Author Archives: Hilton Dawson

Children’s Rights are paramount

One of the most disconcerting experiences I have ever had was of walking in to a roomful of about 30 ordinary- looking, apparently respectable, rather articulate men who proceeded to tell me how they were learning to control their own feelings of wanting to sexually abuse children.
I had gone to a special unit in southern England as the prospective trustee of the Lucy Faithfull charity which seeks to protect children by working with those who perpetrate harm. I went in trepidation; while I thought it important to face one of the big issues of child protection I was frankly concerned for myself, as well as what I might find and keen to question whether the organisation actually did any good.
I came away with enormous respect for a team of dedicated social workers and psychologists; feeling rather inspired about the work they were doing to challenge abusive behaviour, help people to change and over the long term support and monitor them in the community.
This is vital work, but our natural revulsion may undermine efforts to tackle sexual abuse effectively. We resort to wishful thinking; unrealistic ideas about ‘locking up paedophiles and throwing away the key’. We cosset children at home fearing the stranger who would snatch them off the street when abuse is actually far more common from relatives and their friends, other children and those in respected, trusted authority. This is horrible stuff and it’s natural to want to turn away but if we are not sufficiently aware of sexual abuse, if we don’t enable children to protect themselves that’s precisely when clever, wicked people can do greatest damage. Conversely, if we raise a hue and cry over every suspicion we can break up families unnecessarily and perhaps prevent some people seeking help with worrying thoughts and feelings before they actually do harm.
I was reminded of all this last week with the shocking report of the National Crime Agency that 50,000 people from the UK regularly download images of child abuse from the internet. Clearly this is a fairly recent phenomenon but it must relate to about one in every thousand people who actually have internet access. It indicates that in every community there are people who are actively viewing images and thereby making themselves complicit in sexual abuse; in children being hurt, humiliated, degraded, frightened and used for gratification; their lives destroyed.
This is a foul insight into our society. Given that the very large majority of these people are men it also raises serious questions about the way that we men see ourselves. Furthermore, if watching abuse online is likely to escalate abusive behaviour what effect might this have on future crime rates when the NSPCC estimate that 10% of children already experience some form of sexual abuse ?
The police say that ‘ we are not going to arrest our way’ out of a problem on this scale, however a competent police investigation is a fundamental part of effective child protection.
Of course ‘Child Protection is everyone’s business’ therefore it is particularly worrying that a single organisation has felt it necessary to raise public concern when all the child protection guidance recommends a multi-agency approach to achieve effective solutions.
This sounds to me uncomfortably like desperation. At a regional level we have police and crime commissioners but I wonder who is listening to the National Crime Agency ? I haven’t heard anyone from Government or Opposition demanding effective action to address this apparently vast escalation of an old problem.
Nor do I see anyone standing up to the all- powerful ( tax-evading), multi- national internet companies to insist on concerted action to remove images of child abuse and to prevent people searching for horrific and illegal material. Look at the ways that Google, Facebook and their ilk infiltrate our lives, making themselves indispensable. Who really believes that they are unable to help protect children from abuse broadcast online ?
Children are children are children whether they live on Tyneside or in Timbuktu. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child signed by almost every country declares that their well- being is paramount, a fundamental priority for us all. There is no evading our responsibility to tackle this urgently and well.
The good news is that child protection systems can work well; there are dedicated professionals in all agencies, some adults take responsibility for their abusive behaviour and are helped to stop and that volunteers and communities can build ‘circles of support’ to help prevent re-offending. However children require urgent priority; global problems demand not just global but local solutions and a creaking public sector full of old boundaries and outdated ways needs to be revitalised with a dynamic new partnership of public, private, voluntary and community bodies fit for an interconnected, ever – changing world.
Don’t just leave it to someone else though; everyone can help build the future as well as protecting bairns.
More particularly if you are concerned about your own or someone else’s online behaviour please contact the Lucy Faithfull ‘Stop it Now’ advice line 08081000900. Help is at hand.

Better than Gold

Last week we were in the vast cultural mixing bowl better known as the City of Birmingham. I lived there for about four years and I must say I rather like the place; there’s a zest and vigour about its people which belies the usual image of 1960’s concrete riven by urban motorways.
It was a bit of a blokes outing. Isaac and I share an aversion to the shopping enjoyed by his sister, mother and grandmother so we took ourselves to the City Museum to view the ‘Staffordshire Hoard’, the wonderful collection of be-jewelled gold artefacts found buried near Lichfield.
I’d thought we might look for evidence that it was looted from Northumbria some 1000 years ago but he turned out more intent on claiming a toy car from the shop. However, there I discovered real treasure; ‘Last of the Dictionary Men’ – Stories from the South Shields Yemeni Sailors by Tina Gharavi, published last year.
I’ve always been intrigued by the visit of Mohammed Ali to South Shields in 1977. Certainly, he and his wife came to have their marriage blessed at the Al Azhar Mosque, then the only purpose built mosque in Britain outside London. But why Great Britain ? Why South Shields ?
Apparently Ali considered the ceremony his ‘real wedding’ and was delighted with his reception in the town, commenting that ‘Nowhere outside of Africa have I received such a welcome.’ What a mark of distinction for the Yemeni community of South Shields and for the place where they have integrated over more than 100 years. Even more extraordinary to reflect that in the midst of a region which has benefitted least from immigration in recent decades, the Roman fort of Arbeia, literally ‘place of the Arabs’ had soldiers from Mesopotamia, what is now Syria and Iraq, in what is now South Shields, almost 2000 years ago.
Reading this brought to mind a funeral I recently conducted for a gentleman who eventually made his home and many friends in Northumberland but had begun life in the Bosnian Muslim community of Sarajevo. As a civil celebrant I am acutely aware that everyone has a story to tell but this one about a skilled engineer and businessman who came to London as a young man and then, with the outbreak of civil war in the former Yugoslavia devoted himself to the support of refugees from all religions and communities, would have moved a stone.
I had been requested a reading from the Koran and so was once again grateful to the Imam and elders of the mosque in Lancaster who had presented me with an English translation some years ago. As Labour M.P. for Lancaster I admit that I sometimes took the small Moslem community for granted. They had come to the City in the 60’s to work in local factories and most lived together in a few streets, developing shops and restaurants. While they kept largely to themselves they were respected for their industry, friendliness not to mention turning out regularly and avidly to vote Labour.
Ironically it was the terrible events of 9/11 which brought us more together. I spent time at the mosque and with the community, welcomed their young women to Parliament, supported young people diversifying family business into IT, accompanied a brother and sister renowned for charitable work to Downing Street to meet Tony Blair. We all tried much harder and it was strongly impressed upon me that Islam is a religion of peace and humility.
It’s important to hold on to this when we hear so much of young British men and women being ‘radicalised’ and travelling to Iraq and Syria to wage hideous destruction on the people of those countries.
What a misuse of the English language is ‘radicalised.’ The radical tradition is a proud one exemplifying democracy, freedom, rationality, equality and tolerance. The people who want to impose a caliphate on vast areas of the Middle East and presumably in time on the rest of us have actually been ‘feudalised’. Their devotion to a brutal theocracy imposed by crucifixion, beheadings, slavery as well as sophisticated weapons and fluency with social media is a new version of an old tyranny. Threatening the world; threatening all of us.
If we decide that this is someone else’s problem; even worse if we retreat into blaming those who live harmlessly in our midst or those who peacefully want to come here, we have lost. The best response to vicious assaults on humanity is actually to reinvigorate those real radical values and to better support democratic institutions based on international concepts of human rights.
Those suspected of involvement in genocide returning from abroad should be arrested, investigated and if necessary brought before the International Criminal Court. As members of a United Nations Security Council recently criticised for failing 200,000 people killed in Syria our Government is accountable to us for preventive action to save lives.
South Shields’ welcome for Mohammed Ali, founded upon respect for its Yemeni population demonstrates how communities are enriched by diversity. Now there’s something really precious for the world.

People who matter

About 30 of us spent Saturday afternoon thinking about an old photograph.
It dates from 1901 and shows Robert Embleton Heslop, my great grandmother’s cousin, standing in front of the old Queens Head Inn, Newbiggin by the Sea.He’s recently taken over as landlord and he’s holding up his one year old son for the camera.
Robert’s pride is palpable; you can almost hear him saying ‘my bairn, my pub.’
At the age of 35 Robert had a great deal of work ahead of him. 20 years after this photograph was taken he was still in charge of a rebuilt Queens Head and the child in his arms had made him a grandfather. With the coming of the Pit the population of what was once a tiny fishing village had multiplied 3 times.
The baby in Robert’s arms actually represented the 5th successive generation of his family to live at the Queens Head. Robert knew that he was succeeding 3 women – great grandmother, grandmother and aunt who had been the licensees before him. In all, Ann Embleton, Jinny Cowell and Sarah Davison ran the Queens Head for seven decades of the 19th Century – 1828 to 1899.
What extraordinary women they must have been.
All widowed, for many years , all mothers who lost some children in infancy, all in business at a time when women were so repressed, with opportunities so limited. They all had to manage a public house whose customers would overwhelmingly be men; fishermen, sailors, miners . Hard men from a hard men’s world.
At a time when it was reported that Newbiggin publicans were remarkably short-lived, remaining in business no more than 7 years ,they must have been formidable.
There was opposition; the temperance movement deplored the ‘ inveigling’ of young people with ‘fish suppers and dancing’. In 1874 the Medical Officer of Health joined in the condemnation; complaining that living conditions of fishing families were so cramped the wife would usher her husband off to the pub so that she could tidy up the house, thus ensuring that men acquired the habit, the taste for alcohol. Later, Dr. Reid acknowledged that these widows seemed better able to keep orderly houses than men.
Every family must have similar tales; the difference in Newbiggin is that we are building a community family history, resurrecting the interlinked family tales of thousands of people, resonating with those alive today, wherever we are in the world.
It’s important that we do so. Not only because everyone is surely to be valued in themselves but because the more we learn about people, the more we recognise our own identity and, learn to make sense of our own world.
Some think that genealogy is an interesting pastime for people with plenty of time on their hands. I think it’s critical to understanding who we are. It demonstrates respect for people; recovering information about past lives ensures that a vast treasure house of experience can be reflected upon, utilised rather than being squandered. It’s a tool with which to build humanity.
We now know that three women ran the Queens Head, spending their whole lives around a few streets in an obscure fishing village at a time when Queen Victoria ruled the British Empire spanning the globe. Yet why should accident of birth or greater opportunity mean that any human being is valued more ?
Sometimes I reflect that we haven’t really moved on. While it is possible for some individuals to rise from very humble beginnings I think we constantly re-invent an ‘aristocracy’ of money, unelected officials, so-called celebrity driven by the pernicious influence of ‘who’ rather than ‘what’ you know. Millions are simply ignored.
Whether they are alive or long dead, I believe this to be stupid as well as immoral. In a long career of meeting fancy people in fancy places my experience is of learning most about life from other kids in the back lane, children in care, powerless people who I was elected to represent, dispossessed people seeking refuge, under-valued people from undervalued communities.
We all, when it comes down to it, inhabit small places for what turns out to be a short time. However, there’s really no question of any of us living small lives. In fact it’s just sensible for us to learn to listen not just with our ears but with our whole being and to forever put the principles of equality and democracy into action.
One month today Scotland has the opportunity to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’. That’s a matter for the Scots people; what gladdens my heart is the vigorous democratic debate taking place, involving people as never before.
What utterly saddens it is the bunch of cronies from the ‘Core Cities’ group of local authorities who have the undemocratic effrontery to advocate that a Councillor elected by a few hundred people to represent one ward can thereafter be entitled to lead a million people deploying vast resources in a ‘City Region’.
100 years and more since they last walked on the earth my great grandmothers tell me that people require better than that.

Missing in Gaza

We were looking after some of our bairns last week. Then, with the grandchildren peacefully, quietly in bed we collapsed in front of the TV; horrified to see other peoples’ bairns being killed in their hundreds, only a few hours away.
Later we heard the calm, rational arguments of intelligent, civilised men from the most established democracy in the Middle East. They offer reasoned justification – explaining their actions in terms of the self-defence to which they are surely entitled; assuring us that they target their missiles at terrorists and provide warnings to people whose elected Government launches rockets from their neighbourhood and stores weapons in their hospital. We even have the odd apology – for the deaths of four boys playing on a beach. Then they go on with the relentless bombardment of a place about as big as Tyneside but packed with three times as many people.
Sue and I lived in Israel for a few months in 1976. It was our first time outside Europe and the opportunity to work on a kibbutz, experience a communal, sharing way of life and visit places familiar from the Bible was one of the adventures of our lives.
It wasn’t great. Our biggest disappointment was that understandably, the mainly young, largely privileged, very temporary volunteers were kept at arms-length by those whose whole life this was. Reservists in the armed forces when they weren’t on the kibbutz, the Israelis needed our work on the farm and in the factory. However the newly qualified teacher so keen to work with children never got the chance and when your own politics is so febrile who cares about the budding politician straight from university? They were tough people, committed to their collective survival, worthy of our respect. Perhaps none of us had time to get beyond the easy familiarity of work on those sunny early mornings when the ‘guys got on the wagon’ and we went out to ‘cut more bananas than anyone else in the whole state of Israel.’
Assigned to a beautiful place in the Jordan Valley, just south of the Sea of Galilee we were acutely aware of how threatened people were; the armed guard at night, the minefield beyond the banana groves and the air raid shelters which we cleaned out and re-stocked. Weapons were everyday tools; the middle-aged woman shopping in Tiberias with a bag over one shoulder and a sub- machine gun on the other. One Saturday, driving in a lorry to a beauty spot near the Golan Heights; the volunteers took the picnic, the drivers the kalashnikovs. Later, on a public bus travelling through the West Bank we were stopped at an army checkpoint somewhere out in the Judean desert; all the Arab men onboard were made to get off, spread-eagled in the dirt, searched while we watched, then came back to their seats and what was plainly a normal journey carried on.
Israel made us want to affirm life; on coming back to England we started our family. Last week, with our grandchildren asleep, resisting the urge to turn off the images of terrified, injured, screaming children; parents clutching them, desperately trying to keep them safe I thought of Yad Vashem.
Israel’s great memorial to six million people murdered in the Holocaust expresses all its tragedy on an epic scale; strangely uplifting, it reserves its most telling, poignant fact for last. My abiding memory of visiting all of 38 years ago is of turning a corner on the way out, thinking it all over, then coming across a final glass case containing one small, scuffed, well- worn child’s shoe with the simple statement that of all those who died, 500,000 were children.
If you had any tears left to weep this would surely be the time to let them go.
Israel cares for its own children and I believe that its people will be concerned for the children of Gaza. I hope they will spurn the cruel obduracy of leaders who are so self- righteous in their disproportionate pursuit of terrorists that they have lost sight of their duties to humanity. I trust we will soon hear the voices of a coming Israeli generation who don’t wish to spend their whole future in conflict with people scarred by the wicked treatment of children and their families in Gaza in the summer of 2014.
It’s an irony of our time that atrocious suffering can be ever more easily inflicted, ever more easily observed, while it’s ever more easy to feel there’s nothing we can do. Nevertheless we must not turn off or turn away.
Whether we are from Ashington or Ashkelon we live in democratic countries which are part of a system of international law and human rights which needs to be used and supported and developed further to deal with international crises.
Democratic politics is the best weapon and it’s in all our hands. We should invest in our own democracy, take time to meet with our politicians during their recess and take our bairns along. Call for the whole world to do better – and more.

Looking East

These are the best days of Summer; long and warm with all the promise of holidays, clusters of people, families staying late on the beach.
I love a beach in all weathers. Ever wary of the sea I’m an inveterate beach-comber cluttering house, car, pockets with odd bits of smooth stone and boody – sea-washed pottery and glass. That’s one way to experience lots of wind and rain as well as cold, hard, bright days.
However my best treasure came from the sea at the slow end of a hot afternoon. I remember it well even though more than 50 years ago. The family, school teachers and their bairns had been on the beach all day; I recall feeling slightly burnt and salty but clean, with that warmth you get when you’ve dried yourself off from the sea.
Leaving everyone else to pick up all our gear I’d wandered back to the sea and then I saw it, a green flash of light about 50 yards out, heading steadily in, towards me. When it came nearer, clothes and all I just plodged back in, then deeper, wanting to protect it, determined to claim it for myself.
I have it here now, it’s an old green glass fishing float, crudely plugged, marked with a letter ‘M’.
It isn’t actually worth anything at all. You see loads of replicas amongst lots of other tourist tat, even the old ones found in junk shops sell for a couple of pounds. However it is beautiful, dark green with impurities that catch the light and I have treasured it all these years, wondering where it really came from and trying to persuade generations of children that it’s some sort of crystal ball.
I suppose that it bobbed up from an old wreck or long-discarded nets no further than Newbiggin bay, but it certainly fed my childhood imagination, and remains part of my fascination with what lies over that easterly horizon and the idea of a North Sea community.
I’m no sailor so the great travel book that I just know is inside me will be about my long journey around the shores of the North Sea.’ North Sea Littoral’ will take in the part of England I’ve already done – Spurn Head and that ship burial at Sutton Hoo, then to the huge beaches of Belgium and before Denmark the shifting sands of Holland and Germany.
That’s something for the future, perhaps.
However I was thinking about Germany last week, enjoying the celebrations of their ‘golden generation’ winning the World Cup, thankfully, without the aid of penalties.
Long ago, with the North Sea still frozen into a receding Ice Age our ancestors could walk there; some of them probably came from what is now Schleswig- Holstein the northernmost of the 16 regions of Germany. Further research will have to wait for my travel book but I’m interested in the parallels between their region and us.
Northerly, bordering on the North Sea and another country, similarly sized population; Kiel their major city is comparable to Newcastle with shipbuilding and naval traditions. However, they are prosperous even by German standards while we are poor by English – and their region, playing its part in federal Germany has its own Parliament and Government.
There are those who will doubt the role of politics in developing an effective economy but I would argue that without one elected, accountable body with real power to invest, to tax (or not), to plan and to focus its efforts on our region alone we are not going to get where we all want to be. We are not going to do as well as our neighbours, 400 miles across the North Sea, closer than places in England.
A few days ago a friend and colleague was telling me of his journey from redundancy when the coal mine closed to successful small business via university and reflecting that he had met more clever people ‘doon the pit’ than in the halls of academe. The tragedy for all of us is that 30 years on many of those talented North East people have never made it out of unemployment.
We spoke with some business people about how important it is to ‘enable’ the good ideas emanating both from world class research and communities. Of how enterprise culture should start early, provide real practical help to fledgling companies with finance, tax breaks and wise advice readily available now and in the long term. The vital necessity of calculated risk- taking to create jobs and opportunities. Regional focus and regional solutions.
I thought of the German football team and a set of attitudes around team work, efficiency, consensus and long term planning which have ensured that wonderful talents have been nurtured rather than squandered.
I spent 11 years working at all levels in London and have enjoyed no more than a few hours in the company of friends from northern Germany. Nevertheless, if we really had a crystal ball I wonder if it would advise us to look south or east if we are to build our region anew ?

Hawaay Hyem

Wor Billy’s coming hyem next weekend. After years in Liverpool my brother will still want to trek further north to the best beach in England. It’s 7 miles of vast space and sand dunes, castles, wrecks, with a little island cut off by the tide.

Whether ‘Yem’ or ‘hyem’ it’s a good word. Derived, I’m told from Old English, exactly the same in Danish or Norwegian, similar to Swedish, Dutch and German. Our common feeling for ‘home’ demonstrated by shared language and history across the North Sea, revealing common humanity.How important it is to be rooted somewhere.

Laughably for someone who has barely set foot outside of England I consider myself to be a world citizen; my freedom to travel to the ends of the earth unaffected by the fact that I very rarely use it. However when I have been briefly furthest away, to Israel, Japan, Angola, California, when we were only 150 miles distant for quarter of a century in Lancaster, I always felt the pull of home. Missing family of course but also lacking that uncanny sense of place, wondering why ‘here’ semed more real. Revelled, for example, in the writing of James Joyce, partly because in decades of exile in Trieste, Zurich, Paris, ranging across life and language he only ever wrote about a few places, on a few days, in Dublin.

Talking to a woman last week about employment in the North East I was struck by her passionate motivation to ‘bring my lads home’. Or at least, with them exiled to good jobs in London and Birmingham, because there had been ‘nothing for them here’, to try to ensure that other mothers’ children didn’t face the same lack of choice.

This is the region whose primary export is its children – to the armed forces, to universities, to jobs, to the world. Of course there’s a good side to all that; we should give young people the very best start in life, set them free, ambitiously, excitingly, to serve, to pursue opportunities, to make their own way across the whole world .However they should have the real choice to stay here and prosper. As well as the opportunity to return and remain when they are in their economic prime. Indeed, we should be better able to attract other people’s children from way beyond the North East to come here for world class universities and jobs because there’s something for them here too.

Unfortunately the brutal facts are that we are the smallest, slowest growing region in England with the oldest population, the highest rates of unemployment, the fewest people in work, the lowest wages and the most people living in poverty and ill health – and sometimes,some of the poorest educational standards in the country.

These matters are well known and they are being addressed – by Local Government, Business , Education , Members of Parliament. Reported almost daily, considerable energy and skill is being well deployed to chase the next opportunity, to pursue new investments, to promote ourselves at first sight of every new government scheme. All this is commendable and worthy of acknowledgement and support.

However we remain the last and the least of England, disregarded for example by that major project which ends the railway of the future at Leeds. When we are promised some special emphasis we find we are just another part of some national initiative, competing with every other region which is better connected, closer to London and already has more jobs than us. All those worthy efforts; working very hard – to keep us coming last.
With forever being the place whose children have to leave.

We really shouldn’t allow this to go on.Take one step outside Northumberland and we find somewhere with exactly the same need for opportunity and experience of exile. Yet Scotland successfully makes its own decisions, last week launched the biggest ship ever commissioned by the Royal Navy and enjoys an annual level of Government funding which if applied to our region would provide us with more than £1billion extra every year.In all the debate about Scotland’s independence there is not one voice calling for less devolution, In fact, whatever their views, everybody is responding to Scotland sticking up for itself by falling over themselves to give them more. We should demand much more.

There’s no need for special favours, just fairness. Consider the 12 million people from the UK who have no stronger identity, face many of the same problems yet have far more resources and the far greater devolved power we need to benefit 2.6 million people here. Thankfully, just as in Wales and Scotland the cause of North East devolution is picking itself up, not content with London’s leavings.

One thing we might do is mimic Scotland’s ‘homecoming’ for its exiled population. We should say ‘hawaay hyem’ to a million North East people living all over the world. With great enterprise we could establish a major, identifying cultural event to help re-engage people with home, to remind ourselves that the North East requires the best of everything.Way beyond Wor Billy’s favourite beach.

Letter to elected representatives re dualling the A1

Alan Beith M.P.

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

 

Stephen Hughes M.E.P

Constituency Office

Room 38/4

County Hall

Durham

DH1 5UR

 

County Councillor Jeff Watson

County Hall

Morpeth

NE61 2EF

 

May 14th 2013

 

 

A1 north of Morpeth

 

I don’t suppose you saw it but I have recently written in a Journal column for the dualling of the A1 to be given the highest priority for investment in the whole North East region on the grounds of road safety, economic development and the poor image of Northumberland that the current wholly inadequate state of the road presents to a million people using it.

 

I also urged people to contact their elected representatives to urge them to set aside party politics and any local interests to work together on this fundamental strategic  issue in the interests of the North East.

 

You will have far more knowledge and experience of this issue than me. I write only to share my concern, ask you to let me know what you are currently doing about this matter and request that you keep me informed about any developments and representations you are making.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

 

 

Hilton Dawson

Dualling the A1 is the fundamental strategic priority for the North East

Last week I was in Lincolnshire to lead my brother in law’s funeral.
Jim was a good guy. While it was a very sad occasion it was also a wonderful opportunity for us to tell a quite epic tale.
Born in Ashington, then the ‘biggest mining village in the world’ Jim was apprenticed as an electrician at Linton Colliery straight from school. Assiduous application at night classes turned him into an engineer at Woodhorn and he was then part of the mass exodus of the 1960’s to the Nottinghamshire coalfield.
Utterly dedicated to the coal industry and to keeping the people who worked in it safe. Jim crossed picket lines by agreement during the Miners Strike to keep the pit in good order – for the community and for jobs. Hoping that this would last for many years to come.
Jim’s work of decades now lies disused and destroyed, sealed off thousands of feet underground. However, there is no doubt that his commitment to work – and to his community and colleagues – has had a beneficial impact on many thousands of lives. Continue reading

4 years to end the democratic deficit

Congratulations to everyone elected last Thursday.
In all the national coverage of the alleged surge of UKIP the issue completely overlooked was that of participation. Here in Northumberland we had one seat which managed more than 50% turnout. In many places less than 25% of those eligible took part.
Reflected as it was across the region and the country this represents a massive threat to our democracy and a huge missed opportunity to engage with key issues. Continue reading

Let’s make sure that the people take charge on Thursday

I love politics – me.
Our democracy means that any and all of us can change the world, can have our own influence upon the big decisions that affect our lives.
Politics is far too interesting and important to be left to politicians.
However, if we want to hold the people we elect to account it’s important that we use our votes this Thursday. Use them well – in Northumberland and Durham, in the Mayoral election in North Tyneside and wherever elections are taking place in the parishes and towns of the two unitary counties. Continue reading