A Walk in the Wilderness
“This is a rumour you hear occasionally around Teesside, whether it's someone who knows someone who used to work in the canteen at ICI Billingham who remembers serving that aloof woman with the hair, or someone who sits proudly in the pub and proclaims, "Of course, Thatcher used to work here, you know. Only stuck it for a couple of weeks."
It was only when we spoke to Julian Phillips, a former ICI employee and local company historian, that we found our explanation.
Margaret Thatcher never worked for ICI, because when she applied, she was deemed "not to have the right attributes". Furthermore, as Julian explained, "She never worked for ICI and it isn't even a Teesside myth, it's a Runcorn myth."
Yes, youmay have heard that Margaret Thatcher once worked at ICI in Billingham, but infact she was turned down for a job with the company, and the job she appliedfor wasn't even in the North East, anyway. It was in Merseyside.”
“In Middlesbrough, the largest town in the Teesside region, 10.7 per cent of people were officially unemployed, though the real ‘jobless’ total (including unemployed claimants, those on training schemes, and those ‘economically inactive’ who would take jobs if they were available) amounted to about 35 percent. In addition to that, existing high levels of crime (notably burglary and car crime) had been exacerbated by the rapid expansion of heroin use. By 1997 Middlesbrough had the dubious distinction of having the cheapest heroin in Britain available on its streets. Such was the extent of the town’s accumulated difficulties that the right-wing polemicist, Charles Murray, controversially identified Middlesbrough as the home of Britain’s ‘new rabble underclass’. The existence of these accumulated problems, combined with the appointment of Detective Superintendent Mallon as Head of Middlesbrough CID, led to the introduction of ZTP in 1996.”
A Fact of Economic Life in England
Over three-quarters of voters showed themselves unwilling to test out devolution, voting against the proposal by a majority of 499,209 on a turnout of 47.8% of the region's 1.9m electorate.
696,519 (77.93%) voted against devolution, with only 197,310 (22.07%) voting in favour of an elected regional assembly to give the region a stronger voice.
A disappointed John Tomeney, chairman of the Yes 4 The North East campaign, said that the result reflected "something bigger" than the rejection of a regional assembly.
"It is a growing breakdown in the belief that political institutions can affect people's lives for the better. This should concern us all."
He added: "While many people in the north-east feel more prosperous than ever, the north-south divide remains a fact of economic life in England. Successive governments have failed to resolve it. It needs to be addressed."
"The reason there's a north-south divide is because we lost our major industries in the 80s, like steel and shipbuilding, and jobs from those sectors went into the public sector.
"We recalibrated the economy along those lines to the benefit of the North East."
Sir Stuart said the government was making a "fundamental" mistake in thinking that the private sector would step in to create jobs.
He added: "You don't go from the public sector to the private sector, you go from the public sector to the dole queue."
She Would Have Sunk By Now, If She Hadn’t Already Hit the Bottom of the River
There are ripped-out doors and shattered glass everywhere. John says the ship is being stripped for scrap: "They're smashing the portholes just to get the little brass knobs off. They've stolen miles of cables. They're spending whole weekends on board. We've found sleeping bags. A few months ago you could have started the generators, stocked the bars and run it as a club. She would have been up and running. Now look …"
It really is a shambles. The decks are strewn with debris. Mangled cables cascade down from the smashed ceiling tiles. The mirror balls are missing their mirrors. The thieves have stolen so much they've gone right through to the water. She would have sunk by now if she hadn't already hit the bottom of the river.
"All this …" John waves his hands across the devastation, "has happened in the last fortnight."
"They had this vision," John says. "This place would be second only to Dubai. All these multibillion-pound futuristic buildings." The plans were incredibly elaborate. There would be a primary school in the shape of a spelling block, a cinema designed to resemble a Rubik's cube, apartment blocks inspired by Prada skirts, a hotel in the shape of the game KerPlunk, a brand new college and an Anish Kapoor sculpture.
The scheme was launched at the Venice Biennale. The Middlesbrough mayor, Ray Mallon, ceremonially handed his excellency a Middlesbrough football shirt. Part of the deal was that the Tuxedo Royale had to go.
‘Politics = criminality’
"There is a tiny minority of political obsessives in this town who believe they can intimidate and bully councillors out of office, but in this instance it seems their obsession has spilled over into criminality.
"This is an outrageous attack on democracy by people who prefer the petrol bomb to the ballot box.