ALL-WOMEN SHORTLIST: DEREK Foster has done no favours to members of Bishop Auckland Labour Party by delaying news of his retirement (Echo, Feb 16).

It means that the shortlist won't be drawn up by the local party but in London by the National Executive Committee (NEC). This almost certainly rules out hopefuls from the constituency in favour of outsiders.

As a regular visitor to Eldon Lane I think it's disappointing that Labour's local talent will be excluded. There is no chance the NEC will choose anyone likely to rock the boat for this safe seat. Watch for someone with an eye on their own career rather than a deep and abiding concern for the constituency. - Roger Backhouse, Ilford.

B BATES of Shildon asks why local men are denied the chance by Labour to represent Bishop Auckland, their community, in Parliament (HAS, Feb 21).

The answer is simple: they may rock the boat, they may not toe the party line and they may just put the needs of their fellow residents before the party.

Ms Bates asks: "Is the party serious about ensuring we have the best candidate?" Obviously not. What other possible explanation could there be? - Joan McTigue, Independent Councillor, Middlesbrough.


TWO episodes in your report (Echo, Feb 21) illustrate the real feelings of those who oppose the ban on hunting.

Firstly, the York and Ainsty Hunt drag an effigy of Tony Blair (subtly labelled "Vermin") across Easingwold market place, pursued by hounds.

This taps into a deep vein of arrogance and intolerance in the countryside extending back over centuries. Hunters can't accept that the days are gone when those who held political, economic and social power in rural areas expected to impose their views and activities without question on anyone who thought differently. Quite simply, we live in a Parliamentary democracy and they have lost the argument.

Secondly, the Master of the South Durham Hunt suggests that the way forward is "to set a drag up... dig out the fox, kill it and feed it to the hounds".

Forget about any arguments on pest control, history, tradition, and being "fair" to foxes. Hunting is about the adrenaline rush of killing animals for fun.

There are many issues today on which to take a principled stand - human rights, trade justice, and treatment of refugees spring to mind. Hunting isn't in this league. Can we please move on? - Robin Brooks, Barningham, North Yorks.

WHO says we protestors don't understand hunting?

We know all too well it is a totally selfish sport and its followers completely lack the imagination for understanding a lesser being's suffering.

The countryside can be enjoyed perfectly well just by 'hacking' without the dangers hunting has for the other animals involved.

I know this is true, I've done it for years. - A Johnson, Darlington.

THE Northern Echo as usual sits on the fence (Echo, Feb 18). The Government has dithered on hunting for far too long, simply to pacify those who believe that cruelty is their basic right.

Because a practice is centuries-old does not justify it.

The weakness of our democracy is obvious when people like the un-elected buffoons in the House of Lords can make threats. It is time the country was given back to the people who count: the majority.

Parliament has made a decision on hunting, and now should have the courage to carry out the law. - John Young, Crook.


YOUR correspondent Charles Hocking (HAS, Feb 19) seems to have misunderstood the Lakeland footpaths issue. The £38,000 in question is to restore the guided walks which were said to be only attracting "white middle class middle-aged people", and not attracting people of other backgrounds. There was never an intention of closing the public footpaths themselves. - Eric Gendle, Nunthorpe.


WELL DONE the two solicitors in Darlington who paid the £1 fine of a (hopefully) reforming 16-year-old (Echo, Feb 19). Their concern to save the public money by avoiding another court case is in contrast with another story reported the same day, that one lawyer had so far made £4m out of the Bloody Sunday inquiry in Northern Ireland. - Robin Ashby, Newcastle.


I AM shocked by the ridicule that Prince Harry received for wearing a costume of a Nazi soldier to a party.

Would he have received the same amount if he had been dressed as Stalin, who was also a war criminal and responsible for so many deaths? I doubt it.

Ken Livingstone recently asked a Jewish journalist if he was a Nazi concentration camp guard, but he has yet to apologise. I wonder why? Probably because he is a member of the Labour Party, which thinks it has the right to say and do anything that it wishes.

If I committed such a slur, I would be locked up for racial discrimination as soon as I could say "vote out Labour". What intelligent people we have running this once great land. - Christopher Wardell, Darlington.


LOCAL residents invited North Yorkshire County Council to a meeting to get impartial information about Tarmac's plans to quarry near Thornborough in North Yorkshire.

Tarmac were very keen to be allowed to attend. I explained that we were looking for impartial information so none of the lobby groups had been invited, and that we intended to invite all parties to a later public meeting.

But whom should I find standing outside handing out leaflets? Tarmac - picketing our meeting. I later received calls from two local newspapers saying Tarmac were claiming it had been excluded from the meeting.

As an ordinary person, I felt bullied by Tarmac. - Elaine Swann, Thornborough.


WE came to live in Darlington in 1968 from Humberside. I always thought it was a quaint place, especially High Row. Also, there was a distinct lack of shops.

Looking round now, what has changed? High Row with steps, railings and balustrades. Looks just like it did then.

Other towns have moved with the times, so why not Darlington?

Let's get on with the pedestrianisation and, for goodness sake, get rid of those ugly steps etc. - Name supplied, Darlington.


ON a recent visit from my granddaughter, I learned that her five-year-old son moves to a new school in Darlington after an extended half-term break.

She has been instructed to provide him with a pair of indoor shoes. As she pays £40 a time for shoes measured to fit, isn't this a bit daft?

If a school decides on carpets, ought not those in charge take consideration of the hundreds of pairs of little feet involved?

Most young parents want the best for their children, but a pair of good shoes is essential and a grounding for adult life. - O Fish, West Burton, Leyburn.