Seems like according to the Times, a few pound notes set on fire and an inflatable elephant has shifted the polls in the last few weeks. If we had known that then we could have stayed at home for the last two years.
May I be so bold as to suggest, as we were quoted ( North East No Campaign) as saying many times throughout the last two years of campaigning (which has included influencing overtly and subliminally), that, "The further up the tree the monkey climbs, the more you will see its arse."
As the North East public are only now starting to realise that there is a referendum taking place and examining the issue, it is only now that they are grasping the fact that what they are being sold is useless and toothless. They are asking the questions that the Yes Campaign have struggled to answer for two years. Hopefully we have done our bit at the North East No Campaign over the last two years to soften up the Yes Campaign and alert the public to the issues to enable NESNO to turn up on July 13th this year with a couple of stunts to win the day.
Isn't the world of politics wonderful?
The letters Page at the Times, should anyone wish to comment is letters@the times.co.uk
October 13, 2004
North East turns against 'white elephant' assembly
By Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor
JOHN PRESCOTTS dream of setting up elected regional assemblies across England has been thrown into jeopardy after polling showed a dramatic shift against the idea in the North East.
With only three weeks to go before a referendum, the Deputy Prime Minister and Gordon Brown were drafted into Newcastle to boost the "yes" vote, amid signs that the proposal to devolve power to the North East region could be rejected.
A poll published today in the Newcastle regional newspaper The Journal shows that 36 per cent of people would vote against the mini-parliament for the North East, 27.5 per cent would vote in favour and 36 per cent are undecided.
Polls in recent months had shown the "yes" camp leading by two to one. But the tables have turned with the "no" camp staging a series of stunts to galvanise opposition before the vote on November 4.
Last week, the group burned thousands of fake £20 notes, which they claimed would be wasted if the 25-strong assembly, to be based in Durham, were set up. This week it is deploying a 12 ft inflatable white elephant at regional events.
The referendum is being carried out by an all-postal ballot, despite Electoral Commission misgivings. The ballot will be sent out on Monday.
The "no" group is fronted by former members of the Business for Sterling campaign, which fought against the euro, and is backed by Tory and UKIP-supporting businessmen.
The group, led by John Elliott, 60, chairman of Ebac, a water-cooler manufacturer, says that the assembly will cost more than present local government, will create an additional tier of bureaucracy, will result in higher levels of council tax and will have few powers.
"The 'yes' campaign is struggling to convince people that this assembly will have any real power," said Mr Elliott of the latest poll, which was conducted by Wood Holmes, a market research company.
"They have got no message and just rely on warm words. That is a problem, when people believe that more politicians means higher council tax."
The 'yes' camp, led by Professor John Tomaney, 41, a genial academic, who has worked for a North East assembly for more than 12 years, runs a slick, conventional campaign with roadshows, glossy leaflets and two dozen experienced volunteers. Professor Tomaney said of the poll, which surveyed 400 people: "It was a relatively small sample size and its results are completely out of line with others conducted recently. There is still everything to play for."
The 'yes' group, backed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats and academics and regional artists, is more knowledgeable, better organised, better financed, but, so far, less aggressive than its opponents.
Its organisers also privately admit that they are trying to distance themselves from the new Labour hierarchy, and highprofile North East MPs such as Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers, who are not popular locally.
Both camps face apathy and ignorance among the region's 1.9 million voters. "Apathy, not the Tories, is our enemy" said Professor Tomaney, who travels daily across the region to try to spread his message.
He argues that the proposed regional assembly will create jobs, boost investment and give the North East a bigger say over tourism, transport, public health, skills and culture. But he admits that the powers proposed by the Government, which mainly cover those presently held by the Regional Development Agency, are disappointing and need to be improved.
He claims that the young are the most enthusiastic supporters of the proposed assembly. But, when his roadshow arrived in Seaham, Co Durham, a former mining community on the North East coast, most shoppers, young or old, had barely heard of it.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL ASSEMBLY
Size: The North East assembly would have 25 directly elected members, up to six executives and a first minister. Elections would be by proportional representation
Location: Based in Durham, it would cover an area from Darlington to Berwick
Cost: The assembly would cost £25m to £30m a year, mostly funded from central Government but also from council tax
Powers: With a budget of about £500m, it would control housing, fire and rescue services, public health and some training. It would have no powers over transport, police or other public services
Timetable: Elections would take place early in the next Parliament. An assembly could be set up in 2006
THE TWO TRIBES
Chairman: Professor John Tomaney, 41, Newcastle University academic and co-founder of North East Assembly campaign.
Funding: £100,000 from Electoral Commission; £150,000 from Rowntree Foundation and others.
Politics: Independent, but has Labour and Liberal Democrat support and is backed by trade unions, Greens and Respect.
Member profile: All local. Some have worked for more than ten years for a North East assembly.
Main message: The North will gain more powers from regional assembly. Family businesses in particular would benefit.
Chairman: John Elliott, 60, chairman of Ebac Limited, former regional director of Business for Sterling.
Funding: £100,000 from Electoral Commission; £40,000 to £50,000 from other backers.
Politics: Links with Tories and UKIP. Main backers are Tory businessmen. Campaign leaders have strong Eurosceptic links.
Member profile: Have little knowledge of the region but good on gimmicks. Seen as test for referendum on European constitution.
Main message: Assembly will have no powers and will lead to more bureaucrats, more public spending and higher council tax.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
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