I intend to always put my area first

Your editorial on May 31 sets out so clearly the fact that the North East is neglected by this Labour Government, despite 28 of the 30 MPs in the region being in that political party.

Your editorial on May 31 sets out so clearly the fact that the North East is neglected by this Labour Government, despite 28 of the 30 MPs in the region being in that political party. I am amused that despite the Tory jibe, we are clearly speaking the same language, which is that local representatives should be fighting for their patch, be it constituency or regional.

As the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for the Berwick Constituency, I am unashamedly "petty regionalist" in fighting for my patch first and my region second. My constituency covers an area of 1,000 miles from Berwick-upon-Tweed in the North to Belsay in the South, taking in Alnwick, Rothbury, Amble, Wooler, Seahouses, Ellington and Chevington, to name but a few.

I will always make sure that my focus is on the needs of those in my area first, and I will work with regional bodies to keep us high on their radar. My constituents are my prime concern, and I will always stand up and fight for them first.

ANNE-MARIE TREVELYAN, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Berwick Constituency

The best way is the districts' way

WE have now seen letters from two Durham county councillors in your columns. How interesting. They must be worried about something.

Whatever that may be, they should really look again at the district councils' case. What the districts are seeking is a systematic review and move to modern, co-coordinated governance in the county. The districts, rightly in my view, consider that the county council's takeover bid will be extremely disruptive and harmful for the delivery of services to the people.

The districts, for example, do not see how County Hall can suddenly acquire the knowledge and experience to run district services in an effective manner, without causing a huge hiatus and disruption. Nor do they see how a county with such differing needs, from one end to the other, can be efficiently operated by a single monolithic structure such as Durham County Council..

As part of a move to streamlining affairs, the districts propose to work more closely together and with the county council and, most importantly, with the surrounding city regions. There is no reason, for example, for every council, district or county, to have its own legal or personnel functions. These back-office resources can be shared to produce efficiency savings and economies of scale.

With the city regions concept so favoured by Government, there will be opportunity to extend and expand influence on behalf of the people of County Durham. However, the county council has always seen itself in some sort of battle for supremacy with the big cities of the region, a sort of "them and us" contest which the county council cannot realistically hope to win.

The county council had similar problems about participating with the Northern Development Company (now the regional development agency) when it was created in the mid-1980s and actually had to be led kicking and struggling by the more progressive districts who saw the advantages of co-operation of that sort. In effect, the county council had virtually to be embarrassed into joining NDC.

On its own, behind its sealed borders, County Durham will surely stagnate into some form of semi-rural backwater. In addition, the county council's claim to be the biggest spender is only true up to a point. For example, with education service spending, the county council is instructed by Government as to how much to spend, where to spend and when to spend the great majority of those funds available: a sort of `post office' operation..

Now the districts are again showing the way forward by carrying out meaningful consultation with the only people who matter: the residents of the county. I hope that everyone will support the districts' case at the coming referendum.

JJ EVANS, Great Lumley, Chester-le-Street, County Durham

Referendum on EU constitution is a must

APPARENTLY Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is warning Tony Blair not to make any objections to the new European Union treaty to be outlined at a meeting on June 21 in Brussels. This treaty will be the same old European constitution previously rejected by France and Holland, using (in Mrs Merkel's own words) "different terminology without changing the legal substance".

Excuse me, Mrs Merkel, but isn't it a bit high-handed of you to assume that Mr Blair has the right to accept important constitutional changes on behalf of the electorate without first offering them a referendum?

It would be dishonest of the Government to claim that they have a democratic mandate to sign a treaty of this kind. They promised us a vote on the EU constitution and they must stick to their word, however deviously that constitution is served up to us.

GILLIAN SWANSON, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside

Weather forecasters found wanting

IHAVE a more than passing interest in the weather forecast, due to my golf and garden activities, and my occasional light aircraft flying. I study The Journal's "North East Today" at breakfast every morning. Provided by the MeteoGroup, its accuracy performance is diabolical: the majority of forecasts are inaccurate.

The forecast for today, Thursday, May 31, beggars belief: "The weather will be dry with some sunny periods during the morning but a lot of cloud too. Generally cloudy during the evening."

The true picture: blue sky from 0800hrs until a two-hour period of patchy cloud. Since then, it has been constant blue sky until 1930hrs.

It is well past the time when The Journal should `read the Riot Act' and fire the bunch of amateurs at the MeteoGroup. What would they do for a long- range forecast?

J KEN DOYLE, Newcastle upon Tyne

Vital to stand up for what we believe in

DAVE Pascoe is so right ("We can resist if we have the will", Voice of the North, June 2), but unfortunately this situation has pertained since us poor people got the vote.

Indeed, Adolf Hitler, writing Mein Kampf in the early 1930s wrote: "Numerically, the first group (of a society) is by far the strongest, being composed of the broad masses of the people. Intellectually, it forms the simplest portion of the nation. It cannot be classified according to occupation but only into grades of intelligence.

"Under this category come all those who have not been born to think for themselves or who have not learnt to do so and who, partly through incompetence and partly through ignorance, believe everything that is set before them in print.

To these we must add that type of lazy individual who, although capable of thinking for himself out of sheer laziness gratefully absorbs everything that others had thought over, modestly believing this to have been thoroughly done."

A few lines further on he added: "All this can be advantageous where public enlightenment is of a serious and truthful character, but great harm is done when scoundrels and liars take a hand at this work."

Hitler was lambasting the press, at the time, but given the huge inexhaustible capacity of modern Government to put out spin and propaganda, if the cap fits . . . .

I would love to be an optimist like Mr Pascoe, but with the electorate under more and more pressure simply to earn a living and pay the tax, I question their capacity to spend time to develop beyond a group who can swallow the likes of Blair and Mandelson as the working man's saviour. I don't think we should hold our breath!

NAME & ADDRESS SUPPLIED, Berwick-upon- Tweed, Northumberland

PS. Please withhold my name, as some people think that anyone who has read Hitler must agree with him. It'd have been as easy to quote Orwell, but Hitler `did it', Orwell only warned us.


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