Sunday, July 01, 2007

Notes from the Royal Mile

Whilst in Scotland, we happened to be in Edinburgh for the opening of the Scottish Parliament. We all enjoyed the "riding" as representatives from local community groups, performers, and more pipe bands than you could shake a sporran at, made their way down the hill.

It was a display of a confident, outward-looking community - the parade included a group with a Chinese dragon, a Hindi band and ethnic Turks or Romanians, all proudly waving their flags of St Andrew.

It got me thinking again about the North East's own missed opportunity in 2004. I was an unashamed campaigner for the regional assembly, leafleting fruitlessly in Darlington, Stockton and Middlesbrough (where I was thrown off the railway station as it wasn't "public property", but that's another story).

Of course, the failure had its roots in the timid powers proposed by Westminster, and the lacklustre 'Yes' campaign which thought that a fuzzy sense of North East identity would seemlesly transfer into votes for the assembly.

The killer blow was exacted however by the "No" campaign with its brilliantly-conceived inflatable white elephant, which knowingly tapped into and exploited voters' cynicism about politicians in general.

As the Sedgefield by-election approaches, remember that it was the Consercatives and their fellow-travellers on the extreme Europhobic right convinced that the North East Assembly was part of some vast Brussels plot, who scuppered the plan. An initiative that would have brought some democratic accountability to the workings of central government in the North East was thus torpedoed.

I mention this now too, of course, because one of the prime movers behind the No campaign, Graham Robb, is now the Tories' candidate in the by-election. In 2004 he told us all politicians are the same sleazy bunch, and the assembly was simply a case of "jobs for the boys". Now he will be trying to convince Sedgefield voters that in fact politicains are white knights who can make a real differerence to the local community.

Graham is a brilliant PR businessman, (and a blogger to boot) but he will need all his skills and more if he is to pull that one off.


Ian White said...

Hi Nick, I met Graham yesterday at our gala day, but as for people saying one thing then doing another here's a small bell ringer for you....
"Hurworth will NOT close"
The words of your imortal leader, who not much later than that tried to do that very thing!
Mind you as a result he did cost the Labour Party the chance of ever regaining a Hurworth seat!! that is at least whilst he is still leader of DBC!

ian holme said...

Have to agree (unsuprisingly) with Ian W on this one.
Local politicians in darlington proved themselves undeserving of our trust.

Anonymous said...

Vote for the Mayor to get Labour out.

miketually said...

Having a MySpace page does not a blogger make...

Dave Davies said...

White Knights, isn't that what Williams tried over TESCO.

'which knowingly tapped into and exploited voters' cynicism about politicians in general'.

Shouldn't 'AND' read 'THE' perhaps your fingers slipped Nick, who created the cynicism in the the first place.

Martin said...

"Anonymous said...
Vote for the Mayor to get Labour out."

Of the twelve elected mayors in office today six represent Labour, four are independent and the Tories and the Lib-Dems have achieved the dizzy heights of one each.

Has it not crossed your mind that precedent elsewhere suggests that the most likely result of a mayoral election would be a Labour victory?

ian holme said...

martin is of course correct.

However at least an elected mayor, from whatever party would be elected by the town as a whole.
Unlike the present situation where labour got less votes than the tories yet ended up with an overall majority of 5.

An elected mayor would also be accountable to the people. The people have no say in who leads d/ton labour group, and therefore the council, but they could decide on who would be mayor.

A lot of power in one persons hands certainly, but is that really any different to the current situation!

Martin said...

ian holme said...

"A lot of power in one persons hands certainly, but is that really any different to the current situation!"

Ian - I believe it is - for one very good reason which has been demonstrated locally quite recently.

The current leader is effectively elected by a majority vote of the Council members of the majority party. Consequently - and here's the crunch - he/she can be removed from office at any time by the same process! In April 2006 the long-serving Labour leader of Durham County Council, Cllr Ken Manton, was unceremoniously booted out of office in mid-term because a majority of his party group colleagues decided that a change of leader was appropriate.

Contrast that with the fact that, once elected, an elected mayor would have carte-blanche to do whatever they wished for a full four years as there is no mechanism to remove them in mid-term, barring criminal proceedings against them.

It is largely for that reason that I view an elected mayor as being too big a risk to take.

ian holme said...

Martin. whilst I appreciate your argument i cannot agree with you on this one.

JW and co have the labour group completely in their pockets. Whilst there may be some notional ability to remove them this will not happen (if it was, it would have happended before now)

Plus of course the people will still have no say in that decision.
The people should decide who runs our town, not the politicians.

Of course this is no different to central governemnt, where we see a scottish chancellor being handed the PM role in england.

I beleive that when their is change of leadership, an election should have to be called within 6 months, so that the people can decide if they want that person to represent our country on the international stage.
(given the polls of late, its quite possible this amy even happen in the case of Brown, but it should be mandatory)