Saturday, April 29, 2006

Quinn/Murray talks

Murray reveals talks with Quinn

Embattled Sunderland AFC Chairman Bob Murray has revealed that he has been in secret talks with Niall Quinn over the past nine months, with the aim of enabling the genial Irishman, who has attained almost cult status amongst club supporters, to take over the controlling interest of the club. The deal will initially be much less than the rumoured 80 million pounds touted in the last few weeks, Quinn and his Irish financiers will be allowed a smooth takeover with Murray being offered the position of Life President of the once great club.

These men will be interested in making a profit from their investment, and with "big" Niall Quinn as their figurehead they have someone who is as equally passionate about Sunderland AFC as Bob Murray has been over the past twenty years. Their profit will come from an expected growth in revenues as the club attempts to turn the tables on a very poor season, a strengthened squad capable of living in the Premiership long term, and a planned extension to the stadium's capacity. It is also understood that former manager Mick McCarthy has been back at the Stadium of Light over the past week to meet Quinn and help him appraise the strengths and weaknesses of the current playing staff. Caretaker manager Kevin Ball has also postponed planned releases of some of the club's junior players in a move also seen as preparing the business for a new management team.

Fans had been planning to hold a "St. Niall Quinn" day at the home game against Arsenal on Monday when they were hoping that thousands would turn out dressed in red, white, and green. Quinn, who gave away all of the money from his testimonial match to children's charities, requested the fans to postpone such a "celebration" as talks were still continuing and an official announcement had not at that stage been given to the Stock Exchange. Whilst Murray acknowledges that other potential investors are still hovering in the background, he is making clear that the Quinn led bid get's his vote.

SAFC's statement to the Stock Exchange

Further to the announcement on 28 March 2006 by Bob Murray, chairman and controlling shareholder of the Company, stating he would be willing to consider a change of control of the Company, the Board of Sunderland Limited confirms that it is in discussions with a consortium of private investors, led by Niall Quinn, that may or may not lead to an offer for the Company being made.

Zeus Capital has been appointed as independent financial adviser to the Company in order to represent the interests of all shareholders in relation to this proposal.

Shareholders will be kept informed of further developments.

The club has already sold 42,000 seats for Monday's game, and with the news that Quinn will be attending as Murrays guest, it is possible that the Stadium of Light could once again host a sell out crowd. If the planned takeover goes smoothly then success might come over the next couple of seasons and huge crowds could return to an enlarged Stadium of Light as Sunderland look to regain premiership status on a much longer term basis, this is the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for the thousands of fans who have suffered such a miserable season.


The Sunderland Echo


Weekly Review

Worrying Wednesday, Troublesome Thursday, Fearful Friday, Sombre Saturday.

When will the Prime Minister's worries come to an end?

Yes, it's been a busy week, certainly for the newspapers, and also at the Corner Shop, where customers have been arriving in droves as we move towards the busiest Bank Holiday of the year, some indication of the British public's change in habits and attitudes over the past ten years. Instead of travelling to the coast or the countryside, it seems many people would prefer to travel to the nearest DIY "shed" and invest in a new bar-be-cue, patio furniture set, bales of compost, or a myriad collection of plants! What a way to spend a holiday weekend, oh well it keeps myself and my staff super busy and gives us the prospect of bonus payments for over achieving targets. We are not sure if this a blossoming love affair with DIY or if there is a change towards GIS (get someone in), unlike "two shags" Prescott who had definately got someone in after getting fed up with DIY.

During the course of the past week (as I attempt to make progress on the new version of Curly's Corner Shop) we have seen the Health Secretary booed and jeered by the Royal College of Nursing after she had described the NHS as having had a great year, which was rather unamusing in the same week as various Health Authorities were announcing further job cuts amongst nurses, but were we bothered in South Shields? It appears not, hardly a murmur was heard.

The Home Secretary faced calls for his resignation after it was revealed that over a thousand foreign prisoners had been granted early release, and yet deportation orders were not sought. Charles Clarke had become aware of this ten months ago, the Prime Minister was also made aware of this "error" some weeks ago, yet until yesterday no positive action had been taken by the Home Office to find these murderers, rapists and other felons. Amazingly, Mr. Clarke is still in his job declaring that he is the best man to sort the situation out, but
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "His massive failure is an exact reversal of his job — to protect the safety of the public. His position is untenable."

Were we bothered in South Shields? It appears not, hardly a murmer was heard.

Finally Mr. "two jags, two shags, two pads" Prescott admitted that he had enjoyed an illicit liaison with his diary secretary over a two year period, and there is some disquiet that Civil Service and Ministerial rules may have been breached. The Mail on Sunday will be publishing further revelations tomorrow following a handsome deal made with the arch publicist Max Clifford.

Oh, and on top of all that cannabis has been found at John Reid's home.

Were we bothered in South Shields? It appears not, hardly a murmer was heard.

Yet we will be going to the polls in a few days time, along with thousands of others around the country to vote for new councillors, perhaps when the results are analysed we will see if the people of South Shields were really that uninterested in the affairs of the Labour Party. This will likely be the biggest test of Tony Blair's premiership and explains the widespread press briefings of the last month that give expectations and acceptance of a poor result for the party, if they lose less than two hundred seats they will claim that David Cameron's "reborn" Tory campaign has been an abject failure. If they lose over two hundred seats they will claim it was expected, and a "normal" mid-term result.

This general acceptance that "things are as they are" is not healthy, and it illustrates a certain complacency in the Prime Minister's make up. He has accepted the rough ride given to Patricia Hewitt while blandly stating that Health Authorities must work within their budgets (a la Thatcher), he has accepted Charles Clarke's failures to control the Home Office and accepted the gross negilgence there, that has put the public at an unacceptable risk; he has accepted John Prescott's dalliance as a personal matter without reference to breaches of rules or protocols, indeed without thought to the likely kick back from the electorate. What he has failed to accept is that elected politicians have certain responsibilities and are to be held accountable for the manner in which they pursue their ministerial briefs (pardon the pun). Perhaps the Prime Minister has also refused to accept his own error of judgement in failing to accept his Deputy's resignation, surely Prescott knows himself that he is now a liability to the party. Perhaps, too, it is an error of judgement to leave the Home Secretary in his present office when we now know that a number of the released prisoners have re-offended.

It is this general acceptance of a lack of responsibility which will inevitably make Tony Blair a liability for New Labour.


Home Pride
Prescott to face further revelations
Pressure mounts on Clarke
A nurse's story

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Heritage plaques

Heritage; why do we hide it?

This town has a lot to be proud about, it has some history, and it has produced some great figures who have made a telling contribution in their lives. However, I feel that sometimes in our pursuit of tourism and it's obvious benefits, we forget the small details that can make a great difference to a town like South Shields.

For a relatively small expenditure we could give a lot of "added value" and help our marketing of the town, I am referring to the erection of a number of "heritage plaques" such as the one pictured. Not a disparate collection of notice boards, but a standardised presentation detailing the lives and important events of the alumni of South Shields. There might even be an opportunity to create a "heritage trail" for visitors to meander as they collect information.

There are many who could qualify for inclusion in such a scheme, from politicians to entertainers, sportsmen, writers, philanthropists and war heroes.

Wikipedia lists a good collection of those who were born in South Shields, and my friend Alan Myers includes a number in his collection of North-East people from his project at The British Library. Westoe Villlage would benefit from a single plaque informing visitors that it was the birthplace or residence of Sir William Fox (Prime Minister of New Zealand), Richard Wallace Annand (VC winner), Andrew Earnest Stoddart (England Cricket and Rugby captain), and Amy Flagg our own local historian, just as a few examples.

It would take relatively little research to determine the information required to fill the plaque with interest and to determine the approximate nearest location to an original birthplace. So, as we pursue the allocation of Grant Aid from Lottery Heritage Funds, would it be possible to seek a further grant for a "heritage trail" of this type, or would other sources of funding be worth investigating? There's a nice little challenge for our Councillors and officers.

How about it guys?


British Library; Myers project

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Monday, April 24, 2006


Mosquito to curb yobbish behaviour?

Councillors seem to be facing calls almost on a daily basis about youths hanging around Metro stations, outside of off-licence shops, and street corners, asking that something be done! Well, other than liaising with the local police, schools, community groups, and parents, they seem to be at a loss (and at this early stage we don't want to go down the route of ASBO orders.)
So I was impressed to read of this device which may provide an answer.

The Mosquito emits a high frequency constant tone which gets on the nerves of youngsters and quickly encourages them to move on. Amazingly we older folks can't hear it at all, it seems that after we pass the age of twenty most of us lose the ability to hear sounds in the range 18 to 20 khz.

A story in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle describes the experiences of a group of youngsters in the vacinity of a Mosquito, and it certainly appears as though it will work. North Tyneside Area Command of Northumbria Police have bought some of the devices and will use them in a summer campaign against boozed up youngsters.

I would kindly ask our Councillors (and those about to join their ranks) to closely follow this campaign and give consideration, through the Area Forums, to using the Mosquito in appropriate places here in South Shields.


Newcastle Evening Chronicle


Saturday, April 22, 2006

St. George's Day

St. George gains popularity.

St George's Day - an occasion which not too long ago could arguably pass by almost unnoticed - is now being celebrated on a far wider scale, according to groups promoting the day.

They claim the desire to celebrate being English has seen the number of people who mark the nation's patron saint's day on 23 April grow significantly in the past few years.

Here in South Shields the local Boy Scouts will be parading before a service in the Parish Church of St. Hilda in the Market Place tomorrow morning, yet even this small celebration of our national day has been clouded in controversy with South Shields police being unwilling to provide manpower to marshall the event, in the same manner as the Good Friday Parades. The Boy Scouts Association have been asked to make changes to their route, in the interests of safety, yet again local groups are being forced to march in back streets, out of view, at the insists of penny pinching pen pushers in the police force. It makes it so easy to allege that they do not wish the public's attention to be drawn to such events!

Elsewhere I have seen very little interest in promoting our national saint's day in South Shields, no big promotions in the supermarkets, no big effort to promote and sell English produce in our shopping centres, no flags flying, and no big promotions in many of the pubs and eateries. (In fairness, the pub I was in last night had beer mats with St. George's Flag printed on the reverse.) Isn't it about time that our local Chamber of Trade and Chamber of Commerce got their heads together and realised the unique business opportunities presented on April 23rd?

Yet , when it comes to St. Patricks Day......................well, it's just about forced upon us.

Surely this town is not ashamed to show it's Englishness, surely we are not afraid of celebrating St. George's Day, of course not. We are just apathetic, and those in a position to give a lead have chosen not to do so - only last week we had a continental market in town, yet we cannot give a lead to promoting English goods and produce around the time of St. George's Day.

Who was Saint George?

George, according to most experts, was born in what is now Turkey in about 280 AD, he joined the Roman Army and rose to the rank of Tribunus Militum (what we might call a Colonel) in charge of a regiment of about 1000 men. He became converted to Christianity and during the reign of Emporor Diocletian acted to sageguard Christians during one of Rome's worst periods of persecution against followers of the Christian faith. George was expecting to be arrested and therefore gave all of his posessions away to the poor and needy, eventually apprehended he was brought before Diocletian , where he denounced the Emporor's cruelty in an eloquent defence of himself. However, he was sentenced to imprisonment with instructions that he be continually tortured until he denounced his faith. St. George steadfastly refused to be broken, and was beheaded in Nicodemia (Palestine) on April 23rd. 303 AD.

Following his beatification by the Roman Catholic Church, St. George's qualities of chivalry, braveness, and good virtue were adopted by the Crusaders and England's King Richard lll, it was in this period that white pennants with the red cross became well known on the battlefields as a rallying point. In 1348 King Edward lll established the Order of the Knights of the Garter, Europe's oldest order of chivalry and it's regalia, the Star, the Garter, the Sash, and the Investment badge contain representations of St. George.

In 1415 St. George became the patron saint of England after our soldiers were victorious in the battle of Agincourt.

In 1497 in the reign of Henry VIII, the pennant of the Cross of St. George was flown by John Cabot when he sailed to Newfoundland and it was also flown by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth Massachusetts. It is also the flag of the Church of England and as such is known throughout Christendom.

During World War ll, King George created the George Cross to honour outstanding acts of civilian valour.

What's on locally?

In Newcastle, Trades Unions have organised a march to commemorate St. George's Day, and in Prudhoe Castle there will be medieval archery from noon Sunday.

"Upon this charge, cry God, for Harry, England, and St. George!"


BBC News

The Royal Society of St. George

The value of St. George


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Shearer is crap

Crabtree carpeted for "crap" programme notes!

I just had to laugh at this little story. Metro radio have had to make an apology "on behalf" of Simon Crabtree (Magic 1152 football commentator) after he wrote his usual comments in the Sunderland A.F.C. programme for the derby match against the Darkside. Using the first letter of each paragraph in large capitals, and reading down from top to bottom, the reader was able to discern his message.....

Shearer is crap :)

Just where does fat Freddie hide his humour muscle?


The Journal


Frederick Street

A future for Frederick Street?

I was contemplating the the areas of South Shields that would likely to become available for development within the next ten to fifteen years, within the context of the plans outlined by the Borough Council, and outlined in this blog a few days ago. As I mused with my thoughts, it became clear to me that a part of the town, very close to the town centre, ought to have been included within the remit. I refer to the Western Approach Road, Laygate, and Frederick Street.

I was born and raised in John Williamson Street, South Shields, before it was demolished along with parts of Alice Street, Marshall Wallis Road, Campbell Street, parts of South Frederick Street, Eldon Street, South Palmerston Street, Lytton Street, Taylor Street, H.S. Edwards Street, Corbridge Street, West Walpole Street, Garwood Street, Railway Street, and Havelock Street.

Oh yes, I remember them well. I remember them because they provided the massive population that created a thriving community, a workforce for Redhead's shipyard, and the customers for the shops in Frederick Street, the second busiest shopping area in the town at the time!
A walk along Frederick Street in the late 1960s and early 1970s would find the shopper competing with countless others looking for a variety of goods. The shops I remember well included Hossners (Austrian?) bakery, Axelbands for drapery and children's clothing, Clarke's toy and bike shop, Olsen's pet shop, numerous butchers including a great german pork butcher, Hammonds for curtains and bedding, Kent's for furniture, Porretta's ice-cream parlour with a traditional jukebox, the Handy Shop, where we all built our first record collection, our first supermarket Fine Fare, Allen's department store at Laygate, Hall's the cobbler, Mile End dry cleaners, Darke's the chemist, Shane's for female fashions, Vasey's for fresh fish, Sawyer's the jeweller, Bill Owen's newsagent and confectioner, and for the more specialised, Swainston's confectioner and tobbaconist. The street was broken at one third of it's length by the huge Methodist Chapel on the corner of Reid Street and, with a few yards down, one of the few remaining police "tardis" telephone points. the two pubs on the street, The Adam and Eve and the Eureka, were always busy watering holes for thirsty fathers and they were remarkably different then than they are now!

Frederick Street back then was "inviting", mothers, fathers, young children, and old folks, could all find something that suited them, it was a "people magnet". However, the housing so close by, was poor. It was not until the early 1970s that the bulldozers moved in, the people moved out, and Labour (in this town at least) started to build "the land fit for heroes" that Attlee promised in 1945!!

So what was the result of the largescale "slum clearance" programmes?

Well, we were all rehoused in nice Council owned properties miles away from the places we were used to, we had to start getting used to an indoor toilet and bathroom, we had to learn how to use central heating, we had to learn how to fill these spacious houses with more furniture than we were used to or could afford, for half of us we had to learn to climb flights of stairs! We had to get used to using public transport to get to the shops, or school, or work; in the past we were able to walk everywhere, all of our needs and facilities were within a few streets of each other. We had to learn how to use alarm clocks because the "knocker up" from Redhead's wouldn't be visiting the new estates. Finally, poor old Frederick Street had to learn to survive without us...............and how has she done?

Incredibly, some of the buildings have failed to collapse thus far, but those entering the town on the Western Approach Road can see the rear of the properties, and they are now most unappealing, ugly, and in some cases dangerous. A walk down Frederick Street is now a sad and unattractive prospect. No longer the crowds, no longer the hustle and bustle, no longer the huge variety of shopping, just square yard after square yard of aluminium shuttering, the few windows that are uncovered surely have second hand goods in them. Is this the price of Labour's progress?

Thirty something years later, land at either side of Frederick still lies vacant, the main approach into the town still has a discomforting look about it, we have allowed ourselves to neglect the ward and the people of Rekendyke. People have asked why Frederick Street is dying on it's feet, asked why regeneration has not happened, and asked if the retailers themselves are to blame. The simple answer is Frederick Street lost it's closest companion, the (very) local community, and it has yet to be replaced. No shopping centre can prosper without customers, and streets like this one need them on the doorstep! The customers need shops and businesses that meet their needs, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, grocers, frozen foods, confectioners etc., alongside small scale national chains like Co-op Convenience stores. Which brings me nicely back to the Local Development Framework.............

Now that Circatex is about to close we ought to ask if it is worth everyones efforts to find future tenants for the factory? Or should we be more ambitious, demolish it, and attempt to rebuild Rekendyke's community and good fortunes.

If you click on the image, you will find that I have outlined in yellow the most immediate tranches of land that could become available for housing development or infill housing. All very close to Frederick Street, enough to make the ride into South Shields more visually appealing, and if developed alongside a wholesale improvement of the shopping area (personally I would suggest compulsory purchase and rebuild a new shopping centre by private developers) the gateway into South Shields could once again become a seething, enterprising, lively place where people would want to live and shop.

If there is one area that ought to be included in the planning policy team's efforts, because it is so adjacent to the town centre area, then this is it, let's take the opportunity to add it NOW.

Let's ensure another thirty years don't drift past.

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Niall Quinn's bid.

Will Irish eyes be smiling?

There seems to be more than just a hint of light at the end of the tunnel for long suffering "black cat" fans, and Niall Quinn may have more than just a glint in his Irish eyes as he prepares to make a bid with his consortium to take over the reigns of the North-East's sleeping giant. Quinn was quoted in the Irish Independant today to be almost ready to table a bid to buy out Bob Murray's controlling interest in the club.

Murray, who was not at the ground to witness the embarassing defeat to arch rivals Newcastle United, has stated in the past that he would willingly hand over the club to the right bidder if the price was right and the deal was in the best long term interests of the club.
Having taken Sunderland A.F.C. from the decaying Roker Park to a new state of the art 48,000 seater Stadium of Light, and built the prestigious Academy of Light at Cleadon to nuture the club's young talent, the chairman has been rocked by the poor performance of the team and it's managers over recent years. He has also been the target, in recent weeks, of sustained protests from season ticket holders after home games.

After a roller coaster ride under the management of Peter Reid the club eventually attained Premiership status and in two consecutive seasons ended in seventh place, after sitting in second place in January each year. However, fortunes turned after that, Reid's teams were unable to sustain the challenge and when investment was needed it was not forthcoming, perhaps when they were in second place in the Premiership quality stars might have been prepared to come to Sunderland, but the cheque book was firmly closed. The current problems can be traced back to this point, failure to invest then resulted in the team slipping towards the relegation zone. The following season saw more poor performances and when the cheque book was opened in panic, a lot of money was spent by Reid bringing in players of the quality of Tore Andre "Slo" on huge salaries.

Reid's dismissal, which came about 18 months too late, was quickly followed by Howard Wilkinson's and Steve Cotteril's as the team was relegated to the Championship, under the guidance of Mick McCarthy.
McCarthy was never given the benefit of decent finances to rebuild a team to challenge for promotion, indeed before he could really get his teeth into the job, he was required to relieve the club of the services of 23 players, however he manfully set about his task and won the Coca Cola Championship last season with a squad of players, the majority of whom were virtually unkown at the onset of the season.

Meanwhile off the field the club's finances were heavily hit in the expenses column following high pay off costs to the stars who had left and spiralling debts to the bankers, whilst the income column was depleted through lower gate receipts and the lack of BSkyB money, Murray's problems were mounting on a weekly basis. To compound matters the club had agreed to repay it's debts within a seven year period (despite the banks agreeing to a repayment "holiday" and accepting interest payments only) where other clubs had refinanced their debts over longer periods, Sunderland's hang around Murray's neck like a millstone. Current liabilities are estimated at about 40 million pounds.

The current season started badly and degenerated, McCarthy's record as a Premiership manager was dreadfully poor, yet he was allowed to continue in the position until we had passed the point of no return, after appointing former club captain Kevin Ball as caretaker manager, Murray seemed quite happy to see the season out, watch the team be relegated again (probably with a new unwanted record as the worst Premiership football team ever), and then think about acquiring a new head coach. This close season would be one that the faithful fans of the club would not be looking forward to, and once again it appears that investment in the team would be minimal if Bob Murray remains as Chairman.

So it is with some feeling of hope thet fans read of Niall Quinn's bid to wrest control of the club from Murray, this fan at least wishes him "all the luck of the Irish".


The Daily Telegraph
The Times
One Sunderland

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

icNewcastle - Easter's last stand

Easter's last stand

This may have been the last Easter Sunday that shopworkers could enjoy with their families, if High Street chains such as Tesco, Ikea, and B&Q have their way. The current Sunday Trading laws restrict the hours that stores over 3000 square feet may open to a maximum of six. They are also not allowed to open on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day, however the retail giants are pressing the Dept. of Trade and Industry to remove these restrictions.

As a manager of a group of very hardworking sales assistants I can understand the arguements, both for and against, on both sides of the fence. The retailer who is sure that there is extra trade and profit to be taken, and the shopworker who gets precious little time with the family and children. There is also an external view to take into consideration, that is the view of the Church. This country is still essentially Christian with Christian beliefs, traditions, and history, and we may need to concede to the view that Sundays are a special day, and rather different in character to the other days of the week. Easter Sunday, therefore, must be seen as even more special than other Sundays.

The major chains still employed full quotas of staff on Easter Sunday this year, just to replenish the shelves after Saturday, and to be ready for a busy Bank Holiday Monday. Some staff will have volunteered to work that day, others will have been rostered and offered no choice at all, and remember there is very little "Sunday Premium" payment these days, except for those who are working on an overtime basis in excess of the 39 hour week. Premium payments for choosing to work Sundays can amount to as little as 4% of the annual salary, and some retailers offer nothing at all for those who contract in to working on Sundays.

Our experience in South Shields on Easter Sunday was that plenty people were expecting the shops to be open (despite advertising the opening hours for a two week period) and a great number of cars turned up and turned around in the car park. They went to a similar retailer on the opposite side of the road, just to discover that they were closed also - it does make you wonder if they know or understand what the meaning of Easter Sunday is - had they been to church before running off to the shops? However, Bank Holiday Monday was exceptionally busy, those who arrived on Sunday probably returned the next day, and none of them appeared to be badly upset that the shops were closed on Sunday. Over the course of the seven day period, the retailer's takings for the week will be about right for the time of year, and the fact that a day's trade had been lost on Easter Sunday will not show itself in the figures. On the whole, people will shop when the shops are open! The fact that they might be open an extra day does not mean that shoppers will spend extra any additional money.

John Alexander, of pressure group Keep Sunday Special, said: "They are trying to change Easter Sunday in particular.

"It was the one little concession we won when the Sunday Trading Act was brought in. We were told that Easter Sunday would be kept clear of trading by the big stores. This review puts that under threat.

"It was only a few years ago that it was decided that Christmas Day should be protected no matter what day it fell on. Easter is the second biggest occasion each year in the Christian calendar and, as such, it should be protected. We are a mainly Christian country and it is important that Sundays and major Christian events be protected.

"Apart from the religious arguments, there are other reasons why Sundays should be kept special. Research has been conducted that shows one guaranteed day off a week, when the whole family can be together, is important. It gives families a time to be together and take part in activities together."

My staff who were with me on Sunday started work real early in the day, so we could make sure they were back home for 2.00 p.m. in order to enjoy the rest of Easter Sunday with their family, they will not be rostered to do the same again next year (the other half of the staff will do that.) We try to be flexible and meet the needs of the business as well as the needs of our staff, the same may not be able to be said of other retailers. It is for these reasons that I would prefer to see the staus quo preserved on the restricted Sunday Trading hours, I do not believe it is right or fair to ask our shopworkers to give up even more of their time on a Sunday, I do believe that we should try and keep Easter Sunday restrictions in place, the larger retailers will not lose anything in the long run.

Therefore I appeal to our Member of Parliament, David Miliband, to oppose any changes to the current legislation, and to lend his support to those campaigning against the new moves.


The Sunday Sun

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Peter Collins

National MisTrust

Who could seriously trust The National Trust after it's behaviour in the Peter Collins case? Having summarily dismissed him, thrown him out of his home, publicly vilified him at an industrial tribunal, cooperated with the Borough Council in keeping the Trow Quarry report away from public eyes, and having achieved next to nothing since it's release to inform and protect the public, they now have the sheer brass neck to challenge the tribunal's decision that he was unfairly sacked for acting in the public interest.

Former National Trust Warden Peter Collins (pictured) now has to finance another round of litigation from his own pocket to yet again demonstrate that he was carrying out his normal duties of briefing the press to protect the public . It seems The National Trust will not be happy until Peter Collins has been spiritually, mentally, and financially broken by them, it's time for them to "back off", accept that they were wrong, and move on!

If David Miliband could engineer the honouring of one man from South Shields, it ought to be Peter Collins!.


The Shields Gazette

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Miliband honours questions

Miliband in cash for gongs quiz.

South Shields MP and Cabinet Minister David Miliband found himself caught up in the cash for honours melee today, and is pictured praying that his bid for the future Premiership hasn't suffered.

The Communities and Local Government Minister was named by Des Smith, the headteacher at the centre of the row, in a conversation with an undercover reporter.

The Harry Potteresque politician was reported to have accepted 50p. in exchange for his Blue Peter badge on the acceptance of the condition that the recipient could no longer gain a free entry to the Sea Life Centre. A replica Golden Snitch would cost at least a quid said the MP. These tokens are generally accepted to be highly collectable amongst the throngs of affluent businessmen wishing to sponsor city academy schools. Mr. Dumbledore Gates, the proud sponsor of an inner London academy of wizardry was almost ecstaticly proud that his "sponsorship" had almost "bought" the school, but was adamant that the deal would not be complete until he had been awarded an honour from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's spokesman said that the awarding of magic wands or homing owls were no longer within the PM's gift. "Best go and see Miliband", he said, "he's the only magician around here".


Newcastle Evening Chronicle.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Continental Market

South Shields toasts Continental success!

King Street was the place to be to savour flavour as tastes of the continent arrived in South Shields at the weekend. Last year's Continental Market was not a great success, as I outlined in this blog, it was held too close to Christmas, offered the wrong products at the wrong time of year, faced too much complacency from shoppers interested in Christmas gifts, and battled against bitterly cold winds.

Lessons have obviously been learned and this event has brought a bigger feast of treats from more traders and more countries. Shoppers were much more attracted and interested, and more cash changed hands. Easter and springtime introduce feelings of new life, freshness, and a willingness to change, important qualities to the trader wishing to merchandise goods to a new receptive market. In short, this continental market is in the right place and at the right time!

The greatest interest was in food, ready to eat, couscous from Morroco and Turkey, dried sausage from Germany, cheeses from France, hot bratwurst and frikadellen, pancakes from Holland, paella from Spain (piping hot), garlic and fresh vegetables from Belgium. King Street was ablaze with colour as the well presented stalls stretched from the Market Place almost down to the Metro Bridge, giving eager shoppers a variety that has been missing from our shopping centres for many years. There were leather goods, jewelry, plants, paintings and works of art, clothing, confectionary and candy floss to tease and excite the imagination, as well as the wallet.

This event has vindicated those who wished to doggedly pursue the idea after last year's disappointment, they know now, when and where to place it, the Easter Bank Holiday weekend may never be the same again. Perhaps we don't all wish to spend our Bank Holiday tramping around the nearest D.I.Y. shed filling our trolleys with plants and barbecues.

Having enjoyed dry weather, with reasonable warmth, the Good Friday processions, and the opening of the summer season at the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park, South Shields was the place to be!

This blogger was well impressed!

Here are some of the flavours and colours of the market - click the thumbnails to enlarge.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Local area development plan

Public consultation in action

On a busy Easter Saturday afternoon I caught up with members of the Council's Planning Policy team engaged in a public consultation exercise at the Old Town Hall in the Market Place, South Shields. The event had been organised to seek the public's views about planning and development within the town centre and riverside areas on the assumption that various pieces of land will become available over the next ten to fifteen years. The draft plans have been drawn up to comply with regional planning policies and to seed various ideas about the locations of possible future developments such as a new swimming pool, cinema complex, office and retail development and new housing. It also gave members of the public the opportunity to have direct input to the planning policy team, and to discuss initiatives and ideas with them.

The Old Town Hall housed a four square exhibition board with the map of the area block coloured to define the plots of land that may become available and the types of development that may be suited for them. For example, the multi-story car park in Mile End Road is tentatively earmarked for office space, the current Asda site in Ocean Road may become another large retail outlet, the area along the riverside from Middle Docks through East Holborn may become a mixed housing development, and other ideas are being sought for the site of another hotel/conference centre and a swimming pool.

I met up with Andrea King and Scott Gibson (who were surprised that a local weblog was interested in their work) as they spoke to members of the public, who were only too happy to come forward with their own ideas, the most discussed area whilst I was there was Gypsies Green Stadium. The underused athletics facility is in real need of a fresh outlook, some suggested that it would be the best site for a swimming pool, and others agreed that a swimming pool there would be too far from the main activity centres around the Pier Head. Other ideas for it's use included hotel - leisure development, an entertainment centre, and an ice rink. My own view is that whatever development takes place here it should not be allowed to alter the current skyline, it ought to be dug deep and built from the base of a large excavation in the same fashion as Sunderland's Stadium of Light. A steel structure could hold a slightly domed roof which could then be grassed over to merge the development nicely with the Leas.

The multi-story car park would be ideal for office accomodation but it must include retail space on the ground floor reserved soley for independant retailers, we really do need to do something to halt the spread of "cloned" town centres which have become the preserve of national retail chains. Here is an opportunity to provide a little bit of individuality.

I would also like to see the current Asda site used to develop a larger cinema, which should not necessarily damage the Customs House in the Mill Dam. Any new swimming pool should be sited as close as possible to the site of the original open air pool which was opposite Littlehaven Beach, many people commented on the fact that we need somewhere for visitors to go in wet weather, and a development such as this with seating and eating areas would be most welcome.

Whatever mix of housing we decide to go with, it must include more shared ownership schemes and a good proportion of housing to rent, it is now becoming increasingly difficult for first time buyers to get onto the bottom rung of the property ladder.

All in all, the Council's team are doing a great job in taking this exhibition around the borough and gathering a huge amount of data to input from the public. At long last, areas which have lain empty for decades may get the kind of developments which the man in the street wants and needs, and not the kind of developments which planners have landed on us in the past.

Andrea King pictured discussing ideas with a visitor. Click thumbnail to enlarge.


South Tyneside Council
Open air swimming pool


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Traveller's Camp

Warning - travellers leave 50 tonnes of rubbish.

A large group of travellers who set up camp in Hebburn have eventually moved on, and after making assurances to Environmental Health Officers that the site would be left clean and tidy, the Council was required to send in a team to remove over 50 tonnes of refuse! This included 17 gas bottles, 19 tonnes of timber, 40 tonnes of rubble and 15 tonnes of conifer trees.

The travellers have now moved to a disused petroleum site near the Royal Quays in North Shields where they are facing a forced eviction. A similar group arrived in South Shields town centre almost a year ago and made camp on the old site of the allotments and pigeon lofts on Station Road (now earmarked as part of the new Asda development). It would be prudent to take measures now to seal off this site to avoid any further additional costs to the Borough, word travels fast within this type of community and they are likely to know of the existence of the Station Road site.

Let's face it South Shields Police are unlikely to wish to be involved with any negotiations to move travellers on, this might not be seen to be "balancing the budget" or helping to improve any key performance indicators!


Newcastle Evening Chronicle

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Good Friday marches

Victory marches?

The headline in this evening's local newspaper, Victory March, refers to the compromise agreed between the Sunday Schools , Northumbria Police, and South Tyneside Council over the routes to be taken by the marchers in the Good Friday Procession of Witness. It is this agreement that will see the marchers "divert" down the back of Westoe Road. The reasons being given are that Northumbria Police are unwilling to expend manpower to help marshall the event in their efforts to meet performance indicators and to save cost.

Acting Chief Inspector Mike Grinter of South Shields Police said

"Like every public organisation we are accountable for how we spend money, what officers do, and what we respond to. At the end of the day it's a question of balancing the budget. It is not a question of telling people they can't do it but to ensure the routes taken ensure the safety of the participants"

Cllr. Ken Hickman (Progressive, West Park) said

"I've never heard anything like it. This is a religious day which should be respected."

Far from being a victory, I see this compromise as a climb down by the Council and The Sunday Schools Union (which organises the annual marches), it is an absolute travesty when we have a statute like the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which states in article 9;

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

For the sake of closing an additional 50 metres of Westoe Road, these fundamental freedoms to manifest one's religious beliefs could have been fully met. Furthermore, routing the march up (pedestrianised) King Street, instead of Keppel Street, would have ensured a greater level of public safety and removed the requirement to temporarily close another road.

I still feel (rather like Cllr. Hickman) that a 150 year old tradition has been allowed to be diluted by a penny pinching policeman!


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Procession of witness

Hiding Christianity?

For many years churches and Christian organisations in this town have held a Good Friday "Procession of Witness" culminating in multi-denominational services at various points in the Borough. Years ago, these processions provided quite an enjoyable spectacle as we watched hundreds of sunday school children marching with their uniformed colleagues from the Boys Brigades, the Scouts, the Girls Brigades, the Church Army, the Girl Guides, and the Salvation Army, to name just a few. They would form long processions interspersed with marching bands, brass bands, silver bands, pipe bands, etc. moving in earnest towards the Market Place or the West Park, and to a lesser extent Harton Junior school. The event often attracted large crowds and I can remember standing in the Market Place, on a few occasions when the crowds completely covered all of the flag stones and cobbles and we squeezed up against the walls and shop windows of the perimeter. It rained, of course, so many umbrellas provided a slowly moving rooftop! (I always imagined that this is how the weather must have been on that fateful Friday at Golgotha.)

We would all join in the singing of the hymns and listen with solemnity to the prayers, and wonder who wrote the Mayors speech, perhaps one of the major highlights of our First Citizen's year! Children crowded around the legs of adults seeking shelter from the rain and clutching oranges, many wondering if mam and dad could afford to take them down to the fairground and spend a few bob on the rides!

Meanwhile the rest of the town reverberated to the sounds of the marching bands heading back towards their own churches to disperse in peace. It was ever thus, it made South Shields a great place to be on Good Friday.

So, I wonder.............why is it that so many of the children are being made to march down back streets and lanes this year? Why are the processions marching on such short pieces of major public highway? Is someone attempting to hide this traditional expression of Christian Faith? Are we afraid of offending some non Christian groups, or are we afraid that someone might get hurt in some fashion, to the extent that the "compensation culture" solicitors (vultures) will be hovering over the Town Hall next week?

Being a believer in great British traditions has often been perceived as the hallmark of a conservative thinker, but what's so wrong with preserving what has always been good?

If it ain't broken, then why attempt to fix it?

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Victorian park plans

Park plans to be unveiled

Over the course of the last couple of years I have questioned in this blog why we could not have parks to be proud of, parks to compete with our neighbours in Sunderland and Gateshead. I featured Mowbray Park and Saltwell Park as standards by which our parks could be judged, and our current parks at the sea front did not reach the standards attained by our neighbours. I argued that we, too, should be competing for Heritage Lottery Grant Aid to restore our prime parks to their former glory, the two Marine Parks were once the pride of the north-east. The Council commenced a public consultation exercise to ask what we would like to see in the way of sea front development, and how we would like to see the South Marine Park, in particular, improved.

The result of this process has seen the Council launch a bid for Lottery funding and work up a plan to restore and improve the South Marine Park, recognising it's importance in the bigger picture of building tourism in South Shields, and making it a worthwhile place to visit, and to be proud of as a resident. This Sunday 16th. April, there will be a "Family Fun Day" in the South Marine Park from 11.00 a.m. until 3.00 p.m. when you can join in guided walks, activities, games, children's face painting, or bird box making. More importantly you can be one of the first to view the proposed designs for the restoration of the park.

Easter Sunday, in it's Christian context, represents a new start, new life, or a rebirth, I applaud the Council for choosing this date to mark the rebirth of one of our best assets, I only hope and pray that we are not blessed with the traditional wet weekend that we tend to see over this holiday period. Despite having to work at the Corner Shop, I will make time to visit the park and see the plans first hand (hoping that some of my suggestions have been included in some small way.)

For further details please telephone Mark Cummings at The Central Library, 0191 4247298.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bird flu

"Fit" bird seen in Shields Park!

All right!........Own up if the picture was not what you were expecting.

Following the finding of a dead swan, consequently proved to have had the H5N1 avian flu virus, in Cellardyke, Fife, over 2,500 dead birds have been reported in the U.K. since Friday. Laboratories have stayed open all weekend and so far no other cases of avian flu have been found. A number of dead fowl were found at Linton, near Morpeth only a few miles from here, however a visit to the South Marine Park in South Shields this morning found our colony of swans alive and well with no signs of panic or apprehension from the gaggle of parents and toddlers happily feeding bread to them (a Sunday morning custom in these parts.)

Unfortunately, it is more a question of when, rather than if, a widespread outbreak of the virus occurs within the U.K. and thousands of farmed birds will be at serious risk of a deadly cull, the consequences of which will include an economic disaster for farmers and consumers alike. We also need to worry, in the event of an outbreak, about public access to the South Marine Park and about more regular cleaning of the bird droppings around the lakeside. The park this morning had numerous areas covered with thick coatings of droppings, which children were innocently tramping through to reach the swans with their supplies of bread.

Of greater concern is the so far accepted view that the bird flu virus will eventually mutate with a human flu virus to cause one of the greatest pandemics that the world will have suffered. Sir Liam Donaldson, the government's Chief Medical Officer, was reported in today's Sunday Times to have written to Jacqui Smith the Schools Minister advising that the excess deaths among schoolchildren have been modelled at over 100,000. He urges the minister to consider closing all schools on the outbreak of a pandemic for a minimum period of three weeks to try and reduce the death toll amongst youngsters by up to 50,000.

I personally worry about my own employment situation at the Corner Shop, which has a large expansive roof covered in bird droppings. When it rains, inevitably some of it enters the building through ventilation outlets, and some of the (infected) bird droppings will find themselves in the water droplets, putting at risk myself and my customers. Think of how many other large retail outlets, factories, or public buildings carry the same risks!

No need to frighten ourselves too much just yet, remember this is a disease in the bird population at present. It does not transmit easily amongst humans and does not replicate too well in our upper respiratory tracts, thus preventing infected humans from spreading it through coughs and sneezes. The only humans found to have had the disease worldwide have been those in close contact with infected birds, generally in a farming environment, those who have handled the bodies of infected birds, and those who have consumed infected fowl (including it's offal) without proper high temperature cooking.

The advice at present on the Council's website is as follows;

The DEFRA website, advises that if you find a dead swan, goose or duck or three or more dead wild, garden birds together in the same place, report this to DEFRA via the help-line on 08459 33 55 77.

The current DEFRA help-line opening hours are Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday-Sunday 9am-6pm. They may wish to have the birds examined for signs of specific diseases. They will advise on what action you should take.

If the dead bird is a single, small garden, or wild bird then you do not need to call DEFRA. You should:

  • leave it alone, or
  • follow the guidelines on the DEFRA website for disposal.

The Sunday Times
BBC News


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Local Elections, BNP

Racist party seeks votes in South Shields

It takes only ten signatures to nominate a candidate, here's hoping two candidates fail to get any more than ten votes each!

As part of South Tyneside Council's e-services to the public, the mini website for the local elections is quite informative, for example, you can view a full list of candidates for each and every ward and it reveals some shocks and surprises.

Whist the Shields Gazette has ran a series of articles on the candidates of the two main parties recently (Labour and the Independent Alliance) they have not touched upon the fact that The British National Party is to field a couple of candidates in the Biddick and All Saints Ward and the Beacon and Bents Ward. Perhaps the Gazette is taking a public spirited stance NOT to give any publicity to these pseudo nazis.

I find it particularly alarming that they should find a Jimmy Hill to contest Beacon and Bents ward with it's large ethnic minority and concentration of Asian cuisine restaurants in Ocean Road, such a move must surely have been planned to cause the utmost provocation (I hope Mr. Hill has the chin of his namesake, he may need it!) Just to add to their characteristic national socialist undertones they have managed to unearth a Herr Schmidt to fly their rotten flag in Biddick and All Saints. I hope he does not resemble his party leader Nick Griffin (pictured) who even models his hairstyle on an Austrian of ill repute who became Chancellor of Germany.

In the Horsley Hill ward Mervyn Carl William Owen is standing as an Independent, I wonder, is he at all related to the former Cllr. William Owen who had a newsagent/sweetshop in Frederick Street many years ago? He too once stood for election to Parliament under a fascist banner, it marked the rather hasty end to his political career!

The election in the Simonside and Rekendyke ward may well turn up some surprises, battling for votes will be Anthony Dailly and Anthony Davey, one for the Conservatives and the other for the Progressives. With two such remarkably similar sounding and similarly spelt names there will be some confusion for the electors, many of whom may end up putting their cross against the name of the wrong man!

Despite their claims to fame as good grass roots politicians, the Liberal Democrats have failed to find candidates for six wards, four of which are in South Shields, how can they be expected to be taken seriously?

Finally, in Hebburn South, Malcolm MacDonald (Hardy) describes himself as Independent rather than a straightforward (no. 9) - funny old game! :)


South Tyneside Council

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Cleadon Park - crime

Cleadon Park crime collapses!

I was fascinated by a small article in the Shields Gazette this evening outlining a statistical analysis of reported crime figures in the Cleadon Park estate, South Shields. Northumbria Police analysts are claiming accords for reducing crime in the area through their use of beat managers and partnerships with South Tyneside Council's Community Wardens. Recorded crimes for March last year were 78, and in March this year that number has fallen to 40. One statistic which will not be in last year's records is a murder by stabbing, this year Lee Phipps was killed on the edge of the estate.

Acting Chief Superintendant Neil Mackay (now there's a name which belongs in The Bill) acknowledges that the area had a reputation for crime and disorder in the past, but claims that the extra resources recently used have had a beneficial effect in reducing crime. Local readers will be aware that the area included streets such as Ashgrove Avenue, Park Avenue, and The Crescent, which at times in recent years managed to look like down town Beirut in the 1970's!

The same readers will also be aware that over the past twelve months those streets have been wiped off South Shields' map as the demolition of the estate has gathered pace and new, as yet unoccupied, houses have started to appear.

Perhaps this is the real reason why levels of crime have been halved!!


The Shields Gazette

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bill Brady

"Brady Bunch" protest!

Back in the news today is the continuing process of finding agreement over the siting of the Borough's new "super school", previously mentioned in this blog. Two sites, Temple Memorial Park and Chuter Ede, have already been rejected after public outcries and criticism and now the current site of King George School in Nevison Avenue is on the receiving end of the same hostilities. Poor old Bill Brady one of the ward Councillors for Whiteleas has been put in an awkward position by his electorate. Over 900 residents have signed a petition objecting to the use of the Nevison Avenue site, and Bill has to be seen to be representing them, which laudably he is, whilst balancing their views with the opinions of Labour's leadership in the Town Hall, who would dearly love to be getting on with building the new school on the edge of town next to the Holder House estate.

Why on earth can't everyone see that the most sensible, and probably the most acceptable, site to be developing the new school is on Temple Park Road, the site of the current Brinkburn school?

It may well become the most common denominator in the end!


The Shields Gazette

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lib-Dems and sweets

Would you like a sweetie little boy?

Lib-Dems on dodgy ground in housing estates as local election campaigning begins in earnest.

The Lib Dems' official local election guide advises candidates to recruit children from council estates.

Spelling out the details it says: "You go into the middle of a council estate with your leaflets and you shout at all the local kids you can see and hear 'any of you lot want to help deliver all these leaflets?'.

"Then proceed Pied Piper-like round the estate doling out badges and toffees and leaflets, the last at least to be pushed through doors by the shouting, squealing and quarrelsome horde."


BBC News


Nominations close

Election nominations close

Nominations closed today for the local government election in May, and I have to compliment the Conservative Party in it's efforts to field 17 candidates in the 18 seats up for grabs, it must not be easy finding so many willing people in such a Labour hot bed!

Amongst the 16 independent candidates is my former Progressive colleague Greenwell Jewitt who has decided not to allign himself with any party at all.

South Tyneside Council is controlled by Labour with 36 seats. The Progressives have six, Independents five, Lib Dems four and Tories three.

At this election there are 18 Labour candidates, 17 Tories, 12 Lib Dems, 16 Independents, three Progressives, two Greens, two BNP, one UKIP and three others.

A clanger has left the Conservatives without candidates in a quarter of the seats up for grabs at crucial town hall elections in Newcastle.

The party, which is trying to gain a toehold back on the Liberal Democrat-controlled city council, failed to return nomination papers for seven out of the 26 wards being contested at the May 4 election.


The Evening Chronicle


Monday, April 03, 2006


Update - Northumbrian Water

Work is now progressing at a fast pace as contractors Lumsdale and Carroll appear to be looking to finish the work on time and present Northumbrian Water with a well engineered "tank", which will deal with the excess rain and floodwater that has troubled residents in the Brinkburn area for many years.

A huge hole had been excavated at the Brinkburn recreation ground just below Mortimer School and a concrete tank had been constructed. The volume of water that it is designed to hold would be equivalent to the amount of water in six Olympic sized swimming pools. The intention is that this water be stored and slowly released into the drainage sytem, thus alleviating the problems that are regularly experienced in Ullswater Gardens.

The tank was built with a large number of separated areas inside to facilitate this slow release, and now that the "lid" has been fitted, it will onlt be a short time before reinstatement work begins. Local football teams will be able to make use of the football pitches at Brinkburn once again. The earth will cover over the tank, all be it at a slightly higher level, and over the course of time we will forget all about the civil engineering works underneath.

It has left a good impression watching this piece of work gradually come together, and I feel confident that localised flooding in this area will become a feature of the past.


David Potts - Naderi

Has Naderi ever visited the Council Chamber?

It was interesting to read the comments of Nader A-Naderi, the Liberal Democrat Candidate for the Westoe Ward, in this evening's Gazette. Mr A-Naderi claims that the Liberal Democrats can provide "effective opposition" to the ruling Labour group on South Tyneside Council. Has Mr A-Naderi ever visited the Council Chamber to watch the Lib Dem group in action? If he had, he would know that, far from demonstrating "effective opposition", the Liberal Democrats almost always vote WITH the ruling Labour group. The fact is that South Tyneside Conservatives are the only voice of strong, reasoned debate and opposition

Submitted by Cllr. David Potts (Cleadon Village and East Boldon)

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Nader A Naderi

Liberal Democrats, "only serious alternative" - Naderi

PMSL, ROFL, LOL and other such "internet speak".

Mr. Nader A Naderi (pictured) the anti-war campaigner who stood against the Liberal Democrats at the last General Election (he has been "an active member of the Liberal Democrat party for many years") claims in a press article today that the Lib-Dems are the "only serious alternative to Labour locally."

How are we meant to take this statement with seriousness and credibility? The statement in itself damages his party's credibility even further, they have a long well established track record of voting WITH the Labour Party on South Tyneside Council, I wonder if they can point out a major issue where they sided with the other opposition parties?

I still find it difficult to believe that they have adopted Mr. Naderi as a candidate after he took over 700 votes from them at the last election! I think Mr. Naderi would be better employed selling and repairing computers at Aquila in Laygate Lane, rather than peddling this nonsense to the electorate.

We ought to remind him that he wishes to represent Westoe Ward not some "fantasy island!"


The Shields Gazette
2005 Parliamentary Election Result

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