Sunday, November 29, 2015

Labour MPs "make me sick" - claims Labour MP

Blyth Valley Labour MP Ronnie Campbell is a cheer leader for Comrade Corbyn. He has spent all his years on the backbenches (he was elected in 1987). He has now waded into the row between Corbyn and a significant part of Labour's shadow cabinet over Syria. In our regional newspaper, The Journal, yesterday, he lets rip about those on the right of the party. "They make me sick," Comrade Campbell is reported as saying.

Clearly there are differing positions in the Labour party on Syria, as indeed there are in all the parties. Differences of opinion have to be respected but the spitting of venom by the increasingly fractious Labour party at themselves over Syria reminds me so much of the (for Labour) calamitous years of the 1980s when Labour members were more interested in beating each other up than trying to beat the Conservatives. What a sorry mess.

Marley Hill Christmas market

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (1)

It was the Marley Hill Community Centre Christmas market today. I had a small involvement with organising it but most of the work was done by other members of the management committee. I did however have a stall selling the surplus preserves from my self-sufficient lifestyle.

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (7)

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (6)

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (3)

Live music was provided.

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (5)

There was a steady flow of people all day. No mad rush but everyone felt the market went well.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Action day in Dunston

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (5)

An action day in Dunston, Gateshead, today was not our original plan. We were meant to be piling into another ward but a technical hitch at the printers meant that the Focus for that ward was not ready in time. However, we had 5000 Focuses for Dunston, Lobley Hill and Teams to deliver so suddenly, we had a Dunston action day instead.

The priority was to deliver Dunston Hill (which is part of a ward we are defending next year). I delivered 400 in the morning. Some patches in Dunston Hill were taken by others for delivery later in the week.

Waggon Team Nov 15 (2)

Waggon Team Nov 15 (1)

We then headed down to the Waggon Team for lunch, a rather slow affair as the meal took over 45 minutes to be served to us. At least we had time for sore feet to recover.

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (1)

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (2)

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (3)

It was then time for a trip to the Dunston Staiths. Myself, Daniel Duggan (Chowdene) and Kevin McClurey (Dunston Hill and Whickham East) delivered the whole estate.

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (4)

There are lots of flats at the Dunston Staiths - some of which are very easy to deliver!

Sadly, when I got home, I still had 50 Focuses to deliver in Sunniside. I did them between having a cup of tea and milking the goat. Who said life isn't varied?

Momentum planning Labour takeover in Gateshead

My thanks to the person who I won't name for directing me today towards a Facebook site set up by Corbyn fan club Momentum. The first meeting of the Gateshead and Blaydon branch is being held on Monday and apparently the agenda is ruffling a few feathers in the ranks of the Labour party. You can visit the page on this link.

I draw your attention to item 3: "How we intervene in the LP/TU Movement."

"Intervene" is quite an interesting word to use. It is clearly a euphemism for taking control of the Labour party. But what should be even more worrying for the Labour party is the guest list for this meeting. Let me quote:

"Remember you don't have to be a supporter or member of the Labour party to come along." This appeared at the bottom of the agenda.

So what we have with Momentum is a Labour faction encouraging non-Labour members to take part in its attempts to take over the local Labour party, even though those people may not even be Labour supporters (ie they could be opponents of Labour).

In the Lib Dems we set the fashion for internal party democracy decades ago. It has since spilled over, in a limited way, into the other parties. Ours is a membership democracy - based on members who share a common set of beliefs. They have to be signed up and paying their subs to the party to take part in internal party democracy. Momentum, on the other hand, is inviting people who aren't Labour supporters to help them capture control of the Labour party.

The question has to be asked, why are Momentum inviting those who may oppose the Labour party to help them take over the Labour party?  Surely Labour should consider that a reason for banning them.

All this however does highlight the mess into which Labour has descended by electing Corbyn as leader. It also highlights the dangers we face in areas which Labour regard as their own fiefdoms, such as here in the North East. A Momentum clear out of the old guard could put the lunatic fringe in control of councils and institutions which play significant roles in the life and affairs of the North East. If the Momentum Tendency seizes control, those bodies will be politicised in a way that will completely undermine them, until such time as the Labour party in our area can be defeated at the ballot box. That's the goal my colleagues and I in the Lib Dems have to achieve.

No photos please, we're British

I popped in to the citizenship ceremony taking place in Gateshead Civic Centre on Wednesday. One of my constituents was to be there, having his new British citizenship recognised. I think these are great ceremonies and would love to see them extended to all 16 year olds to mark their adulthood and their citizenship (though we also need to lower the voting age to 16). I was just getting out my camera to take some photos (my attending an event and not taking photos is unthinkable!) when an officer told me that photos were not allowed. This seems a bit odd for a ceremony that celebrates citizenship. Surely it should be something we should be promoting. Sadly, my camera had to be put away.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Washingwell Project Meeting

Fugar and Washingwell Nov 15

About 2 years ago, I persuaded the Sunniside History Society to consider setting up a project to look into the history of the Washingwell area of Gateshead, part of which is in my ward. The society has since then enthusiastically pursued funding for the project to draw out the history of the past 2000 years in the Washingwell area which contains the remains of a Roman fort and medieval manor house, a Tudor culvert, ancient waggonways, early railways, ancient quarries, old coalmines and a historic orchard.

A couple of months ago, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced the project is to receive £10,000 to draw out the history of the area from the medieval to the modern era. We hope to carry out 2 other phases of the project in the years to come: an exploration of the Roman fort (which has not yet been excavated) and renovation of the historic orchard.

Tonight we had the latest meeting of the group running the project. I am leading on the work looking at the changing landscape and the flora and fauna which has inhabited the area over the past 1000 years. I will also be helping to do some filming about the project and to produce a dvd.

The project should be completed by October next year.

In the meantime, check out the photos I took recently in the Washingwell area. Washingwell Woods contains a number of features which are man made. They will need a great deal of study to work out what their purpose was. This is going to be an interesting project.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Shooting yourself in the Little Red Book

Can Labour's stream of shoot-themselves-in-the-foot actions ever end? Apparently not, if today is anything to go by. The looks of horror on the faces of Labour MPs as John McDonnell whipped out his copy of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book had to be seen to be believed. And the look of absolute joy on the faces of Tory MPs said it all. Labour have already pressed the stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off button with their decision to rebel against reality by electing Corbyn to the leadership. Now they just want to make life easy for the Conservatives by self-destructing. This is like a political soap opera with a seriously bad and unbelievable script.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lights switch on in Whickham

Whickham Christmas Lights switch on

For some years now, Gateshead Council has not been providing a Christmas tree for Whickham. Instead, a group of volunteers called Lighting Up Whickham, have raised the funds for the tree and have held a switching-on event. This year's tree was switched on today and I was there to do the photos. You can see them on the above link.

Delivering Marley Hill and Byermoor

Marley Hill leaflet delivery Nov 15 (1)

Marley Hill and Byermoor villages are in my council ward in Gateshead. They are both relatively small with 170 and 55 houses respectively. I wrote the focus for the 2 villages over the weekend. We had plenty of news and had to leave some stories out of this A3 edition. The main articles are about the sale of Marley Hill School for housing, an appeal for volunteers to help tidy up planters in the villages, damage to the embankment next to Marley Hill football pitch and Labour's decision to spend £45,000 on refurbishing the Leader and Cabinet offices at Gateshead Civic Centre.

I spent this morning delivering the two villages.

Marley Hill leaflet delivery Nov 15 (2)

Meanwhile, as I write this, my colleague Cllr John McClurey should be finishing the printing of the Sunniside Focus. I'm expecting a large quantity to be deposited with me later today.

Labour's fossilised North East establishment versus the raving revolutionaries

The dinosaur Labour establishment which believes the North East is a Labour one party state has just been given a bloody nose by the raving revolutionaries of the Momentum Corbyn fan club. Our local newspaper, The Journal, reported today on a meeting of the North West Durham constituency in which Momentum members turned up in large numbers and had the audacity not to vote back in the MP's husband as the long serving "campaign co-ordinator". Bob Glass was dumped in favour of Paul Simpson, a Corbyn devotee and left wing blogger.

Quite what on which Mr Glass has campaigned in recent years, other than his wife Pat's election as MP, is something I cannot answer. The Labour party generally in the North East is not renown as a campaigning organisation. The Labour establishment simply believes they have a natural right to rule. Why campaign when they have all the power?

Quite which new direction Mr Simpson will send his constituency in terms of campaigning is also something I cannot answer. The real interest however is in whether or not this is the first shot fired in a more brutal civil war in the Labour party. Will the momentum behind Momentum mean they start eyeing up Labour MPs and councillors who are not "socialist" enough (that does not narrow down the field very much)? Will the prospect of deselection stalk the Labour establishment? And what about Labour's choice of candidate for the North East elected mayor in May 2017? Will Momentum be pressing for a left winger or will the Labour establishment be able to impose one of their dinosaurs?

It's probably too early to say. If Corbyn's current poor performance continues, and he is given his marching orders, will Momentum sit idly buy and watch as the Beloved Leader is dumped?

It's all turning into an interesting spectator blood sport.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Helping in Millfield

Millfield Action Day Nov 15 (3)

In recent weeks in Gateshead we have held 4 action days to ensure a large team can deliver and canvass various wards. On Saturday however I headed out of Gateshead to neighbouring Sunderland where the local party was having an action day in Millfield ward. The team in Sunderland is small but made up of mainly new, young and enthusiastic members. It was an enthusiasm that was obvious from the moment I arrived.

Millfield Action Day Nov 15 (1)

They kindly gave me over 500 Focuses to deliver and one of the streets I had to do was called Ravensworth Street. As the Ravensworth country estate is partly in my ward (and was managed by my great grandfather Henry Wallace in the late Victorian period) I couldn't resist taking the above photo. The street is similar to most of the other streets I delivered - long terraces with no front gardens. This is delivery at its easiest! Later on I was sent into an estate that was so new that some of the houses were still being built and none of the streets was showing up on Google maps.

Millfield Action Day Nov 15 (2)

Niall Hodson is candidate for Millfield. If he and his campaign team continue along the course they have set themselves, there is a good chance he will be elected to Sunderland Council. We have no councillors in the city at the moment and we lost our last seat there in 2012, not that we had many in the first place. Re-establishing a foothold on the council will be a great boost for the Lib Dems.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Meeting at the Staiths

Staiths Cafe Gateshead Nov 15 (3)

We have a modest number of new members in Dunston and Teams and Lobley Hill and Bensham wards so we decided to have a meeting with them on Thursday evening. Venue for the gathering was the Staiths Cafe, opposite the Dunston Staiths. We were up against the live (and loud) music but we huddled ourselves in a corner upstairs and talked about campaigning in the two wards. Alas, I was given the job of writing Focuses for the wards! They will be done after I've finished the two I'm currently writing for my own ward.