Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North-Est Assembly: It's Up to You

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North-Est Assembly: It's Up to You

Article excerpt

Ross Smith went on the campaign trail to see how the `yes' campaign fared in two different North communities.

The arguments have raged, and continue to rage, about what the regional assembly will and will not be able to do.

Can it dual the A1? Can it provide more jobs? Can it improve our health statistics? The answer to each, of course, is one of `yes', `no' or `maybe' ( depending on who you speak to.

But one thing even the most ardent `yes' campaigner admits is that it will be powerless to alter the North-East's weather.

And, sat huddled in their caravan in a Morpeth car park yesterday, watching the rain drenching each potential voter, don't the Yes4theNorthEast volunteers know it.

The brightly coloured slogans and balloons that adorn their trailer appear out of place against the unchanging greyness of the day.

So it is little wonder few people want to stop and chat about the assembly. Most hurry by, grabbing a soggy leaflet if they have a hand free from bags and umbrella, and head somewhere drier.

Occasionally, there is a word of encouragement from a `yes' voter. Likewise, some make their antipathy quite clear.

"I'm dead against it," one pensioner tells Arlene Ainsley, a volunteer from Cramlington, as she tries to pass her a flyer bearing the beaming faces of Sir John Hall and Brendan Foster.

Clearly, they weren't photographed on a wet Wednesday in Morpeth.

"I'm worried it's going to cost too much ( and it will just be the same politicians," she continues.

Arlene, to her credit, does her best to turn her around ( but if she was likely to be sympathetic, the fact she is getting ever more wet as she listens politely probably puts paid to that. GMB shop steward Andy Avery and Newcastle volunteer Neil Leviton are both also trying manfully to win over the locals.

A friendly smile and a reassurance the volunteers are doing the right thing soon follows, but the American accent and `Vote Kerry' badge on the passer-by's back suggest she may not be on the electoral register in the North-East. …

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