Guest blog: David Williams from Stocksfield writes;
"I was interested to read in The Journal on 6th November that the Hexham MP, Guy Opperman, has got his foot on the first rung of the ladder of government. I refer to his position as pump-primer at Prime Minister's Questions which permitted David Cameron to make the outrageous claim that his Government has been responsible for the small (2-3%) rise in exports from the region but ignored the fact that the number of young people unemployed for over a year is up 62% since he came to office.
To get an accurate view of the Tories attitude to this region, people should have watched the debate on 28th October in the Commons to consider if the Thatcher government misled the country over the pit closure programme thirty years ago . It was an eye-opener!
Labour MPs from all the major coalfields in the North East, Yorkshire, Nottingham, Scotland and Wales spoke. The only exception was the small Kent coalfield which was not mentioned at all. These MPs inluded many who were personally involved in the dispute and experienced the strike and its aftermath. These included Dave Anderson, Ian Lavery, Ronnie Campbell and Pat Glass who pointed out the lack of support for the communities affected and went on to call for regeneration assistance now to help communities which are still suffering today from the closure of their pits.
Most Tories, including Mr Opperman, were absent for the duration of the debate which indicates their lack of true conern for the future of the former coalfields.
The opening proposal for the debate was responded to by a junior minister with a prepared statement who then immediately left the Chamber never to reappear. His interest was over!
Some two and a half hours later, another Tory minister, female this time, entered the Chamber and sat on the Front Bench. Significantly she was accompanied by Cabinet Minister, Eric Pickles.
She then read another prepared paper to wind up the debate on behalf of the Government but believe it or not, all she spoke about, in some detail, was the developments on the former Betteshanger Colliery site and how her Government had funded new buildings, etc. which had created jobs for former miners and their families.
Where is Betteshanger? In Kent, of course. The one former coalfield never mentioned or represented in the debate but very near Rochester & Strood constituency where a crucial, to the Tories, bye-election is imminent.
When her blatant electioneering was greeted wth cries of derision from the opposition she paused, only to be told by Pickles to “plough on”.
This proves that the Tories have no interest whatsoever in the future of the North East but are prepared to put their Government's and party's survival before the interests of the nation."