Iraq was still in breach of UN disarmament obligations.
What happened during those ten days?
Richard-Norton Taylor transcript - click here
Tony Blair a serial liar - click here
I took the unusual step of ringing my old friend Baroness Thatcher to seek her opinion of Blah's character during this "liar" crisis
It seems the two of us are still in total agreement!
(Picture by Hypnochick)
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Voting down under_________________________________________________________________
It appears as if polling day down under in Australia is not the dour boring experience that we have here! It's not just the excitement of the ballot paper (where you can vigorously scratch through the names of the candidates that you dont want), but the general party atmosphere generated by the local community. It seems that it's quite normal to find things like bouncy castles, bbq's, cake stalls, tombolas etc. outside the polling stations
I guess it gives the kids something to do on a Saturday off (they also have the added advantage of decent weather all year round.)
Aussie rules - click here
Naturally a lot of those fun ideas could never be allowed here without the need for things like a local authority Food Hygiene Certificate, third party public liability insurance, health and safety risk assesments, crowd safety barriers, fully qualified first aid practioners, etc., etc., etc.
1,300 year's worth of education is lost through truancy in the North-East, with South Tyneside as on of the worst offending authorities according to the Conservatives.
Full story - click here
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
At last the opposition parties are concentrating some fire power on the issue of Blah's credibility, honesty, and all round trustworthiness! He has come under increasing attack today from the Tories and the Lib-Dems over his decision to go to war on the flimsiest of intelligence "evidence". Brian Sedgemore, the 68 year old former Labour MP has jumped ship to the Lib-Dems, accusing Blah of "stomach churning lies" and urging voters to give him a bloody nose on election day.
Michael Howard taunted Blah by stating that "This is election is about character, it's about your character and the way you do business."
Kennedy was obviously cock-a-hoop at the defection of Sedgemore.
Pivotal defection - click here
Monday, April 25, 2005
It's been a bit of a fractious Monday as far as this election is concerned, particularly with the Iraq situation raising it's ugly head. However, I'll start off with this funny but very irreverent flash movie "London Calling" which I bumped into yesterday. It always amazes me the lengths of ingenuity and inventiveness people go to when composing flash movies. You will need Macromedia's Shockwave player to view the movie, but there is a link to download it, and it only takes a few minutes.
London Calling election movie - click here
Last night's meeting in South Shields featured all but three of the candidates for the two South Tyneside constituencies, the meeting had a distinctly anti-Iraq war flavour to it, and this reflected the general themes expressed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties today. The general line of attack has been that Tony Blair has been less than trustworthy about his accounts on the intelligence reports that led to his decision to send British troops to back the Americans and their efforts to oust Saddam and his cohorts.
Neither Richard Lewis , the Conservative candidate, nor Roger Nettleship, an independent candidate for Jarrow, attended the meeting.
Did Blair lie over Iraq? - click here
Charles Kennedy has been scathing in his assesment of Tony Blahh today, going so far as to suggest that if he were re-elected the Prime Minister could not be trusted to keep us out of another war. He reflects my own view that the U.S. are strategically placed to attack Iran over it's nuclear arms policy, with large garrisons to the left and right in Iraq and Afghanistan.
PM could drag us into new war - click here
Michael Howard has been more direct and straight forward by branding Blahh a liar
"He has told lies to win elections. On the one thing on which he has taken a stand in the eight years he has been Prime Minister, which is taking us to war, he didn't even tell the truth on that," Mr Howard told the BBC.
Howard accuses Blair of lies - click here
In Sedgefield where Reg Keys is standing against Blahh as an Independent, celebs are arriving in droves, and representatives of the world's press descend to hear from the father of a Lance Corporal killed in Iraq (in the same incident that killed one of our boys from South Tyneside). Reg has a former Labour MP as his agent and also has the help of another famous former independent MP Martin Bell, his funding is increasing daily with lots of donations, and I'd be fascinated to see how many votes he wins on May 5th. The Independent has ran a lengthy article on Reg Key's campaign in Segefield (where Blahh has been seen just once since the election was called)
Reg Keys in The Independent - click here
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Immigration and Labour_________________________________________________________________
Have the Labour Party introduced a deliberate policy of increasing levels of immigration from non EC countries, in an experiment of social engineering?
Alasdair Palmer writes in the Telegraph that this is indeed so, but that the issue has been given little or no airing at all since the policy was adopted. His arguement is that we are creating a cheap labour market with a propensity to vote Labour.
Read Palmers article - click here
The Sunday Times has a photocopy of a memo from Alastair Cambell suggesting that Labour is just about home and dry, and that all efforts from now should be concentrated on ensuring a decent turnout (the main threat to Labour's majority)
On a happier note I'm delighted to pass on my congratulations to all at Sunderland AFC for winning promotion to the Premiership. Manager Mick McCarthy has fashioned a hardworking team lacking in big egos and big salaries; they have earned their right to play against the best, and I wish them well for Friday's away game at West Ham when they could be crowned Coca Cola Champions!
Top scorer Marcus Stewart (pictured) grabbed the equaliser with a scything low drive past Ian Walker before Steve Caldwell rose to head in majestically from a corner in the second half to seal a 2-1 win against Leicester City. The Leed v Ipswich game dragged on agonisingly minutes after the final whistle at the Stadium of Light where almost 35,000 fans waited for the news of a draw in that game, which assured Sunderland of a promotion place.
Read the official club reactions - click here
South Shields Tory Update
South Shields Conservatives_________________________________________________________________
It's good to receive some news from our local election campaigners, it provides proof that they are thinking about our concerns and are articulating them to the local populace. I've just received this update from the South Shields Conservative Association regarding the party's plan to scrap the proposed property revaluation project.
Labour's latest stealth tax plan
Millions of home owners will be saved an average GBP270 a year in council tax bills when the Conservatives win the May 5 general election.
Party Leader Michael Howard has promised to halt Tony Blair's latest stealth tax by cancelling a revaluation of domestic properties which is expected to result in seven million homes moving into a higher council tax band across England.
He made the pledge at an election press conference in London, which focused on the Conservative local government campaign, and where the party launched its manifesto for the local elections - also on May 5.
Mr Howard declared: "We will stop Mr Blair's next stealth tax dead in its tracks by cancelling revaluation. Based on what happened in Wales, this will save seven million homes in England from paying more - GBP270 more, each and every year, for the typical household."
The commitment is part of a straight-forward five point action plan designed to keep your council tax down. This involves easing the burden on councils, by abolishing unnecessary and costly regulations; ensuring fairer funding from Whitehall, by introducing greater transparency over grant distribution; delivering a fully-funded settlement for local government, with an above-inflation increase for local councils, and significant increases for schools, police and health and social services; halving council tax bills for the elderly by reducing the charge levied on millions of adults aged 65 and over by up to GBP500 a year; and by scrapping the planned property revaluation throughout England.
Denouncing the way Labour has hammered home owners with relentless council tax increases, and warning that Liberal Democrat plans to replace the council tax with a local income tax would cost a typical hardworking family in England, with two earners, at least GBP£600 more, he said:
"I believe in rewarding families who work hard and do the right thing. So I am going to stop Mr Blair's next stealth tax by cancelling revaluation. While he has talked, families have been struggling - last year, for the first time in a decade, their average incomes fell thanks to Mr. Blair's stealth taxes. The most punishing of all Labour's stealth taxes has been the council tax.
"For most families, their home is their most valuable asset. It's the bedrock of their security - both financial security and personal security. But Mr Blair has used people's homes as a means of taxing them by stealth. Most people will have just opened their council tax bills with horror. Well, my message to them is clear: you don't have to settle for this. You can make a difference. You can vote to stop the relentless rise in council tax."
Saturday, April 23, 2005
The blogosphere population is growing again with a huge rise in the number of political blogs dedicated to the election, the mainstream guys have finally caught on. New this week have been three "official" campaign blogs, Tony Blair's Campaign Diary, Kennedy Campaign.org, and Sandra Howard's Campaign Diary.
The first two are written by assigned hacks travelling with the leaders' teams, whilst Sandra Howard's is written by herself, and of the three it is the most readable by a country mile. I've added links to them all in the sidebar.
I had added some comments to Charles Kennedy's blog about the farcical situation where the Lib-dem Councillors in South Tyneside continually support Labour and voted for a 4.9% increase in Council Tax here, whilst Kennedy was calling for it's abolition. I questioned whether they were ever going to oppose Labour rather than be it's surrogate. Strangely, by the end of the day, my comments had been deleted from the blog - so much for democratic engagement!
In South Shields, as with many constituencies where the sitting member enjoys a large majority, the campaign remains lacklustre and deadpan boring, this election is being fought exclusively in the marginals. I worry that turnout on May 5th. will be poor. We did see a photo opportunity in the Shields Gazette last night featuring the independant candidate Nader A-Naderi and Alan Brown (see my previous post on the subject) and there was a notification of the meeting on Sunday evening at Westoe Road Baptist Church, to which all candidates have been invited. I think I should go along, if only to find out how many others attend.
The immigration issue has had no impact at all here, which is not surprising, we have lived with a mixed populace for centuries and we all get along very nicely here, it appears to be having some impact in other areas which have seen recent influxes of immigrants or asylum seekers, but I worry that the Tories may have overplayed this card. If they wish to close the gap with Labour they need to shift the focus firmly onto taxation, government spending, health, and crime; areas which surely will have far more meaning to the average joe in the street. We need to see statements that indicate how different our lives might be under a new government, but unfortunately Mr. Howard's team don't appear to be showing him as a Prime Minister in waiting but more like the journeyman challenger to a longstanding heavyweight boxing champion.
There are still two weeks to go, so perhaps someone can stir up the electorate with something a little bit special.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Nader letter to Miliband
Nader challenges Miliband_________________________________________________________________
In an attempt to inject some excitement and real politics into the campaign, the independant candidate Nader A-Naderi has issued a challenge to Labour's David Miliband to debate and discuss the the reasons behind our decision to go to war against Iraq.
He also discloses that South Shields businessman Mr. Alan Brown had withdrawn his own independant candidature in favour of Mr. A-Naderi. I publish some extracts from his campaign releases of today.
Open Letter to David Miliband
Dear Mr Miliband
I am writing to challenge you to explain to an open meeting of the people of South Shields why you misledus over 'weapons of mass destruction'.On 15 March 2003, just before the start of the illegal war in Iraq, you categorically stated in the Shields Gazette that you had "overwhelming evidence" that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.That claim was simply untrue - and was part of the pack of lies told by you, your leader Tony Blair, and other allies, over the past two years in relation to the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.
You have never come clean to the people of this town as to why you told us that untruth - nor apologized for misleading us.Now you have an opportunity to do so. You can come along - like myself and all other candidates invited by the people of the ecumenical Churches Together in South Tyneside movement - and explain yourself to a free and open public meeting,which is being chaired by the Bishop of Jarrow, the Rt. Rev John Pritchard. As you will be aware, the joint Churches Together inSouth Tyneside General Election Public Meeting for both the Jarrow and the South Shields Constituencies is being held at Westoe Road Baptist Church Hall, beside the Town Hall, on Sunday 24 April, at 7.30pm.I look forward to seeing and hearing from you person-to-person there and then.
Alan Brown statement
South Shields local businessman Alan Brown has put popular unity before personal ambitions and is standing aside in the South Shields election race so that a traders association can back fellow Independent candidate Nader A-Naderi instead.
In a dramatic last minute decision, Mr Brown, born and bred in South Shields 49 years ago, and a trader in the town for more than 30, held back his almost completed General Election nomination papers for aProtest Vote campaign he had planned to lead on behalf of Frederick Street Traders Association, Laygate, which he chairs. He said: 'I am not a political man, but wanted to run a campaign that would highlight the grievances of the Frederick Street Traders. My concerns are mainly local, and I recognize that Nader is more of a full General Election candidate, with more awareness overall of international, national and local concerns.
Mr Brown, who runs his own photographic equipment shop on Frederick Street for more than quarter of a century, explained that the origins of his plan to stand in the election were many years of bitter experiences of being given the run-around by politicians and officials over the promised redevelopment of Frederick Street and the surrounding area. He said: 'They invite us on to steering groups, but then do not listen to what we have to say. They make promises of action to us, but nothing comes of them.' We have had at least three meetings with the present M.P David Miliband on these matters but he did not listen to us. He is not doing his job properly.'
Mr Brown used to be a Labour voter, but said he did not trust any of the main parties any more. He said: 'Almost half of the electorate in SouthShields do not bother to vote, and the reason is that people do not trust the main parties and find that they do not listen. I am now putting my trust in Nader to publicise the sort of concerns I had on behalf ofthe Frederick Street Traders Association. I suggest to other people: "If in doubt, don't do nowt. Please use your vote".
'Nader said: 'When I heard about Alan Brown's plan to stand, I was moved to see that ordinary citizens like us, finding themselves with no voice and no representation were attempting to turn the tide of disappointment and disempowerment by engaging in the electoral process. However I was concerned about a confused Independent vote message. When we approached Alan for talks, we found that we had much in common in our mutual goals. If I had not been standing myself I would have voted for him. He is an excellent local representative and I will be happy to support him if he stands for the local council.'
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The new pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has taken the title Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Ratzinger, a 78 year old German has been introduced to to ecstatic crowds in St. Peter's Square, he is known as an uncompromising traditionalist, and has previously held the post of head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Many Catholics may be a little disheartened at the election of such a hard line fundamentalist, and one of such senior years.
Benedict XVI is the first German born pope for over a thousand years.
Election Result Latest..."Habemus Papa!"_________________________________________________________________
White smoke emerged from the chimney above the Sistene Chapel as the bells of St. Peter's Basilica rang out announcing to the world that the conclave of Cardinals has elected a new pope. The new Holy Father will be introduced to the world very shortly following the emrgence of the plumes of white smoke at 18.00 (local time). This has been one of the fastest papal elections in the history of the Roman Catholic church. The crowds in St. Peter's Square are already chanting "viva il papa".
Richard Lewis mail
Election warms up in South Shields at last_________________________________________________________________
I have just received a communication from Richard Lewis, the Conservative Candidate, his campaign is starting to gather momentum. He and his team have been busy formulating, designing, and arranging printing and postage of their literature, and they are about to go full steam ahead. Richard is a reader of this blog, and I think we can expect some input from him.
Mr. Lewis is a Borough Councillor in Hillingdon, West London, the place that some of you Newcastle United fans visited earlier in the season, and so has been tied down by some of his other commitments down there. This is without question a severe difficulty for a candidate in a constituency over 300 miles distant.
In the other big election, it's still "black smoke" today!
Monday, April 18, 2005
Intentional "stay at homes"_________________________________________________________________
The Sun and the BBC report on the worrying growth of those who intend not to vote at all, indeed I have found a blog dedicated to those who wish to explain why they won't be voting; Not Apathetic has pieces from thousands of "moaning minnies" crying their eyes out and complaining that the current political parties don't represent them. No doubt these very same people will carry on moaning and groaning throughout the life of the next government and beyond!
If you don't care for the political parties that are on offer in your constituency, then why not get off your apathetic arses and do something about it, instead of just moaning? Try joining a party and using your views to influence it from the inside, join a party that has no representation or organisation in your area and help to build it from scratch (it will surely then be in your mould), confirm your own views and opinions by raising enough money for the deposit and stand as an independant (like Mr. A-Naderi here in South Shields).
Whatever you decide, for God's sake stop proliferating websites with your "don't vote" message, it is extremely unhealthy in a democracy! In some states, I believe Australia is one, you have a legal duty and obligation to vote, and will face a small penalty for failing to do so, I wish it was thus in Great Britain. People fought and died to gain universal sufferage and the ability to elect their parliament, yet some of us would seriously weaken the strength of our institutuions by being too damned lazy to think about the issues, or to deliberately flunk out of making an informed choice.
My message to those on Not Apathetic is quite simple - GROW UP!
Not Apathetic -click here
Meanwhile The Sun has admirably started a campaign "Rock the Vote" to encourage the younger portions of the electorate to use their vote, they have enlisted the support of a number of "celebs" including Justin Hawkins, Noel Gallagher, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Dame Kelly Holmes. The paper recognises that if turnout trends continue to decline then future governments will increasingly be decided by the "grey vote", because the over 65's are the only ones to appreciate the importance of the event.
Justin Hawkins, one of The Sun's celeb backers
Rock the Vote - click here
In South Shields, the hustings for all intents and purposes appear to be totally non-existent, this may have something to do with the Shields Gazette's policy of being even handed with all political parties. The local newspaper has a duty and responsibility to give, as far as practicle, an equal amount of coverage to all candidates in the election, and so, it seems, they have taken a policy decision to give none at all. The lack of news quickly translates into a general lack of interest, the only activity in any media locally appears to be this blog and it's associated message board.
I went so far as to send an email to the Conservative Party candidate towards the back end of last week, you may recall my criticism of the party machine failing to monitor it's blog and it's mail box. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Mr. Richard Lewis suffers from the same problem. If someone reading this post could give him a gentle nudge?
The Independant Candidate Mr. Nader A-Naderi was kind enough to email me lots of campaign details and some pictures, thank you.
I will be making similar requests of the Labour and Lib-Dem candidates in the next few days.
Mr. Nader A-Naderi has paid his GBP500 to stand as an independant candidate in the General Election, I can now publish his picture.
Nader runs the family business Aquilla Computers in Laygate Lane, and he has put together a small one page website to publicise his campaign
I've had a little look through it and it states his current position and beliefs, and also has a message board for you to post your comments. The sentiment is admirable, but I still suggest that he has little to offer in the way of a firm policy statement, other than to say that South Shields folks ought to be represented by a South Shields man. I only wish, that having spent GBP500 on the deposit ( a serious amount of money for a person such as I on a limited income) that he could have thought of some serious issues that he would like to change, and offered some serious solutions to some of our local problems. However, one has to take one's hat off to him, he's prepared to put his money where his mouth is and seek public support, unlike 40% of us who moan and groan about the government of the day but can't be bothered to make a short trip to the polling station!
Saturday, April 16, 2005
National No Smirking Day_________________________________________________________________
The election campaign has coincided with a massive rise in public demand to move the annual National No Smirking Day to May 5th. this year. We are all well aware that smirking can be dangerous to your wealth, and is a major drain on the resources of the National Health Service. Senior consultants have described the effects of smirking as detrimental to their work in conquering suffering and increasing patient care, they blame targets set by smirkers as a contributing factor in the decline of community health standards.
Tory leader Michael Howard has taken up the cause and announced that should the Conservatives be elected they will increase resources for smirking cessation sessions, pending any pan-European ban on smirking in public places, he has commisioned his old mate Curly to produce a "smirk free zone" poster for use during the campaign.
I gladly reproduce it below.
Click to enlarge
Powergen Intermediate Cup Final
Sadly I must report that our brave and proud heroes from Westoe Rugby Football Club have failed in their efforts to bring the Powergen Intermediate Cup home to South Shields. Despite losing 21-11 to Morley it was a close fought game with Westoe piling on the pressure in the second half and keeping Morley on the back foot. However, we we will all remain intensely proud of their achievements in reaching this Twickenham final and gaining promotion within the same week.
With a little luck (depending on how fit the participants will be after tonight's party in Staines) I should be able to post some pictures of Westoe's day out in the capital tomorrow evening.
Friday, April 15, 2005
The Conservative Candidate has his own website, it's only a single page, but it's a start, shame he doesn't include a picture so folks can relate to him. Well at least you can find an email address.
Richard Lewis site - click here
MG Rover Collapses!_________________________________________________________________
Price Waterhouse Coopers have announced massive redundancies at the carmaker's Longbridge works following the collapse of talks with the Chinese Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp. This deals a hammer blow to Blair and Brown's claims on running a succesful economy, 5000 redundancies will have almost immediate effect with another 1000 after the site has been secured and mothballed.
Far worse is the fact that the Chinese now own the intellectual rights to the products and could possibly buy assets from the administrators and commence building the cars in China.
6000 additional unemployed in the midlands (where Labour holds seven very marginal seats) will not help the socialist cause there. This begs the question "why was this allowed to happen following BMW's massive investment and subsequent pull out?" The financial situation has been allowed to worsen considerably whilst the company wasted away to the point where it is no longer viable as a going concern, carrying massive debts.
I do not believe that any government should show immediate knee jerk reactions by investing in such industries, or (god forbid) nationalising, but our government could have moved heaven and earth to help find another buyer for the Longbridge plant. One might have expected the government of the day to have sufficient intelligence about the Chinese intentions to forewarn of the consequences of entering into negotiations with them; we are now faced with prospect of famous British marques such as MGR and MGF, Rover 75, 45, and 25 being built in communist China to help reinforce the growing belief that they will soon become the largest most powerful economy on the planet!
Someone at the DTI took their eye off the ball.
Are you listening Tony Blair, are you listening?
Reuters report - click here
Election Communication No.2
I received our second election communication today, it came from Mr. Nader A-Naderi, who is standing as an independant candidate. The envelope was hand written, so I guess he has a lot of friends and family helping to write the thousands of envelopes and stick stamps on them to post to the thousands of electors in South Shields. Mr. A-Naderi's campaign originated in the Stop-the-war movement, his leaflet tells me very little about himself other than he was a disillusioned Liberal Democrat and he lacks funding. There is a great lack of policy statements and nothing at all to describe how he would hope to represent the people of South Shields, or what his main platforms would be.
If you would like further details you can email his agent Philip Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org
The BBC so far is doing an admirable job of covering the election campaign with a huge cache of information available. For those who would wish to peruse the election manifestos that have been published so far, you can download them in pdf format (Acrobat Reader is required)
Download manifestos - here
Postal vote survey
Massive surge in postal ballot applications - Govt. invites observers!_________________________________________________________________
The Times reports a huge surge in postal ballot applications, sparking fears of electoral fraud, it seems that my fears are being vindicated. The government has taken the unusual step of inviting international observers to witness the electoral process. The biggest jump in applications has been seen in the most marginal constituencies.
Times article - click here
Thursday, April 14, 2005
The murky world of the Postal Ballot_________________________________________________________________
O.K. so you've already read of the seven deadly sinners (Labour Councillors in Birmingham and Blackburn) who stole and fraudulently used hundreds of postal ballots for themselves, now you want to know how you can prevent your vote from being stolen or misused.
The bad guys perfected a system whereby they persuaded hundreds of voters to apply for postal ballots, and further persuaded them that they needed help with the application form (oddly enough the ballot papers never arrived at the electors address, but went elsewhere), another variation is to offer "help" to fill out the ballot paper and associated forms, thus ensuring that a vote is cast for the favoured candidate. Further misdeeds have occurred by casting votes on behalf of the recently deceased. You can see now why a judge described the system as wide open to abuse.
You can prevent these things happening!
First off, try and vote in person at your designated polling station, without using the postal ballot service; if you must use a postal ballot do not allow any representatives of any political organisation to help you with application forms or the ballot papers, make use of the services of a trusted friend or relative instead. If you need to apply for a postal ballot, do it yourself, the application must be with the Electoral Registration Officer by 5.00 p.m. Tuesday 26th. April.
To ensure that you do not receive a postal ballot you must write to the Electoral Registration Officer by 5.00 p.m. on Tuesday 19th. April making sure that you sign and date the letter or form yourself. If you have any relatives or friends who have passed away during the last twelve months, it would be a good idea to write to the Electoral Registration Officer informing him, so that their names can be removed from the Register of Electors (nobody will be able to cast votes on their behalf!)
Electoral Registration Services
South Tyneside Council
Town Hall and Civic Offices
Tyne and Wear
I am not suggesting for one minute that dishonest practises are likely to take place in South Tyneside, in fact I'm pretty confidant that they won't, but these are sensible measures and precautions to take in order to protect your secret ballot.
Further information is available on the Council's website - click here
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
South Shields Conservatives
There's an election on!!_________________________________________________________________
I make this statement for the benefit of South Shields Conservative Association, who ought to be ready and able to mount a campaign on behalf of their candidate Mr. Richard Lewis. This means ready and organised, fit to fight a battle in a Labour stronghold, to attract as large an anti Labour vote as they can manage. Ready with an office, a point of contact, officers and volunteers ready to assist anyone who may be interested in helping out! Ready with a computer, loaded with the current electoral register and software able to register and record validated pledges.
I found their weblog last night and added it to my sidebar, I posted a comment in it, I sent an email, I expressed an interest and wished them well. Their response today?............................................................
There is none
For heaven's sake if you are going to go to the lengths of writing a blog and giving people a contact email address, then your pc needs to be monitored for replies, especially at the most periods, i.e. during an election campaign.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Cllr. Richard Lewis_________________________________________________________________
44 year old Londoner Richard Lewis, a company director and Councillor is the Conservative Party Candidate for South Shields. He is a school governor and is married with two young sons.
Read about him - click here
South Shields Conservatives are running an election blog, and you will find it in the side bar.
David Miliband is the sitting Member of Parliament for South Shields, a former Chief policy advisor to Tony Blair, he is now Minister of State in the Cabinet Office.
Mr. Psallidas is Jarrow born and is currently a Newcastle City Councillor, he is a project manager in transport and is the Liberal Democrat Party Candidate.
Contact details for Stephen Psallidas - click here
Come clean about taxes!_________________________________________________________________
I am in fervant agreement with the leader in the Daily Telegraph, the central battleground in this election ought to be taxation, and although the campaigns are at an early stage, the two major parties ought to come clean about their intentions. It is well acknowledged that Labour has a prior history of raising taxes after elections, and it looks as if this one will be no different. The intention may well be to raise National Insurance rates once more, so why can't lovey dovey Blair and Brown say so!
Similarly, Michael Howard would wish to reduce taxes if he won the election. Wouldn't it be nice if he could tell us which taxes might be reduced. Income tax rates, or personal allowances ought to be on the agenda. If his were to be a tax cutting government, then he needs to set his stall out now!
The Daily Telegraph -click here
Poll Winners Westoe!_________________________________________________________________
Westoe Rugby Club gained a landslide majority over Alnwick on Saturday, 58 - 0, to win the league title and promotion from Powergen North Two (East) Division. The South Shields electorate should be well pleased with their candidate for the Powergen Intermediate Cup Final against Morley next Saturday at Twickenham! I cannot remember (in my lifetime) any South Shields based sporting team reaching a national final. They will play to a packed H.Q. at Twickenham immediately following the main event (The Powergen Cup Final), kick off time is scheduled for 5.00 p.m.
Whatever the outcome, the lads will enjoy a great reception and party at Staines Rugby Club, who they defeated in the semi-final, we must say a huge big thank you to Staines for extending such magnanimous hospitality. Great gesture lads!!
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Cllr. Jown Wood, has promised a Civic Reception for the team on their return to the borough. I am very grateful to Phil Haswell for supplying these pictures of Jeb Shabbilla and the lads enjoying their title win. They get my vote for next weekend!
Click images to enlarge
Monday, April 11, 2005
Conservative Party Manifesto
The Tory Party has today published it's election manifesto, a slim volume containing only six basic pledges which they hope will have universal appeal. I'm particularly glad that the immigration issue is included. For far too long many politicians have been afraid to air views on immigration publicly, fearing being branded a racist or worse, however, with Michael Howard being of the Jewish faith, it would be very difficult to wave that card at him!
He is being sensible by including harder immigration quotas and controls in the manifesto, it is an issue which many people believe has been allowed to get out of control. We dislike the asylum policies, we dislike seeing taxpayers money thrown at these people, we dislike the crime that they bring, we dislike the way that they disappear as soon as they make an asylum application, we dislike the diseases such as tuberculosis that they bring in with them, we dislike their use of our National Health Service, in short we dislike intensely beeing seen as a soft touch!
Another issue which ought to find favour with the common man in the street is the pledge not to join in the European single currency, let's keep the pound and our Queen's head on our currency!
The Tories are also pledging a review on speed camera policies, for long seen as another stealth tax which has done little to improve road safety and much to improve police authority revenues.
Precis of the manifesto - click here
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Labour must put it's house in order!_________________________________________________________________
It seems to me that the issue of postal ballots needs to be seriously addressed at this General Election, Judge Peter Openshaw has described the system as being "wide open to fraud". Yesterday the same judge jailed another Labour Councillor in Blackburn for three years and seven months for staeling postal ballots and casting them for himself.
Is it a coincidence that six Labour Councillors were found guilty of electoral fraud in Birmingham on Monday by the same judge? Without wishing to be accused of racism, or prejudging the issue, I cannot but wonder why all seven Labour men were from ethnic groups within their respective communities.
With a number of Councils and Constituencies wishing to make further strides in the use of postal ballots, it's high time that The Labour Party insists on honesty within it's ranks or run the risk of the public turning against them and their methods.
Telegraph story - click here
Tourism is worth GBP78m to South Tyneside
One North East's Tourism Strategy reports that tourism is worth GBP78m and sustains 2,655 jobs within the Borough, we now need to find ways of harnessing the spending power of our visitors as well as attracting more of them.
Events such as the Great North Run, the Catherine Cookson Country Festival, and this year's Tall Ships Race will be major factors for limited time periods. These events provide a massive influx of visitors who need to be encouraged to return for lengthier visits.
Consequently we ought to be planning now for additional hotel accomodation, and I would like to suggest that the Gypsies Green site be seriously considered for a hotel/leisure complex. I would not like to see the outline of the landscape materially altered so any development there would need to be built sympathetically with maximum public support. My preferred type of building would encompass the design techniques employed at Sunderland's Stadium of Light, start by digging a very large hole and build up from there to the height of the existing surrounding landscape.
North Shield's Window on the World Festival is very quickly outgrowing it's environment and the last two events have drawn crowds that at times looked quite unsafe. An ambitious Council led scheme should be prepared to offer South Shield's coastline and parks as a better venue for the event, with imagination we could find theatre, music, vendors, comedy, and other public entertainments at the North Marine Park, the South Marine Park, the Bents Park, the Amphitheatre, Gypsies Green, the Town Centre, and the Market Place. I would dearly love to "steal" this event from North Shields.
Gazette tourism report - click here
Friday, April 08, 2005
If any reader (particularly in the South Tyneside area) wishes to contribute or join in the debate, I have launched a specific General Election thread on the message board. You can, of course, add your comments to these posts as well.
Curly's Corner Shop Message Board General Election thread - click here
You Gov Poll
First Yougov Poll_________________________________________________________________
The first Yougov Poll of the election reflects a raft of polls published this week indicating that the two main parties are neck and neck at the start of the campaign.
The big interest in today's poll is the amount of trust lost by Tony Blair and the possibility that he may no longer be an asset for the Labour Party.
There has been little campaigning today, as a gesture of respect on the day of the late Pope's funeral.
Yougov poll in the Daily Telegraph - click here
TV New Zealand reprts on the polls suggesting that Labour's majority will be seriously reduced, and that Blair is still likely to win the election but could well resign as Prime Minister shortly after!
TVNZ - click here
An indication of Labour's unease at Blair's unpopularity could be found in the decision not to place a photograph of the Prime Minister on the party's manifesto, and the decision by the majority of his party's current MP's not to feature the Prime Minister on their own election publications.
Nationally the party appears to be doing what it can to promote closeness to the Prime Minister, this is evidenced by the new "splash" that preceded the homepage on the party's website. I'm a little impressed with this "talk to Tony thing" I might give it a try. I'll speak my mind about how much of my earned income finds it's way into the Exchequor, how we sent our boys into a war in Iraq on very questionable "evidence", how I worry about the cost of educating my children when they are old enough to go to college, how I worry about going into hospital for something minor and perhaps being killed by the MRSA bug!! There are plenty of thing's I'd like to tell Tony, I hope the box is big enough!
The Labour Party - click here to tell Tony
The Conservative Party has announced on it's website that they will spend GBP52m on waging war against the MRSA bug in the NHS, a surefire way of wiping the floor with John Reid?
The Conservative Party - click here
Thursday, April 07, 2005
My mind goes back to the General Election of 1979 when Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives were returned with a landslide majority following the sufferings during the "winter of discontent", presided over by the late Jim Callaghan.
It was not the first General Election that I had been involved in, I had participated in a number of Local Government elections as a candidate and as a candidate's agent, but it was memorable because the country elected it's first female Prime Minister with such an overwhelming majority! The Conservative Candidate in South Shields was a little chap with a very loud voice named Roger Booth, he was an opposition Councillor on the old Tyne and Wear County Council, and was also a barrister. Originally from Newcastle he was one of those upwardly mobile types who were gradually emigrating westwards out of the city, by 1979 he and his wife and family were living in a charming large cottage in the remote village of West Woodburn, off the A68 in Northumberland.
For such a vertically challenged bloke he had quite a presence! Not for him sitting supping tea with the old girls of the women's section - out with a megaphone in the middle of King Street was more his style! As a debater he was quite incisive, and enjoyed some great cut and thrust with the members of the Whiteleas Social Club, I remember thinking it was a strange tactical decision to take the fight into such a Labour fortress, but that is what he wanted to do, because he was always a wee bit radical and refused to conform to the norms!
This radical departure from the norms probably explained his decisions to make a change in lifestyle by moving out of the city and into the countryside, and also to take on less and less work in the Law, in favour of writing and publishing a stamp catalogue! No ordinary stamp collector was Roger.......by golly no.......he collected "cinderella stamps". These are not ordinary stamps that you stick on letters, but stamps that get posted onto documents such as T.V. licenses, dog licenses, property deeds, inland revenue payments etc. There was no definitive guide to "cinderella stamps" so Roger decided it was time to make one, or two, or three.
Judicial stamps of Great Britain and Ireland - click here
A catalogue of the revenue stamps of the U.K. - click here
Yes he was quite a character, and as far as the election went, he amassed more than 15,000 votes for the Conservative Party, whilst the sitting Labour member, David Clark, held his seat with over 28,000 votes. I just felt that it was a bit of a shame that Roger did not persist with his political ambitions, the Commons might well have seen a whole lot of fun with him in the place!
Blair refuses to rule out tax rises
Following the Tory Party's mishandling of the Howard Flight affair, it seems that the "untrusted" Blair may have plans up his sleeve to introduce rises in National Insurance contributions if he wins the election. This would help plug the "black hole" in Gordon Brown's economic management. It seems both sides may have a hidden agenda!
National Insurance plans - click here
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
The importance of blogging.
The importance of blogging!_________________________________________________________________
Our politicians are becoming accustomed to technology and new communication methods, the last Presidential Election in the USA admirably illustrated the power of blogging as a force to disseminate information, and as a way to influence the target voting markets.
In recent months many of our MPs have taken to blogging or developed their own personal websites.
Today I have added a link in the sidebar to the much heralded blog of Alastair Campbell, that "archminister" of "spin", like many others I was sorely tempted to pass this blog off as an elaborate spoof, but a number of journalists appear to put faith in it's authenticity. The jury is still out, however, it might still provide some useful snippets of fun during the election campaign. I've already added some acerbic comments to one of the posts, just to see what the response is following his recent talking shop at the Customs House. That should help to ascertain how genuine it is, any way if you like a good laugh there is always Bill Clinton's Daily Diary in the side bar!
BBC's report on the suspect blog - clickhere
The Sun is No. 1 for Politits - click here
That rather down to earth rag The Sun ran with the following headline this morning, "They're Off", to illustrate the start of the election campaign, as is usual with The Sun they promise to keep us all "abreast of the news" :)
David Miliband's campaign for Labour in South Shields has certainly got off to a bright and breezy start, first leaflet arrived on doormats yesterday, and by this morning his HQ in Ede House, Westoe Road was brightly decorated and festooned with posters etc.
The Tories, for many years, also had their HQ further up the hill in Westoe Road, and when one saw the competing displays you knew that an election campaign was up and running. However, they ran into financial difficulties about twenty years ago and decided to sell the property. Since then they have had to meet in members homes or have larger meetings at places like the Ship Inn on Sunderland Road (the Old Ship). It must be difficult to attract new members if they cannot find a party building or office to enquire at.
Similarly I cannot think that the Liberal Democrats have a permanent base in the town.
Party buildings are expensive to buy and maintain, and the local associations would need to recruit many members in order to finance them. The Labour Party in past years benefited from large donations from the coffers of the Trade Unions (even if the members were less than happy about where their subscriptions were going.)
The voting system
One advantage of our current voting regulations is the ability to make a large "stuff the lot of you" protest by spoling the ballot paper. This can be done in a number of ways
a) scratch through the names of all the candidates (with venomous intent)
b) write comments against the candidates
c) sign the ballot paper with your name
d) vote for all of them
e) doodle all over the ballot paper
f) write a draft of your blog entry for the day on the ballot paper
The great thing is that spoilt papers are counted, although none of the candidates gets any votes, which is much different to being totally apathetic and staying at home, your ballot paper never gets counted in this way!
A great many people fought for our democracy and the rights to be enfranchised, so it is important that, one way or another, you use your ballot. There is nothing worse than listening to some bore moaning and whinging about the government of the day, only for them to tell you later that they never bothered voting last time!
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Milliband out in front for election!_________________________________________________________________
Prime Minister Tony Blair has been to visit the Queen today to seek the dissolution of Parliament, thus commencing the countdown to a general election on May 5th. His close friend and advisor David Milliband, MP for South Shields, and Cabinet Office Minister of State, was first out of the traps in the race. His first election leaflet landed on our doormats before the announcement of a general election was heard this morning.
I find that absolutely astounding! He obviously had the Prime minister's confidence to arrange delivery with the Post Office a few days ago.
The Liberal Democrat candidate Stephen Psallidas, in a letter to the Shields Gazette, wrote defending his party's record in Newcastle, where they have announced the lowest increase in Council Tax in Tyne and Wear, a whopping 1.7%. It's such a shame that his Lib Dem colleagues in South Tyneside could not have campaigned for a similar type of rise here, instead they went to bed with New Labour and won us a trifling 4.9% increase. With such political harlots as supporters, Mr. Psallidas may find the going a little awkward at times.
The BBC has join the blogosphere with an election blog "The Election Monitor", I shall be monitoring it to find how far to the left Aunty leans!
"The Election Monitor" - click here
Keele University has already set up a site that will provide you with just about any type of information that you requie about the election, parties, polls, past results, newspaper comments etc.
"British Government and Politics on the internet" - click here
The site will be invaluable for students studying for A level (or whatever it's equivalent is these days)
So the gloves are off, the phoney election is over, and we hope that postal ballots won't become an issue after the findings of wholesale electoral fraud in Birmingham. Local Government Minister Nick Raynford vowed to step up safeguards against the sort of fraud carried out in Birmingham, which the judge described as something "which would disgrace a banana republic."
Read more - click here
On a different note, I have been unfortunate enough to suffer a long running dispute with World Books and it's subsidiaries in Swindon. My complaint originated in December of last year when I emailed eTSP to complain about them continually sending books that I had not ordered, and continually having to arrange for them to be collected by couriers, and pay the carriage costs! They replied to my email five weeks later!! By then they claimed to have despatched a book about learning Excell spreadsheets (as if I needed it.) I emailed again to tell them it had not arrived, and wasn't wanted anyhow, they replied three weeks later telling me it would be collected.
By now you should have the picture of this complaint - to cut a long story short, I have written six letters of complaint to them, asking to close my three accounts, they wrote back just once, two weeks ago, demanding payment for the book that I do not have or want. I write again to assert that I do not have the book, I receive another letter yesterday demanding payment again plus another £5 for late payment and a threat to call in debt collectors!
My patience had now been tried to it's limit, so I decided to visit the Trading Standards Office at South Shields Town Hall, and, may I say, that the service I received from one of their officers was excellent. She telephoned the call centre in India, and showed me a trick about touch tone phones that I wasn't aware of (if you want to talk to a human being, don't press any buttons at all, the phone system will assume that you don't have touch tone dialling and will divert you to an agent) she was quite firm with the agent, and now I await the arrival of "non delivery form" which ought to sort the whole matter out.
If only these big companies could make it that easy for the ordinary customer!
A big thank you to the Trading Standards Officer!
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Massive logistical challenge for Rome_________________________________________________________________
Rome faces a massive logistical challenge in dealing with the expected number of pilgrims wishing to arrive for the funeral of Pope John Paul ll.
Reuters - click here
America's ABC reports that "Around the world, bells tolled and worshippers prayed in remembrance of the man who reigned for longer than all but two of his predecessors and was credited with helping bring down communism in Europe and spreading a message of peace during his frequent travels around the world".
ABC - click here
Some background on the women who tended the Pontiff
News 24 South Africa - click here
The world mourns the passing of John Paul ll_________________________________________________________________
Today millions of Roman Catholics, Christians, and others mourn the passing of Pope John Paul ll. His papacy lasted 27 years, the third longest occupant of the seat of St. Peter, as the keeper of the keys of St. Peter he will be long remebered, fondly, for his humility, steadfastness, and his love of humanity. His conservative views turned the circle and matched the fashion of the times reflecting our importance attached to the values of marriage, life, and respect and love for mankind. Not least will he be remembered as the most travelled pope, visiting 129 countries to spread his gospel of Christianity, and people will also remember his physical strengths, as a young man he was an athletic footballer and skier, as Pope he survived the bullet of a would be assassin.
Karol Wojtila grew up in Poland and studied for the priesthood in Nazi controlled Poland where the church and state went hand in hand, he understood repression and aggression. As he grew he learned the hard lessons of communist totalitarianism and his preachings and doctrines became enshrined in the Polish trade unions' Solidarity movement which eventually replaced the regime in his homeland. His views were so fundamental that they were instrumental in the breaking of barriers which would lead to the fall of communism in eastern Europe. John Paull ll's contribution to matters of human freedom should not be underestimated!
He was also a vocal critic of the inequalities of rampant capitalism, describing some of it's worst aspects as a new form of slavery.
He was one of the youngest Popes to have ever been elected by the College of Cardinals, and it surprised many that his world wide appeal eclipsed the achievements of John XXlll.
When the college convenes in the Cistene Chapel to elect a new Pontiff they will have an onerous responsibility to find a man who can reflect the moods of the modern era whilst maintaining traditional values, John Paul ll will be a very difficult act to follow.
For those of us who can study his life's achievements, there is much to learn about humility, sacrifice, and service.
The Observer - click here
The Washington Post - click here
Friday, April 01, 2005
Tough week for Curly_________________________________________________________________
I've been having a bit of a tough week - once it was discovered that a "bigwig" director had decided to visit the Corner Shop today.
As is usual on such occasions we like to display our produce in the best possible manner, and spruce the old place up a bit, give it a lick of paint, and spit and polish. Hence we've all been going without a day off, working twelve hour shifts and some working overnight as well. It's tiring! Last night I was in bed and fast asleep by 8.30 p.m., that explains why I'm posting so early this morning (and why I haven't found time to post over the last few nights.) So we all hope he comes today, likes what he sees, goes away, and tries not to come back too often!
I've also been adding a new DVD rewriter and an additional hard drive to the pc, so the wish list will have to be amended. It also won't be long before I get my twentieth anniversary present from work and the new digital camera. I've finally decided on the Fuji Finepix S5500 which has the equivalent 35mm zoom capability of 34mm to 410mm - can't wait!
Unfortunately I'm working this Saturday until 8.00 p.m. and will miss listening to the QPR v Sunderland match on the radio and will have to wait until I receive the goal clips in the email. Fingers crossed for another win..
If things go well today I might get an early finish and post again later.
Born in 1956
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