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Welcome to the betterMiddlesbrough blog. First you will notice that there are a number of tabs across the header. These can be clicked on to view the relevant information. If you want to search through posts here on the blog, there are a number of categories that you can search under. Simply select the desired subject from the drop-down menu just over on the right hand side. This information has been posted a ‘sticky’, it will stay at the top of the blog. Regular updates and fresh posts will appear below.

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Fifteen years ago, I was politically disinterested. (There will be some people today wishing that were still the case.) I discovered the Evening Gazette news forums and became an active contributor. That place was brutal. A number of local councillors using pseudonyms (often very thin veils) to fight their corner in the harshest of terms. Back then I was a lone voice, a typical ‘keyboard warrior shouting into the void’ as one Gazette journalist recently described people like me, an advocate for taking Middlesbrough out of the control of political parties and putting the future of our town into the hands of the people who were free to act in the best interest of the town and its people, not in the best interests of a political party.

The Gazette Forum was rude, it was raucous and, inevitably, it was eventually shut down because moderating the discussion was a total nightmare for the operator.~

From that shut-down, the betterMiddlesbrough blog was borne. Despite being repeatedly told that Middlesbrough would NEVER vote Labour out, even by Independent councillors(!), I persevered with my message and I kept shouting into the void that Middlesbrough needed someone inspirational to step forward and challenge what Labour has done to our town.

And I like to think that someone heard what I was saying. Four years ago, Middlesbrough came so close to fulfilling my prophecy and, at the time, I was so gutted that it came so close and then fell at the last hurdle. In hindsight, Andy Preston losing the 2015 election may have been the best result ever. If Andy had been mayor for the last four years, he would have been cuckold to a huge Labour majority. I have no doubt that, by now, they would have tarnished his ‘brand’, as they did with Mallon, and we’d now be looking forward to another four years of Labour decimating Middlesbrough.

Back then, nobody could have foreseen the whole Brexit debacle and, it has to be said, that the way in which parliament (that’s both sides of the house, not just Theresa Mays appallingly bad government) has been instrumental in the results we are seeing on Teesside both today and yesterday. Without it, the race would have been tight again, and possibly a different result, not the landslide we saw in the small hours. But Brexit has opened the eyes of the masses to the self-serving nature of party politics and the people simply don’t like it. Both Labour and Conservatives are suffering huge losses across the country as I type. The people are stirred, In Middlesbrough, you could say the Infant Hercules has woken up.

This election has given Middlesbrough much more than an independent mayor. It has shown so many people, who have never bothered to vote until now because they always believed that their vote would “make no difference”, that their vote actually DOES count. Their vote CAN change things. Because their vote HAS counted and HAS changed things. Let’s hope that the results of this election inspire more people to vote, to get involved, to not think of politicians and councillors as “them”, but instead think of local councillors as ‘one of us’ or, even better, ‘me’.

In the run-up to next weeks local elections, we take a look at the labels being fired at Independent candidates…

Lately, you may have heard, or seen on social media, the phrases “Shy Tories” or “Labour Independents” when the two main parties refer to Independent candidates for council or the role of mayor. It’s all very confusing. How can someone be both?

The local Conservative Party has taken to referring to Independent candidates as “Labour Independents”, meanwhile Labour repeat the “Shy Tory” mantra as their insult of choice.
For so long, politics in Middlesbrough has been all about such division and polarisation. You can be Labour, or you can be Conservative, with both parties highlighting the negative aspects of the other. The Labour Party stereotype the Tories as ‘uncaring’, while the Conservatives stereotype the Labour Party as financially inept. And this has worked to keep Middlesbrough politically polarised for decades.
What we are seeing in this election is the rise of a viable, capable third option. An Independent mayoral candidate supported by an increase in Independent candidates to become your local councillors. And the two main parties are scared to death of them!
The ongoing Brexit fiasco in Westminster has woken voters up to the fact that, when push comes to shove, the priorities of party politicians is “party-first; people-second”. Independent candidates stand on the simple manifesto that they will represent YOU, and you alone. No party agenda, no skeletons to keep locked in closets, no brown envelopes for their friends.

    So, what are the political leanings of our Independent mayoral candidate?

Independent candidate Andy Preston is probably the main target of the “shy Tory” / “Independent Labour” labels being bandied around by the two parties. And, to an extent, both parties are right! Labour point to his success as a businessman, which must surely make him fit the stereotype of a Conservative. And the Conservatives point to his work with some of our communtiies most vulnerable as evidence that he’s Labour in disguise. And nobody can argue that either party is wrong. But wait…

… a strong social conscience and a smart business head are not the traditional negative traits that both parties use to condemn the other. Those are the very same traits that both Labour and the Conservatives have used to promote themselves!

And those parties believe that you should NEVER have the option to vote for both! And for decades, you never have! Labour are all about the social policy, while the Tories favour big businesses and ‘never the twain shall meet’. Until now.

I feel that Andy Prestons campaign posters are coloured red AND blue for a reason. B ecause you get the best of both. His manifesto is driven by a social conscience the Labour Party would proudly run up billions of pounds worth of public debt to support but his business skills and proven financial acumen, worthy of the most ardent Conservative, means that he really is THE viable option for taking Middlesbrough forward, solving the towns Labour-created debt crisis (Middlesbrough taxpayers have funded payments of over £17,000,000 in interest on loans over the last four years) without storing up more financial problems for the future. And THAT scares the hell out of both Labour and the Conservatives.

So, when Labour call Andy a ‘shy tory’, what they are admitting, without actually saying it, is that he is financially astute and able to bring investment -jobs- to the area. And when the Conservatives call him ‘independent Labour’, they’re inadvertently saying that, once the finances of Middlesbrough Council have been fixed, the money the town generates will stay in the town and will be used to support ALL communities in the most appropriate way for each.

    What about our Independent candidates for council?

As well as some established, very hard-working Independent councillors standing for re-election, we also have a huge swathe of new Independent candidates standing in other areas of town. Driven by their disillusionment with how party politics has devastated our town, these people stand on a simple manifesto. They do not represent the interests of a political party, they represent YOU and your community, because they are a part of that community. So many of our current councillors, particularly amongst the Labour Party, don’t even live in the areas they claim to represent. And they don’t need to! Why? Because they don’t really represent those areas!

A vote for a party candidate is a vote for party policy. And when party policy conflicts with what is best for the community they represent, they MUST put party policy first and communities second. That is true across all parties.

Let the party politicians continue to play their silly games in Westminster. When it comes to putting Middlesbrough right, lets take back control from the political parties and elect people who WILL do the best for their communities because they CAN do the best for THEIR communities.

Vote for your independent council candidates and Andy Preston for mayor on May 2nd.

Make May 2nd ‘Independents Day’. Not just for your community, but for Middlesbrough too.

John King

*about the author. John King has been an advocate for local government to be in the hands of independent councillors and an independent mayor for many years and supports such candidates, but has no official affiliation with the campaigns of either Andy Preston or any of the independent candidates standing for election.

Hello… Can you hear me? Testing, one… two… three…

… I just wondered if anyone was still out there. According to the stats on my WordPress account, people still drop by randomly and still have a read of my posts, so I thought that, maybe, it’s time to light the paper firelighters of controversy once more and generate some heat where it’s needed. It has turned wintery, after all.

And I’m not just talking about the weather.

This week, people ‘high up’ in Middlesbrough Council thought that it was appropriate to call the police to deal with one local councillor claiming on FaceBook that another local councillor was not going to stand for election next year. That is NOT A CRIME!!! It might be misguided, misinformed mischief-making; it might break Middlesbrough councils ‘Code of Conduct’ for councillors but it DOES NOT justify contacting the police!

The same council are simultaneously telling us how stretched the police are and how much their budget has been cut. Well, here’s a clue. Stop wasting their time every time someone on social media offends someone else. Deal with it internally like the grown-up, competent organisation that you’re supposed to be, instead of running off to tell the police (and the Gazette) about it.

It is not the role of the police to adjudicate whether someones’ opinion is offensive, or even correct. It is not the role of the police to act as the councils ‘enforcers’. And it is not in the remit of the wider state to restrict what we are allowed to say or think. That’s what we have the European Court of Human Rights for

Oh, wait… This week, in the European Court of Human Rights, the highest legal authority in Europe and an establishment meant to protect the freedom of citizens from any sort of persecution, be it moral, religious, political or racial, upheld a ruling against an Austrian scholar who asked if the Prophet Mohammed was a paedophile, given that he married a girl of 6 years old (this is a point of some debate. Some claim that the girl was aged between 8 and 12) and consummated the marriage when she was around 9 years old.

She was found guilty of ‘disparaging religious doctrines’ which is, apparently, still a crime in Austria ( UK blasphemy laws were abolished in 2008 – yes, only a decade ago!) and Austrian Appeal Courts and then the ECHR agreed that her conviction didn’t impinge her right to Freedom of Speech. Even though she was fined for “saying something”.

We are heading backwards in our freedoms when those that seek to silence any dissenting voices are able to use the police and courts to do so.

***UPDATED***

I’ve been informed that Middlesbrough Mayor, DAVE BUDD has had an altercation with (another)  a senior citizen which has resulted in the hospitalisation of the man.

Apparently the 69 year-old man, Mr Patrick McGill, stood in front of Mayor Budds car and demanded to discuss a matter with him. Mayor Budd’s response to the man was that if he didn’t move, then he’d run him over and, allegedly, promptly drove at Mr McGill.

It is understood that, at the time of writing, Mr McGill is in A&E with minor injuries.

Is this any way for our mayor to treart members of the electorate of our town? Arguably, even if the mayor had a prior engagement, then it would have been appropriate for him to arrange a meeting at a later time.

Some would say that this is indicative of the disdain Mayor Budd holds for the people of Middlesbrough. Others would argue that he is running scared following the exposure of council misconduct regarding the sale of public assets to Nasser Din, the mayors former campaign manager, the subsequent attempted cover-up by senior Middlesbrough Council Officials and the recent Industrial Tribunal arising from said actions.

A statement has been made to the police.

Well, Osborne has, inadvertently, screwed Middlesbrough. But, make no mistake, the blame cannot be laid at the feet of George Osborne or the Conservative Government. The deliberate mismanagement of Middlesbrough is a Labour-created problem, for which Mayor Budd and his Labour cronies must accept full responsibility.

The Chancellor is ‘allowing’ councils to raise Council Tax by 2%, rather than encourage CT freezes, as has been done in past years. This money is to be spent on Adult Social Care.

But Middlesbroughs Labour-led Council has been putting up the Council Tax by 1.99% for the last five years anyway, with Mallon trotting out the line that, to accept the CT freeze deal, whereby they would receive 1% from central government and make savings (cuts) for the other 1%, would ‘store up problems for the future’.

Well, guess what. Putting up CT by 1.99% year on year has actually stored up problems for the future, which are now coming home to roost.

If MBC are already spending the 2% that they are expected to spend on Adult Social Care on other things, where the hell is the extra money for Adult Social Care going to come from? They can only sell-off publicly owned land and buildings once. After that, they’ll have nothing left to sell. And, let’s face it, if they sell everything to their mate and former campaign manager to Mr Mallon, Nasser Din, they’ll not get the full price for it anyway!

That leaves the business rates which local councils will now be allowed to keep. Except our self-confessed pro-trade union Labour-led council scare away private investment. We have high unemployment because of this, the local economy falters because of this and it means that there will be less money going to MBC than there will be to other councils.

Thanks, Labour, you’ve done it again.

Coming soon…

Hello folks,

My apologies for the total lack of anything new since the elections. An apology that, not only I am making, but MBC should maybe also make!

Anyway, I’m a bit pushed for time today but I thought I’d just take five minutes to give you all a heads-up about something to be released to the general public via this blog in the near future.

It appears that a serving Labour councillor STOLE some confidential information about the relatives of a particular individual, then offered this information around that individuals political adversaries, thus abusing the position they then held within a local Housing Association. Essentially, the councillor concerned tried to peddle dirt on a mayoral candidate to people. And that information came from their place of employment. If that information was held on computer, it was almost certainly a breach of the Data Protection Act.

In addition to this, many of our local politicians, both current and former and a number of local ‘institutions’ were ALSO aware of the actions of this current Labour councillor. And did nothing. No investigation, no media reportage, no police involvement.

Names will named in the near future.

This morning, our local BBC station broadcast a live debate between most of the remaining candidates for the next Mayor of Middlesbrough. Since my “7 runners, 1 winner” post a few weeks ago, Green Party candidate David Masterman has bowed out of the race and Conservative candidate Lloyd Cole-Nolan has, I am told, been dogged with personal problems which have meant that he has been unable to attend a number of ‘hustings’- type events or mount any sort of campaign.

So, left in the race, and in this mornings debate, we had Independent candidates Len Junier, Andy Preston, Dave Roberts, Michael J Carr and Labour candidate, our current deputy mayor, Dave Budd.

I noticed a couple of things about the debate, chaired by BBC presenter Mike Parr. First, every time a question was asked, he went to Andy Preston first almost EVERY time. Was this a deliberate attempt to trip Andy up in a live broadcast debate? Was our left-leaning BBC (don’t believe me, take a look at the number of pro-Labour stories on the BBC election website!) deliberately trying to catch out the main contender, Andy Preston?) But enough about the format, there was some interesting revelations made during the debate.

First, I learned today that Dave Budd was not the only mayoral candidate to vote to get rid of the role that they are now all competing for. Independent Len Junier admitted that he too voted against keeping a democratically elected mayor. I’m not implying that he’s kept it a secret thus far, just saying it’s something I didn’t know. But now that I do know, then my personal feelings are that, whether you wear a red rosette, or whether you keep it in a drawer at home, hypocrisy is still hypocrisy.

But the biggest revelation of the morning came from current deputy mayor, Labour councillor Dave Budd. In separate responses, Dave Budd claimed that he expected that Middlesbrough will elect lots of Labour councillors [i.e. there will be a Labour majority on the council]. With this in mind, Dave Budd then went on to say that he thinks it will be difficult for any other mayor than himself to achieve anything if Middlesborugh Council has a Labour majority. This, quite clearly is a veiled threat that, if he is not elected, then Labour will do everything they can to stop the new mayor of Middlesbrough – democratically and directly elected by the people of Middlesbrough – from taking Middlesbrough forward and improving the lives of those same people. Clearly, Labour think that, if they maintain a majority on Middlesbrough Council, it gives them a mandate to hold the town to political ransom, even if that means defying the will of the people and their elected mayor. And why wouldn’t they believe that they had such a mandate? After all, that has been the status quo for decades!

Clearly, the only way to ensure that an Independent, directly elected mayor has the support of the council is to make sure that no single party has the ability to over-rule the mayor purely to gain political points.  I’m not saying that the mayor and the council should not hold each other to account – that is fundamental to my support for a directly elected mayor. If the whole of the council disagree with a plan, scheme or general direction that the mayor wants for the town, then they SHOULD vote against such plans. But there’s a whole world of difference between a mayoral proposal being knocked back for being defective or counter-productive for the town, and a sound proposal which would be of benefit to the town simply being knocked back “because Labour says so”.

For this reason, I am urging everyone in Middlesbrough to use their vote wisely. If we vote in a majority of Labour councillors, Middlesbrough will not change. It will either continue to fail, as at present, with a Labour compliant mayor or it will falter as Labour continue to use our town as a political football, blocking progress in order to devalue the role of the mayor. Wherever possible, if you habitually vote Labour or Conservative, then seek to elect your local Independent candidate instead. If, as a Labour voter, you feel the need to retain a Socialist ideal to your vote, then consider voting Green or even LibDem. Now, more than ever before, Middlesbrough has a chance to change course, be steered by it’s people, rather than a single political party.

For example, in Ayresome Ward, there are now TWO Independent candidates. One is a proven advocate and champion for Ayresome, Bill Hawthorne. By giving their second vote to new Independent candidate Brian Taylor, Ayresome can rid itself and Middlesbrough of Labour Councillor Bernie Taylor – the odious individual who wrote the letter to a fellow Labour councillor reprimanding him for supporting the people that elected him, against Labour policy. A man who doesn’t even live in Ayresome Ward, he chooses to live in the nicer, leafier, Conservative Kader ward.

In the new Berwick Hills and Pallister Ward, there is scope for their third councillor to be an Independent – Derek Loughborough.

In the new Central Ward (formerly Gresham*, in general) there is the potential for the people of the Town Centre to register their disgust at what our Labour-led council has done to their community by electing at least one additional Independent candidate, possibly giving the Independents a full-house of three council seats and a team of people who will put the people of Gresham before their party.

In Coulby Newham, there are now three Independent candidates standing for election. Coulby currently has one Independent councillor and two Labour councillors, one of whom works off-shore for half of the year (but still claims his full allowances from the public purse) and another that lives miles away in Linthorpe.

In Hemlington, Ian Hamilton is standing as an Independent Candidate. A vote for Ian, as well as being a vote for real representation for the people of Hemlington, would also help to reduce the number of Labour councillors on the council and break Labours choke-hold on the whole town.

In Linthorpe, where there are no Independent candidates, consider giving one of your votes to the Green candidate, or the LibDem, depending on how far left you swing, rather than ensuring a Labour whitewash.

In Longlands and Beechwood, support BOTH of your Independent candidates, McTigue and EDWARD Rooney and, if you REALLY feel like your third councillor should be a Labour candidate, at least vote for one of the two ladies who actually live in the community and NOT the parachuted parasite that is CHARLIE Rooney.

In Newport, the choice for their three councillors is clear. Three Labour stooges, who live in Marton, Nunthorpe and Linthorpe, two of whom were councillors for Gresham when its community was decimated by our Labour-led council, or two Independent candidates and a UKIP candidate, all of whom live in the communities that they seek to represent.

In North Ormesby, where Labour have persistently failed to tackle the multitude of social problems in the area, it’s time to vote for Peter Hall, one of your own, who will stand up for the community that he lives in, without the interference of a party pullinghis strings.

In Park End and Beckfield, there are three seats up for grabs and three Independent candidates ready to serve those communities. Two of them have been doing so for many years.

In Park Ward, there’s a welcome return for Independent candidate Jackie Elder, who served Linthorpe so well for many years. Also in Park Ward, Joe Michna, a current Green Party councillor who has served his community so well for a number of years. If his protege, second Green Party candidate Martin Bulman, is cast from the same mould as Joe, then these three could achieve great things for Park Ward.

And finally, in Trimdon Ward ( formerly Brookfield*) where Labour have traditionally held both seats, Stephen Dee & Dennis McCabe are two Indpendent candidates who, again, live in the heart of the community they seek to represent, who will not be tied to a party vote or forced to put party interests before the best interest of that community.

It IS possible to overcome the Labour majority in Middlesbrough. All that is needed is for the people of Middlesbrough to give something new a chance. When you look at how hard Labour are working to maintain their grip on the town, you have to ask, “What are they really working for? Middlesbrough? The Labour Party? Themselves? Me?”

Well, they’re hardly doing great things for Middlesbrough. And they’re hardly doing great things for the people that live here, like you & me. So we can only assume that they’re fighting for the Labour Party, which has held the town back for decades. And for their place at the trough.