Certain defeat real reason for derailing referendums
I still cannot quite believe the U-turn that has been performed by John Prescott regarding the regional assembly referendums for the North-West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
For the past 10 months the Government has been spending huge sums of taxpayers’ money on their so-called information campaign and yet now, out of the blue, the referendums have been cancelled. And what is the reason given? Well, apparently John Prescott has realised the error of his ways as far as full postal ballots are concerned and he now thinks there is a question mark over the integrity of that particular electoral system.
On this I agree with him. However, thanks to some typical New Labour spin and trickery these concerns are not extended to the North-East which, despite the fact we operated under exactly the same ballot system as the other two regions, we still have a referendum on November 4.
During the European Elections campaign my office was deluged with complaints about the full postal ballot here in our region. The concerns were wide wide-ranging and came from people not able to vote because ballot papers arrived too late, others who found the process of voting far too complicated, some has been bullied and intimidated to hand over blank ballot papers and many just simply wanted the choice to vote in the traditional way. Following the election I forwarded all these concerns to the Electoral Commission.
Of course we all know that the government was running to certain defeat in the other two regions and this was the real reason for throwing the referendum process off the rails.
So, yet again, this Labour government is taking the North-east for granted, just assuming that we will obey its command and vote for a tax raising talking shop. I sincerely hope that this cynical move by John Prescott last week will be rewarded with a resounding "No" in the forthcoming referendum here in the North-East.
Martin Callanan MEP
North East; Conservative
Insistence on vote witnesses added complexity to system
Both Judith Wallace and Stan Smith (Letters, July 26) say that the North-East Assembly referendum should be postponed due to the problems with postal voting in June.
But what caused these problems?
One factor was the delaying tactics of Tory and Liberal democrat’s peers in the House of Lords, which held up the postal voting bill at the last minute and left little time to organise the ballot.
A second factor was the Liberal Democrat insistence (against the advice of the independent Electoral Commission) on having votes witnessed. This added unnecessary complexity to the voting system and led to many votes being declared invalid.
Neither factor will apply in November.
Prior to this year, postal voting has worked like clockwork and in Gateshead it doubled the electoral turnout. Hopefully the referendum will go just as smoothly and the people of the North-East, having listened to all the arguments, will cast an informed vote.
John Bourn BA
Be sure to vote yes for the good of the North-East
With the postponement of the North-West and Yorkshire referendum campaign, the spotlight will now be firmly on the North-East.
Now is the chance for us to lead the debate and show how this progressive democratisation of power in the region will help get our economy back on its feet and give the North-East its own distinctive voice.
Other regions where bureaucrats and Whitehall still set the agenda will be envois of the North-East having increased powers in key areas such as learning & skills, transport and services for small businesses.
The doom mongers and critics will say that it still won’t be able to really change and improve the region.
I say when have we ever really been given the chance?
Many of the businessmen and their Tory mates lined up against the assembly haven’t been able to create the wealth and replace the thousands of jobs lost to manufacturing in the region over the last 20 years.
Government initiatives have brought big players to the region funded by the taxpayer who up and leave at the first sign of trouble.
The new assembly will help grow new business in the North-East grounded firmly in the North-East.
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