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At Hawkeys Lane War Memorial last Sunday the names of the fallen in 1915 were read out by Tynemouth World War One Project volunteers. The recently unveiled commemorative boards in the memorial garden at the Linskill Centre shows the effect of war on our community. Remembrance services last weekend were well attended, despite the inclement weather and the wearing and laying of wreaths of red poppies symbolised not the glorification of war but a mark of respect to those who gave their lives in the defence of our country.

 

I can respect other people’s views but for me defence is a deeply embedded principle. In our area many people have served in the Armed Forces or have family who have done so. Strong Labour areas like the North East have traditionally provided the staunchest defenders of our country. And the two local veterans awarded the Legion d'Honneur at a recent service I attended in Durham Cathedral demonstrates that defending our country can also mean defending others.

 

Over the next few months Parliament will face big decisions not least about a replacement for Trident and my party’s position remains in favour of multilateral not unilateral disarmament.  For us defence is not just about guns, ships, planes or even missiles, it is also about the pay and conditions of those who serve. We owe that to those who currently serve as much as we owe respect to those who have gone before.

 

We will remember them

At Hawkeys Lane War Memorial last Sunday the names of the fallen in 1915 were read out by Tynemouth World War One Project volunteers. The recently unveiled commemorative boards in...

The recent service for Lost Fishermen and Seafarers in North Shields was a timely reminder of just how dangerous the fishing industry is.  On average a fisherman dies each week, making fishing the UK’s most dangerous peacetime occupation.  Yet over the next few months local fishermen may be forced to go further for longer to make a living in fishing grounds under increasing pressure.

 

For most fishermen along the North East coast the nephrops fishery – prawns to you and I – is the staple catch, in a season which usually runs from October to April.  More than 60 boats depend on the prawn fishery, all under 18 metres, most under 10 metres, it’s a fishery which sustains stocks and around 1000 jobs in the industry.  Now that’s under threat from bigger, nomadic boats from Ireland and Scotland muscling in on the catch and threatening to overfish.

 

At this point Euro critics usually wag their finger at the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy.  But this is a home grown problem, needing a home grown solution.  As I warned in the last fisheries debate and again in a recent letter to the Minister, Ministers need to act to protect the nephrops fishery in the Farne Deeps, defend the local fleets or devolve the power Ministers have to our region to protect our own. Most MP’s aspire to be a Minister so when Ministers have the power why won’t they use it?

Fishing needs to be protected by Ministers

The recent service for Lost Fishermen and Seafarers in North Shields was a timely reminder of just how dangerous the fishing industry is.  On average a fisherman dies each week,...

It is ironic that at the same time the film “Suffragette” is in cinemas we are facing perhaps the biggest disenfranchisement in our history.  The Government is planning to bring forward plans for Individual Electoral Registration by 12 months, against the advice of the independent Electoral Commission. The effect is likely to be that a million people will disappear from the electoral register, on top of the estimated million already missing.

We support Individual Electoral Registration, and legislated for it, but we also recognise the huge challenge it poses. Some local authorities, whose responsibility it is to maintain registers, have coped well with the challenge so far, including our own here in North Tyneside, but there’s still work to be done.

Any government should encourage people to register to vote. Without registering you can’t have your say in the election of an MP, a Councillor, a Mayor, an MEP, or a Police and Crime Commissioner. Nor can you vote in the forthcoming Referendum on our membership of the European Union, a decision which will have a huge impact on our future as a country.

Even if you don’t intend to vote, not being on the electoral register could make getting a bank card or a mobile phone contract much harder, or you could face a £80 fine for not registering.

You’ll need your NI number to register to vote. Registering takes less than three minutes by going to gov.uk/register-to-vote. Don’t lose your voice!

Window on Westminster

It is ironic that at the same time the film “Suffragette” is in cinemas we are facing perhaps the biggest disenfranchisement in our history.  The Government is planning to bring...

Next week the Conservatives at their Conference get to reflect on their party’s unexpected election victory, this week in Brighton the Labour Party is reflecting on our unexpected leader.

Party Conferences have a unique place in party history. Instead of the hoped for unity, they are often remembered for their discord, usually a political version of looking back in anger.  Although new Leaders give renewed interest the only part of Conference which attracts attention is often the Leader’s speech.

There’s also a myth about party conference, that members and affiliates come together as the supreme decision making body.  In fact every Labour leader has ignored conference decisions when it suited them, including fondly remembered leaders like Clement Attlee.

The speed of doing politics has moved on rapidly.  Political participation for many people is about signing up to online campaigns and petitions.  For others political communication goes little further than the 140 characters allowed on Twitter.  Only very few could imagine stretching that to 5 days in a Conference Hall.

So there may be something in the view that the week long annual Conference is no longer as relevant, in seaside towns which like conferences themselves have seen better days. Perhaps it’s time for more frequent, shorter conferences, in the regions, closer to the people and away from London.  It would certainly mean Parliament would no longer need a Conference Recess and we could get on with our job of scrutinising the Government.

Time for party conferences to be in regions

Next week the Conservatives at their Conference get to reflect on their party’s unexpected election victory, this week in Brighton the Labour Party is reflecting on our unexpected leader. Party...

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