Letters, Tuesday, May 7, 2013

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Closed industries gave town a future

IT was interesting to read the Echo edition of April 9, following the death of Baroness Thatcher.

 The photographs printed with that article stirred a number of memories.

 She came, immaculate as ever, to Wearside College in 1972, as Education Secretary, following a late night Commons sitting. Other ministers might have ducked out, but not she. Many years later, she recalled her visit, and, interested as she was, asked me what had become of a lady potter she had met and who had impressed her.

 In April 1978, unemployment rose in Sunderland under the Callaghan Labour government, I took part, as you reported, in a deputation to London, led by the then Mayor, Len Harper, to plead the town’s case. We asked to see Jim Callaghan, he refused. Mrs Thatcher agreed to meet us and listened to the points we made.

 She showed an interest in shipbuilding, then nationalised and going through a lean spell, and set up a small taskforce to look at its future on the Wear.

 As Prime Minister, she came up herself to review the situation. After this she then saw another delegation, including trade unionists, at No 10.

 She sent one of her ministers to Sunderland to assess opinion as to the yards’ future, and spent many hours talking to all sections of the community. At the time, there were no orders, and moreover, no prospect of orders.

 Reluctantly, he recommended closure, and this brought considerable European finance to remodel our industrial base.

 I was sure Mrs Thatcher was determined to bring the town an industry of the future to replace a highly-respected industry of the past. I was only very peripherally involved with the Nissan exercise, having been asked to lobby her whenever I saw her.

 I vividly remember the day she told me we had not to worry, and soon after came the announcement that Nissan was coming. It is worth remembering that, from the start, Nissan employed more people than were employed in the last days of the shipyards, and, of course, there are even more now, of which we can be justly proud.

 I will not attempt to answer the crude remarks of Mr Hopper, of Durham Miners, save to say this: there were many pits closed under Labour governments (leading to the ghastly Stalinist policy of Category D villages promoted by Durham County Council).  

 His own pit, Wearmouth, in the council ward I had the privilege to represent, was still working when Mrs Thatcher left office.

 It mentioned in the Echo article that perhaps Nissan was her only Wearside legacy. You forget the Development Corporation which breathed new life into the riverside and gave us the splendid university campus there.

 You also forget the thousands of Wearsiders who exercised their right to buy their homes, freeing themselves from the dead hand of the council’s housing department.

Tim Brown

Thoughts wanted

WE know what David Hopper thinks about Paolo Di Canio and Mrs Thatcher, but what does he have to say about Arthur Scargill?

Name and address supplied

Small steps help raise big funds

A MASSIVE fund-raising event for children under five is taking place across Wearside throughout the summer, for the 17th consecutive year.

 The Barnardo’s Big Toddle has been held every year in the North East since 1997, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for disadvantaged children in the region.

 Following last year’s successful fancy dress theme of jungles and wild animals, we are encouraging children to dress up as their favourite character from storybooks, as the theme this year is fairytales and nursery rhymes.

 Last year, toddlers in Sunderland, Seaham, Houghton and Washington helped raise a staggering £49,000 in total. It is hoped the figures can be beaten this year.

 We have always had some great support from Wearside tots, nurseries and families at past events, so we’re hoping hundreds will turn out to enjoy the toddle.

 The Big Toddle for Barnardo’s encourages youngsters to help other children by taking part in a half-mile sponsored walk. Money raised goes towards helping Barnardo’s early years work and the local pre-school or playgroup taking part gets to keep 25 per cent of the funds raised.

 The Big Toddle is a great way for kids to get fit, raise money and have fun.

 This year we are aiming to raise £1million so that Barnardo’s North East can continue to help children under five with disabilities, young carers or parents who need a helping hand.

 Here are two simple ways parents can get their toddlers toddling: Join a local pre-school, playgroup or nursery organised event, and organise your own toddle with friends and family at a park – or even in your own garden.

 For more information, email: big.toddle@barnardos.org.uk or phone 0800 008 7005

Steve Oversby,

Director, Barnardo’s North East

‘Excess’ is what led to country’s downfall

THE Labour Party has moved effortlessly into the business of denial when it comes to its relationship with top bankers when it was in government for 13 years.

 The reality is that Labour was in power when two of the leading bankers made massive contributions to the crisis that engulfed the whole system and led to a bailout of their Scottish-based banks with billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and a disastrous politically-engineered takeover of one.

 And not only did Labour work with these now disgraced individuals but they also knighted them.

 First was Fred Goodwin, of the Royal Bank of Scotland, knighted in 2004 for “services to banking” and later granted a massive pension we ordinary mortals could only dream of, that was signed off by a Labour Minister.

 Next comes James Crosby of HBOS who in 2006 was knighted for his “services to the financial industry” – the same year that he was appointed by Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to lead the Government’s Public Private Forum on Identity Management.

 Two years later in 2008, Crosby was appointed by the next Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling, to head up a working group of mortgage industry experts to advise the Government.

 A major whistleblower from HBOS, sacked for his troubles, Paul Moore, stated that Gordon Brown “presided over a policy based on excessive consumer spending, based on excessive consumer credit, based on excessively increasing property prices which were caused by excessively easy credit, which could only ultimately lead to disaster.”

 Lord Mandelson of Foy, when in a Labour Government, once said that he was totally relaxed about people getting “filthy rich”. I wonder what Keir Hardie would have made of it all?

Michael Dixon,


What an unholy mess politics has become

DAVID Cameron and Kenneth Clarke called Nigel Farage and UKIP oddballs and other naughty names.

 Pots and kettles come to mind.

 Clarke, who before he was sacked as Lord Chancellor, wanted to try cases in camera but at the same time advocated shorter prison sentences. This because the prisons were full, with 20 per cent comprising non-UK citizens and many of those from Ken’s beloved EU.

 So here we have the Lord Chancellor making it easier to convict but unwilling to punish, especially when the culprit apologises for their crime, in which case they are sent home and, no doubt, the crime disappears from the mysteriously diminishing crime statistics.

 Odd? Yes, but small potatoes in modern frontline politics.

 He was also one of the MPs, who, despite having umpteen directorships and also being a Bilderberger of long standing, flipped his mortgages to get several hundreds of pounds from taxpayers.

 David Cameron ringfenced the overseas aid budget at about £14billion, while every week, we pay hundreds of millions in interest on borrowed money.

 Odd? I would say so, but what about the million young Brits who are on the dole, not to mention the two million adults in the same predicament – yet Cameron does nothing to stop the influx of Eastern Europeans, which will, undoubtedly, compound the already critical state of unemployment and housing in this country.

 His failure to place UK interests ahead EU diktats is beyond odd, it is a betrayal of the British electorate and his attitude to foreign aid is fascicle.

 If he wishes to impress the world with his generosity, let him pass the begging bowl around Whitehall and Westminster.

 Having tired of sorting out the gay wedding issue, keeping the “Yuman Rights” lawyers and the “Elf and Safety” ambulance chasers in Champagne and caviar, Clegg is now making eyes at Miliband while he is still in the embrace of “Call me Dave”.

 No, that’s not odd. That is the accepted face of politics today, of which, I for one am heartily sick.

 The local elections have passed and I have no affiliation with any party, but having seen the unholy mess which Labour left, albeit in the face of the most inept opposition party in living memory, and the feeble attempts of Tories in office, there is surely only one game in town.

 And all things considered what better recommendation, what greater tribute could there possibly be for Nigel Farage and UKIP than to receive condemnation and an “Oddball” label from no others but the masters of “Odd” themselves – Kenneth and David.

Denis Gillon,


A high price to pay

THE Government is to stop the minimum price of 45p a unit for alcohol, and I sort of applaud the decision.

 If it had been passed, the price of a pint could have been as low as 78p, as a pint is usually classed as one and half units, depending on the strength of the ale, of course. However, this would more than likely not count as the brewery costs are probably not incorporated in this 45p a unit that is being mooted.

 This will not stop binge-drinkers and why just binge once or twice a week?

 When I was younger, we had “alcoholics” – and one well-known character was Ronnie White, who, on his 100th conviction for drunk and disorderly, the Echo headline read “White hits century”. However, he was a chap that basically kept himself to himself and this 45p unit would not bother him as he mostly drank meths for his tipple.

 However, the main reason of the dropping of this minimum price is that the Government has lost £40million in beer tax revenue in the last year alone, and with more than 6,000 public houses closing in the last four to five years, putting prices up even more would force more taverns to close, leading to more loss of money for Her Majesty’s Government. This is why the beer price escalator is to be stopped in this year’s budget.

 Nonetheless, I have to admit to helping the Government lose part of the £40million as I am drinking less due to price rises. In fact, over the course of six years, one town centre bar has increased prices by 60 per cent and that will not help revenue for anyone.

 Now I will try to help – I am off to buy a pint or three.

Alan ‘The Quill’ Vincent,

Old Penshaw

Tribute to Cheryl

I WOULD like to pay tribute to a brave lady, Cheryl Bainbridge, who passed away on April 26.

John Casey,

North View Lodge Care Home,


Thanks for helping

I HAD a fall in Waterloo Place, just outside Wilkinsons on Monday, April 29, and would like to thank the gentleman who came to my assistance, the lady with the young family and the taxi driver for all their help. Thanks also to the nurses who looked after me at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Name and address supplied