Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Party Lines

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Party Lines

Article excerpt

Byline: By Zoe Hughes

Tony Blair will be steeling himself for potential electoral disaster tomorrow night following all the scandal and chaos that has engulfed his Government.

However, Labour members in Newcastle may have something else on their mind after they were challenged to honour a 2004 pre-election bet with their Lib Dem rivals.

It has emerged, just one day before Labour are once again put to the test in the city, that days before the results of the 2004 local government election, the then leader of Newcastle City Council Tony Flynn bet opponent Greg Stone pounds 100 that Labour would keep control.

As with so many things in politics, things never go quite to plan, and Labour, in dramatic style, lost control of a council it had controlled uninterrupted for around 30 years.

Nationally, it was decided Tony Blair had received a drubbing from the voters, however in all the celebrations/commiserations that followed few remembered to honour the Flynn/Stone bet. Now though, Liberal Democrats have called on Labour's opposition leader in Newcastle, Councillor John O'Shea, to reaffirm the deal, but this time it was "double or quits". The money will go to the Lord Mayor's charity, the Newcastle Society for Blind People. However, it could prove something of an uphill battle for Labour who would need to take 10 seats from the Liberal Democrats for an outright win.

Lib Dem Councillor David Faulkner said he was more than happy to put the money up for the yellow side, adding: "We'll even accept the party which wins most seats on the 4th if it will save the embarrassment of the former Labour leader a little".

CABINET ministers have been having difficulty in recent days keeping their minds on politics after being invited to address meetings at St James's Park.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson was keen to endear himself to the audience by reminiscing about his days as a schoolmate of Newcastle legend Malcolm Macdonald. "Apparently he got here a few years before I did, " he said.

The previous evening, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Des Browne had also attended a function at the stadium. …

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