Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Article excerpt

Byline: Graham Robb

SINCE I last wrote for The Journal, I have been on the front line in North-East politics, fighting the by election in Sedgefield in July this year. Although I didn't win, it gave me the chance to spend three weeks connecting with people and hearing first hand accounts of how life has changed in different communities after 10 years of Blair/Brown government.

I sensed a feeling that promises had been unfulfilled and society broken. Trust of people in politics had all but evaporated and a sense of despair and resignation had set in. In Newton Aycliffe, for example, the health centre is leaking and promises made during the by-election to move staff out have not been carried through.

The town centre is a symbol of urban decay and a lack of will and ambition has prevented progress. Local people gave me first hand accounts of drug dealers operating from the back of transit vans.

In rural areas of County Durham there are not enough police officers, and those who are on duty haven't time to deal with offences because of regulations and paperwork which have emasculated their ability to work effectively.

Recently in Middleton St George, which is mostly residential but neither posh nor poor, a young girl was beaten up by a gang of other girls on the happy day she received her GCSE results.

The incident was filmed on a mobile phone for kicks.

Despite this being a crime of violence, the person arrested is free on police bail.

We live in a new world and the solutions of 1997 now seem old fashioned and wrong. To illustrate how our world is changing consider the following facts:

It is cheaper for a teenager to buy an ecstasy tablet than to visit the cinema.

Half of the world's population - three billion people - have a mobile phone.

There are 450,000 engineering students in India, 18 times more than in the United Kingdom.

The streets of Soweto township in South Africa are safer than those of some cities in England. …

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