NOT even when Maggie Thatcher was saving the country from the ravages of an incompetent Labour government (the last one, not this one) could I bring myself to vote Tory, but if they promise - really promise - to put an end to the postcode lottery of public funding I might just be tempted.

How can any North-East Labour MP look him or herself in the mirror and accept the wicked discrimination perpetrated upon our region by the Scottish Chancellor? If they can, they should be ashamed.

Scots are funded to the tune of £8,265 a head per annum. In England, it's £6,662. The difference works out at £4bn a year, stolen from the North-East.

The Welsh enjoy a similar advantage exemplified by their recent decision to scrap prescription fees.

But it's the Scots who are creaming it off. Free bus travel at any time of day for pensioners. Free personal care in nursing homes. Free university education for Scottish students. The list goes on.

Incredibly, not one North-East MP of any political hue has had the guts to play hell about it in public.

Why not? Come on you lot, stand up for your constituents. We deserve better - or do you actually think we get a fair deal? - David Lacey, Durham.


REGARDING David Cameron's recent remarks likening the British far-right parties to fanatic Islamic fundamentalists. This comparison is ludicrous.

The far right, for all its perceived faults, has never flown airlines into skyscrapers, blown up themselves and others, does not plan terror attacks across the globe, and never attacks democratically-elected governments in other countries, among other things.

You, therefore, have to ask yourself why the chameleon would go public with such an implausible attack. I suspect he has the local elections in May in mind.

To topple Labour he needs ex-Tories who are now numerous in UKIP, BNP, and the England First and English Democrat parties to rejoin the fold.

After all, his own personal rating, and that of his party, is very poor considering they are the main opposition to the scandal-riddled Labour Party and ineptly-led Liberal Democrats.

To even contemplate toppling Labour he desperately needs the 2.3m voters who voted UKIP and 850,000 who voted BNP at the last election to return.

Given that he has shifted Tory policy so far to the left and given up on the right-wing elements of unionism, euro-scepticism and tough immigration policy, then this forms the basis of his rattled attempts to shore up his beleaguered party. - M Anderson, Middleton St George, near Darlington.


AS a life-long Labour voter, it was with my post-1997 enthusiasm almost extinguished that I attempted to vote at all in the last election. However, I do recall deciding on the "one more chance" option at the time.

It's often said that we get the government that we deserve, but have the people of Britain really deserved a political class which despises them, pretends to take their views into account and then does the opposite, and in their wisdom, with no little arrogance, fails to acknowledge their own failures while repeatedly denying responsibility?

While the sight of Tony Blair presenting himself on the world stage as yet another saviour of the Third World does conjure up a delightful image of a plump rodent leaping for shore, he should at least be honest.

Is this really the vision for Britain that New Labour held in 1997? Is this really their best after ten years? Certainly, we should all assume greater responsibilities at the next election.

Ignore regional or family traditions when we vote. It is always difficult to distinguish one snake-oil salesman from another, but let's put both our national and regional politicians where they should really be - serving us, not themselves. - Dave Pattinson, Darlington.


I AM 82 years of age, strictly limited regarding my quality of life, suffering from a chronic malfunction of the inner ear, making word-of-mouth communication an almost insurmountable hazard, while my financial circumstances are dependent on DSS Income Support.

Nonetheless, I've always stuck rigidly to the concept of paying your dues.

At present, I have a dual fuel arrangement with npower to pay my bills quarterly.

On Wednesday, January 10, I received a bill for payment due. That same day I paid the bill at the Post Office.

Imagine my shock and surprise to receive a letter dated January 22 from a collection agency threatening me with action should I not pay this outstanding bill immediately.

A visit to my local CAB saw the debt issue rectified.

In the meantime, I've suffered annoyance, stress and aggravation to further strengthen my belief that all essential commodities should be under national ownership.

There can be no excuse for npower sending aged citizens, such as I, threatening letters without any foundation whatsoever.

Check, check and double-check before putting it in the hands of collection agencies. - A Dunn, address supplied.


I WRITE to express heartfelt thanks to the people of the North-East for their efforts in helping to raise nearly £2m for the RAF Association (RAFA) Wings Appeal.

Volunteers took part in fundraising activities throughout the year and their efforts will help towards providing much-needed welfare, care and support for past and present members of the RAF and their families.

Anyone who has served in the RAF and their dependants are eligible for the welfare support the association can provide.

Sadly, the level of support we need to provide continues to rise and we need to attract more volunteers. If you are interested in assisting with the Wings Appeal 2007 please contact the RAF Association on 0800-0182-361. - Air Marshal Philip Sturley, President, RAF Association (RAFA).


I AGREE entirely with William J Bartle (HAS, Jan 30) who asked what his miner dad deserved if Bevin Boys are to be belatedly awarded medals (Echo, Jan 25).

My dad also worked in these very dangerous and life-threatening mining conditions for 49 years. With the certificate received on retirement through ill health was ten shillings (50p) - quite an insult.

Compensation was far too late for these men, most of whom died long before their time.

My dad also worked as an ARP warden in his spare time. There is no group of civilian men more deserving of recognition than these miners and what they did for us and their country. - Pam Chatterton, Crook, Co Durham.


YORK councillor Paul Blanchard wants to ban the French delicacy foie gras from the city's restaurants on the grounds of animal cruelty.

If he is serious about compassionate and ethical farming, then I hope he will also be campaigning against halal and kosher meat being served in the city.

Perhaps he has not the courage to protest against these barbaric animal slaughters for fear of being deemed racist.

Let's hope that his move has not cost the city of York any French tourists because that would be unpalatable. - J Moffatt, Chilton, Co Durham.