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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Tynedale: New party’s bid for devolution gets retired GP’s vote

THE tremor that ran through the established order of things following the success of UKIP at last month’s European elections in Tynedale could be followed by a major aftershock.

For a new North-East based political party is set to throw its hat into the ring in time for next year’s General Election.

And in the forefront of the North-East Party is retired Haydon Bridge GP Steven Ford.

Although he lost his deposit when standing as an independent at the 2010 General Election, finishing a distant fourth behind the main parties, Dr Ford is poised to give it another go.

He said: “The party is so new there are no candidates yet, but I am certainly prepared to have my name considered.”

The main plank of the NEP’s strategy will be to campaign for effective devolution of power to the North-East.

Dr Ford is confident that the new party will be a success, despite the fact that the North-East rejected the notion of a “Geordie Parliament” in a referendum organised by Labour’s deputy prime minister John Prescott in 2004.

He said: “The referendum in 2004 was for another layer of local government; a talking shop which was quite rightly rejected.

“What we want is more radical; we want to see a group of MPs in Westminster dedicated to looking after the interests of the North-East.

“The region has been neglected by successive governments, who have done nothing for the North-East.

“If the North-East is not being represented by the major parties, it must represent itself.”

A decade ago, voters in Tynedale turned their backs on the prospect of an elected North-East regional assembly by a majority of four to one.

Even the support of high-profile residents of the district like Brendan Foster and Alan Shearer failed to persuade voters that the so-called Geordie Parliament was a good idea.

The rejection of the elected assembly was by an overwhelming margin, with 20,975 of the 26,310 people who voted giving the scheme an emphatic thumbs down.

At 55.45 per cent of the 47,451 of the electorate entitled to vote, the turnout in Tynedale was well above the regional average of 48 per cent.

Overall, the margin of victory for the “North-East Says No” campaign was nearly half a million votes.

A spokesman for the North-East Party said: “We want to ensure that, just like the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, we can take real control over the important issues of our lives, such as jobs, excellent public services, caring supportive communities, first-class public transport and world-class science and research.

“We will do politics better – independently, honestly and openly. We will be accountable to local communities.”

NEP’s immediate aim is to field candidates in 12 North-East constituencies, including the Tory stronghold of Hexham.

The aim is to return to Parliament 12 women and men who will stand up independently and accountably for the interests of North-East England, and who will work to bring real devolution to the region.

The spokesman said: “We want to hold an umbrella of support over people who share our values of democracy and equality and who stand for any local election on the basis that they will tackle local issues and make themselves fully accountable to local people.”

The first gathering of the new party will take place at Durham Conference Centre on Monday June 16 from 6-9pm.

Meanwhile, Dr Ford would be happy to hear from people interested in the party on mail@stevenford.co.uk

UKIP has already confirmed it regards Hexham as a marginal seat following its European election successes.

It will choose a local person as its candidate for Hexham in September.

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