Prescott's regional dreams in tatters
John Prescott's long-held dream of regional assemblies across England, leading the drive to bring jobs to employment black spots and protecting the economic interests of every corner of England, is on the point of being shattered.
The result of what was to be the first in a series of regional referendums, in the North-east of England, will be announced on Thursday, with early signs indicating a heavy victory for the "no" campaign, which is thought to have collected over 60 per cent of the vote.
Defeat will be a personal blow for Mr Prescott, who has campaigned for regional government for more than 20 years. It would be highly unlikely that the Government would risk a referendum in any other region, and that would eliminate any prospect of regional government in England for the foreseeable future. One of the North-east's leading "no" campaigners forecast yesterday that the setback could drive the Deputy Prime Minister into early retirement.
It will also be a dark warning for Tony Blair, who made a campaigning visit to the North-east alongside the Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, that he cannot count on victory in any referendum, such as the one he has promised to call on whether Britain should ratify the EU constitution.
If forecasts are correct, a campaign endorsed by every senior politician in the North-east from the Prime Minister downwards, and by a galaxy of local celebrities, has been defeated by a mixed group of political amateurs led by a former market trader.
Neil Herron, head of North-East Against a Regional Assembly, first came to prom- inence as one of Sunderland's "Metric Martyrs" - traders who were ready to break the law by selling their wares in imperial measures rather than the kilograms and litres required by EU legislation.
His campaign has a single, easily understood theme - that a regional assembly would be nothing but a costly platform for party politics. The "yes" campaign has tried to convey a more complex message about promoting regional employment and gaining control over large planning projects.
Last week, the rock star Sting, who comes from Tyneside, added his name to the celebrity backers of the "yes" campaign., They include former Olympic athlete Brendan Foster, former England international Paul Gascoigne, businessman Sir John Hall and Middlesbrough's independent "Robocop" mayor, Ray Mallon. But yesterday Mr Herron confidently predicted that the "no" campaign will win.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...