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GREAT NORTHERN REGION SEEKS ITS DATE WITH DESTINY

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The Necessary Group of pro-devolution supporters in the northwest are taking out a series of personals ads in the n...
The Necessary Group of pro-devolution supporters in the northwest are taking out a series of personals ads in the national and London papers asking the Government - and in particular deputy prime minister John Prescott - for 'a date'.

But the pro-region campaigners are not looking for a candlelit supper or weekend of saucy shenanigans. The 'lonely hearts' ads are asking for the date that the seven million people of the region have been promised - a referendum on whether or not to establish an elected regional assembly.

The mushy missives are being sent in response to a report from the Electoral Commission on the performance of postal voting systems in the northern regions of England during the European and local elections in June. The report was given as the reason for postponing the referenda in two regions, the Northwest and Yorkshire and Humberside. The campaign for a regional assembly in England's northwest considers the Commission's report a 'green light' for Government on a devolution referendum.

Anthony H Wilson, founder of Necessary Group, said :

'This report is a green light for a referendum, pure and simple. If the worries over postal voting were the reason for putting our big day on hold then the implication of this positive report from the Electoral Commission is simple: the Government has to make good on its promise and give us a date - for a referendum.'

On behalf of the region's seven million voters, The Necessary Group has taken out the ads, which include a poem and two personals. The semi-salacious small-ads, to be taken out in national broadsheets and the London Evening Standard. In the Standard, there's a poem for John Prescott:

You teased us and tempted,

With a promise of power,

But after a wobble in Whitehall,

We had to take a cold shower.

Now we're ready and waiting,

To go all the way,

So give us a date, John,

Give the region its say!

In the Guardian, there's note for Tony Blair:

Tony. You've stood us up once, but we're willing to give it another try. Set us a date, and we'll be there. All our love. NW.

And in The Independent:

Optimistic and rejuvenated region seeks date from JP for referendum: we're ready and we're waiting!

Though the referenda in the northwest and Yorkshire have been suspended, the vote for an elected assembly in the northeast will go ahead, as planned, on November 4. The Necessary Group will continue to campaign for a referendum in England's northwest up to, and beyond, that date.

Notes:

1. The Necessary Group is a campaign group made up of leading northwest figures from business, politics, the media, sport, music and the wider community. The Group organizes its activities through an internet site at www.itsnecessary.co.uk, which keeps local campaigners up to date with developments and includes key campaign information, posters to download, links to other campaign sites and interactive ways to get involved in the regional government campaign.

2. The Group recently launched a flag for the region as part of its campaign - a simple northwest corner of the cross of St. George - designed by Manchester born designer Peter Saville, famous of course for his iconic designs for Factory Records and bands including Joy Division and New Order. Peter is now creative director for the city of Manchester.

3. A recent poll published by ICM Research on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) shows that at least eight out of ten people in the northwest want to see an end to control by Whitehall. Fewer than ten per cent of those polled - seven per cent - think that job creation, roads and transport, and other similar issues should be decided by government ministers in Whitehall. A massive 39 per cent of those polled by ICM said that they thought an elected regional assembly would be the best way to control key regional issues. This compares to 27 per cent stating that appointed business and local representatives should decide, and 16 per cent saying that appointed government officials meeting at the regional level should have control.

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