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Double campaign delight in Hull

For weeks the Hull Daily Mail has been pursuing Home Secretary Jack Straw for answers to vital questions on policing in Humberside.

The paper is running a “Save Our Bobbies” campaign. The Humberside force bid for £7.4m from the Government’s Crime Fighting Fund to save 251 officers’ jobs – but received enough cash for just 74.

Persistence finally paid off and the Mail secured an exclusive interview with the Home Secretary … on the same day that it was hosting a prestigious education debate, with five pages of coverage planned for the next day’s paper.

“It was Sod’s law,” said Editor John Meehan.

“We had been organising the Wednesday night education debate for a month or two, and pushing for an interview with Jack Straw for weeks,” explained Mr Meehan.

“When Kirsty Buchanan, our Parliamentary correspondent said she’d finally got the interview, I said: ‘Great!’….and then she said it was Wednesday!!”

“We could have held the Jack Straw interview until Friday, but we felt it should go in straight away because we had been telling our readers every day that Jack Straw had not replied to our questions. It made for an interesting paper.”

The top of the front page on Thursday was devoted to The Great Debate – which saw Lord Dearing head a VIP panel answering questions from concerned readers, parents, teachers and even pupils.

Below the fold on Page One was a headline summarising Jack Straw’s response to Humberside police’s raw deal: “DON’T BLAME ME”.

Inside, the first four pages of the paper were devoted to detailed coverage of the questions and answers in the education debate with Jack Straw’s interview across pages 16 and 17.

Under John Meehan’s editorship, the paper has focused on campaigns and community reporting.

Mr Meehan said: “Campaigning is something we do well, and education is our biggest issue.”

Hull has been bottom of the GCSE league tables for the last three years.

“It’s something which damages the city’s image. We don’t want to be the sort of paper which reports on the problem. We want to be part of the solution. We want to work with people and make a difference.”

The Mail had asked its readers to send in questions on education, and 90 people were then invited to the Mail’s offices to put their questions to a panel headed by Lord Dearing – who has helped shape key Government education policies such as the National Curriculum – and also featuring key education experts from Humberside.

Mr Meehan said there had been good feedback to the debate, which had been praised by Lord Dearing as playing an important part in the process of raising people’s aspirations.

On the issue of funding police officers, Jack Straw told the Mail that Humberside’s bid had failed because it didn’t come up to scratch. He also argued that there was no evidence to suggest that a cut in officers would lead to a rise in crime in Humberside – which already has the highest crime rate in England and Wales.

Mr Meehan said: “We had an inital response from Humberside police, but I am sure there will be more to come, and this is another important debate which we want to see played out in the pages of the Hull Daily Mail.”

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