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Gateshead council has a proud history of appointing good officers. Indeed, over the years many of its officers have advised Governments. In fact, it was a Gateshead housing officer who advised a previous Conservative Government on the sale of council houses, so the idea that Gateshead officers are tied to a particular political party is nonsense. I know Maggie Atkinson-of course, I know a lot of people but that does not necessarily mean they are good candidates for the position we are discussing. I know about the work that she has done in Gateshead, and I know about the educational achievements and health improvements among children that we have had in Gateshead under her leadership. I know of her firm interest in the interests and rights of children, and I know that she is a strong character who believes in what she is doing. The idea that she would be bullied by anyone, let alone the Secretary of State, is nonsense.
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