Monday, July 16

From the Editor's Cottage

If points were being awarded for effort the Lib Dem campaign team in the Sedgefield Constituency would be at the top of the list.
Thirteen distinctive Lib Dem leaflets with prospective MP Greg Stone's mug shot prominently placed add to the carbon foot print of the high profile by-election. The Bright Orange Lib Dem Posters are everywhere some replacing Labour posters which were masterly affixed to telegraph polls and fences in the early days of the campaign.
Clearly Corporate Bookmakers William Hill are impressed since they have reduced the odds on a Greg Stone being first past the post from 33/1 to 16/1.
A total of thirty two leaflets have landed my on my cottage door mat in rural Sedgefield during the past three days persuading me to vote Labour or Conservative or Lib Dem or UKIP or for one of the many fringe candidates. Not one candidate has yet ventured up the mile long single track to canvas my rural mostly farming neighbours.

All but the UKIP candidate are focused and mumbling on about the issue of the crumbling 1960's Newton Aycliffe shopping centre; even Labour are accepting that Blair is a part of the problem. Never before has such a dreadful shopping centre had so much press and political attention. One camera team from the USA last Wednesday asked where the nearest restaurant was, I suggested the ancient City of Durham some 25 miles away or if they liked squashed peas and traditional English real ale The Dunn Cow in Sedgfield (15 miles down the road) which once visited by George W Bush.

Labour is on a very sticky neglected wicket with the concrete decaying new town, which is why Labour Candidate Phil Wilson went big on ''Honouring a pit tradition'' last week. He achieved much publicity when he spoke at the unfurling of the Deaf Hill Colliery Banner. Never mind that the Colliery closed 40 years ago or that the new banner was made in far away Suffolk, or that most of the new jobs in the constituency are IT orientated or retail Mr Wilson sounded like a traditional Labour MP; his honouring of Labours traditional values did not fall on deaf ears.

Graham Robb the Conservative candidate was canvassing in the glare of the press photographers with Party Chairman Caroline Spelman. My old friend the Deputy Party Chairman Michael Bates (previously a North East Conservative MP) was raising cane over access to the spanking new high tec Net Park a business centre that according to Mr Blair represents ''the future of Sedgefield and the North East.'' Apparently John Hutton Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise toured the impressive development with the local Labour candidate but when the Conservatives asked to do the same a few days before they were turned down.

Meanwhile Toby Horton, the UKIP candidate and latter day eurorealist was trying to persuade voters that they had a ''once-in-a lifetime opportunity to send a message to the new Prime Minister about the biggest issue of the day''. He states in his literature and in The Northern Echo that Gordon Brown travels to Lisbon in October '' to ratify the deal Tony Blair agreed on the future of European Union just days before he stepped down.''

Toby should know better - the issue is that the British people need to demand a referendum before the UK Parliament ratifies the new treaty at the end of the year once the heads of Government of all 27 EU member states of the 'EU Empire' have agreed the details at their conference in October. The issue is that the people must vote and reject the treaty before the UK Parliament votes for ratification. If the importance of a referendum is not made very clear it should not be any wonder voters will prefer to concern themselves with the state of the local shopping centre rather than by whom and how we are to be governed.

Thus is how candidates now campaign.

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