Wednesday, September 22, 2004

North East Says No Campaign Responds to the Questions. Official Yes Campaign still quiet

Response to Questions from...

John Elliott Chairman

North East Says No
12.30pm 21st September 2004

Dear John,
We are preparing a case for Judicial Review which will be lodged by the end of the week at the Royal Courts of Justice.

We feel as though the referendum issue and the implications for the North East public are too important to be decided without correction of the misleading / factually incorrect statements which appear in the Government's 'Have Your Say' Leaflet which went out to 1,900,000 people in the region.

The ODPM is currently considering writing to only a proportion of the North East public over the incorrect figure involved in the local government reorganisation in Durham.

I have also indicated the other 'misleading statements,' which will form part of the case.
See below...

Have Your Say
"They (the assembly members) would be elected - as in Scotland, Wales and London - by a system of proportional representation to help prevent domination by a single political party..."
The Draft Regional Assemblies Bill
"A number of members (constituency members) would be elected for constituencies on the traditional 'first past the post' method. The rest would be elected on a regionwide basis, as 'top-up members.' is expected that the constituency members would make up the majority."

Have Your Say
"The North East Regional Development Agency, for example, would answer not to Ministers or Whitehall but to the assembly."

Draft Regional Assemblies Bill Policy Statement (Section 43)
"Central government would retain powers to ensure that assemblies and their RDA's continue to address national priorities.For example, the assembly would need to consult the Government on the draft regional economic strategy and on Board appointments."

I would appreciate answers to the following questions within 24 hours from the Yes (and also the 'No') Campaign because it is important that the North East are fully aware of exactly where the two official campaigns stand:-

1. Do the feel that the two above statements from the Have Your Say Leaflet are misleading?

NESNO ... absolutely but further more the whole leaflet is designed to "sell" the idea of an assembly by misleading the readers. This is not a matter of opinion I've tested it with voters.

2. Would you be happy for the statements to be withdrawn or corrected, or would you prefer them to remain unchallenged?

NESNO ... at the very least those who prepared it should make it clear that it is intended to sell the idea rather than inform. I would like to see the brief and minutes of meetings with the advertising agency I can't believe their brief implied or actual was to inform if so they should give the money back

3. Are you happy that the incorrect figure describing the cost of local government reorganisation for Durham is not being corrected for the whole of the 1,900,000 voters?

NESNO ... I believe the whole issue of having a referendum complicated by a secondary issue which is not directly dependent on the primary issue is wrong. It would have made more sense to offer those in Durham the option of voting for an assembly and a separate vote on unitary status. Unitary status is clearly not dependant on a regional assembly. It's simply another example of reorganisation on the hoof and reminds of that well known phrase "act in haste but regret it at leisure"

4. Do you think that the importance of ensuring that the public are fully and correctly informed outweighs the cost of correcting the mistakes?

NESNO ... totally. it's a bit like saying do you want it early and cheap or right

5. Are you content that the photographs used in the 'Have Your Say' Leaflet and the use of negative imagery including using racial stereotypes should also be allowed to stand?

NESNO ... I think this is an absolute disgrace while I'm not a great believer in political correctness I thing stereotyping groups as negative for political gain is reprehensible.

Neil Herron North East No Campaign Frederick Street Sunderland Tel. 0191 565 7143 Mob. 07776 202045

Also to Professor John Tomaney, Chairman,Yes4theNorthEast cc. Ross Smith / Zoe Hughes (Journal) cc. Philip Johnston (Daily Telegraph) cc. Peter Young (Evening Chronicle) cc. Tony Kearney (Northern Echo) cc. Jeremy Wicking (Sunderland Echo) cc. Peter Hetherington (Guardian) cc. Steve Dyson (Middlesbrough Evening Gazette) cc. Richard Moss (BBC) cc. Tiffany Royce (Tyne Tees)

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