Friday, May 24, 2024

Election campaign day 2: no football tenancy

Yesterday, day 2 of the election campaign, was the first full council meeting in Gateshead since the council annual meeting, which happened to be last week! The highlight of the agenda was the Lib Dem motion calling for a secure tenancy for Gateshead Football Club at the Gateshead International Stadium. The council are looking to transfer the stadium to another operator and Labour made it clear that a secure ten year tenancy would get in the way of their plans to move the stadium out of the direct council management. To the disappointment of the many fans of Gateshead FC in the public gallery, the motion was defeated.

It was however another occasion for near silence from Cllr Angela Douglas, Cabinet member for sport and leisure. Having been largely silent during the controversy over her plans to close leisure centres - there was a 2 hour debate in cabinet about them during which she said nothing - now was the opportunity for Cllr Douglas to open up about her portfolio and give us an explanation of her thoughts on the stadium. And sure enough, Cllr Douglas grabbed the opportunity. She seconded a Labour wrecking amendment to the Lib Dem motion with a long speech of, errrr, 4 words - "I second the amendment". Many of us wonder what benefit there is to Gateshead by Cllr Douglas being in receipt of her £16K a year post of cabinet member for sport and culture.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Election campaign day 1 - Singing in the Rain

So, only 6 months before we expected it, Sunak yesterday called the election. Standing in Downing Street to announce the date, it rained, and rained, and rained. Poor Richi got an absolute soaking. Is it an omen for the rest of his campaign? Will it be a washout or will he close the gap on Labour? Still it was tempting to imagine Morecombe and Wise dancing across Downing Street with their rendition of "Singing in the Rain". Meanwhile, wrapped in the union jack, Starmer launched his campaign in front of what looked like a stripped pine kitchen.

Not all Tories are happy with the election announcement. There is talk of plots to evict Sunak from the leadership, replace him and call off the election. If anything sums up the febrile nature of the Conservatives at the moment, it is this. The very idea that Tory MPs, many of whom are about to be stripped of their next six months' pay, could believe such a plot was a good idea, just shows the Tories have descended into farce.

On a practical note, three very heavy boxes of leaflets arrived at my house yesterday, only 2 hours before Sunak made his announcement. Talk about good timing.....

Sunday, May 19, 2024

New at the annual meeting


Gateshead annual council meeting was held on Friday and new member Joe Sowerby took his seat in the chamber. Joe was elected as councillor for Birtley on 2nd May, taking the ward from Labour by a slender 5 votes. Joe is pictured with Paul Elliott who won Birtley from Labour last year.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

New at the group meeting


Gateshead Lib Dem group meeting last night and Joe Sowerby was there to take up his role as a Lib Dem Councillor. Joe won his seat from Labour last week in Birtley ward. It was the tightest of majorities (5 votes) but a win is a win whatever the majority. Birtley was the only seat to change hands in Gateshead on 2nd May. Well done Joe and welcome to the team.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Remembering D-Day


On 5th June I will be doing a talk about D-Day, a day before the 80th anniversary of Operation Overlord and the Normandy landings. I will be looking at some of the national coverage but much of the talk will be about how the news was received in the North East. The talk starts at 7pm in Sunniside Social Club. £1 for society members, £2 for non-members.

Worth a visit


The Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside have yet more additions to entice more visitors through the gates. In an attempt to encourage children to eat vegetables, a series of wood carvings of vegetables has been created, using wood from a large ash tree that had to be felled last year. The carvings are proving to be quite popular with children.

Thursday, May 02, 2024

It's polling day but I voted ages ago


It is polling day for the local, police and regional mayoral elections. For the first time ever I had 3 ballot papers each helpfully a different colour. I cast my votes however about 10 days ago. Two thirds of the people voting in my ward will do so by post. So in effect the start of polling day was the day the postal votes were posted through people's doors. I signed up for postal voting last year. I enjoy going to the polling station but doing so means less time spent on the get-out-the-vote operation.

I have spent a good part of today in Saltwell. It is the ward with the tightest race. Last year the Lib Dems won the seat by 58 votes from Labour who had held it since the 1930s. It is too close to call. Lib Dems were out in force but Labour, knowing their previous stranglehold on the ward has crumbled, were out in force too.

Previous local government election counts in Gateshead have taken place on the Friday morning. Sadly, that is not the case this year. Counting starts at 10pm because of the multiple elections being held. That means today is going to be a very long day. Expect the first results in the early hours.

Could there be an upset in the North East?

A rather unexpected poll result caught the attention of the political world a few days ago. Jamie Driscoll was just 2 points behind Labour in the contest for the new Mayor of the North East. Driscoll is currently the North of Tyne elected Mayor and has been described by some as the last Corbynite still in power. The "Changed" Labour Party however attempted to end Driscoll's political career by blocking him from being candidate for the new North East Combined Authority Mayor, which will replace the much smaller North of Tyne authority. Current Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness was chosen by Labour instead of Driscoll.

Most people at that point assumed the election was cut and dried. McGuiness would have a relatively straightforward cruise to victory. But then Mayor Driscoll started to muddy the waters. Instead of going quietly, he decided not to go at all. Instead he resigned his Labour membership and announced he was standing as an Independent. 

Most thought this was just a political sideshow.  In the North East Labour heartland, Labour were simply expected to win, deserved or not. But Mayor Driscoll managed to get a bit of a bandwagon rolling and it may have picked up enough momentum (and indeed former members of Momentum) to pip Kim McGuinness to the post.

The evidence for this is an opinion poll. As far as I'm aware, there has been only the one poll done. An organisation called "More in Common" conducted the poll which produced the following:

  • Labour 35%
  • Driscoll 33%
  • Reform 14%
  • Conservatives 11%
  • Lib Dems 4%
  • Greens 4%
There are a large number of questions about this poll. Is it representative of the region? Were the participants self-selecting? Does it take into account what I call transfers (where people voting for a particular party vote the same way in other elections held on the same day but which they regard as of lesser importance).

But if this poll in any way reflects what is happening, and Driscoll is close to wining or even wins outright, this would be an enormous shock to the Labour Party and would knock the gloss off what is expected to be a successful set of elections for them.

I am rather cautious. I suspect Driscoll won't make it. We will find out in the next 24 hours.

Is she or isn't she?


I get the impression that the Greens are pushing hard in Bridges ward in Gateshead. Bridges is normally strongly Labour and they top the poll there with minimal effort (this year may be a bit different). So, Green election leaflets in Bridges are suddenly much more interesting than usual. A read of "Election News" however will leave you scratching your head. Other than the tiny imprint at the bottom of the page, there is no reference to the candidate, Rachel Cabral as being a Green Party candidate.

Indeed, residents could be forgiven for thinking that Rachel Cabral is an independent, not a Green. The opening paragraph claims she will "vote independently". Or how about "Rachel is the only truly independent candidate" on the 3rd paragraph?

So is this a new Green Party campaign tactic - claim to be an independent rather than a Green? If so, it doesn't say much for the honesty and integrity of the Green Party. Or are they simply embarrassed to be called Greens? Who knows?

Nevertheless, watch for an interesting change in votes received by the parties (or independents as appropriate) in Bridges in the local elections.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Microscope at the ready

This has to be one of the worst Labour leaflets I have seen for some years. It is Labour's election leaflet in my ward of Whickham South and Sunniside. It is littered with meaningless statements and incomplete sentences. The photo however takes the biscuit. The candidate is a tiny figure against a huge monolith. You almost need a microscope to see him. 

This is the sort of photo that is used in training sessions on taking photos for leaflets. 

Vote for change by voting no change - Labour


It may be a late arrival but nevertheless, it's still funny! Yes, Labour have produced a leaflet in Low Fell for the local elections. For Labour, Low Fell is a place where they fly tip their failed candidates and rejects from elsewhere in Gateshead. Their current candidate is Robert Waugh who, until May last year was councillor for the neighbouring Saltwell ward. 

Saltwell had been solidly Labour since the dawn of time so Mr Waugh can lay claim to the title of "He who lost a rock solid Labour ward to the Lib Dems." So what nuggets of political though has Mr Waugh dreamt up during his enforced leave from Gateshead Council? Well, this one caught my attention. "Real change for the area can only be made by the party in power." In other words, the party in power remains the same and change only comes about within that party. Meanwhile, the rest of us hold the view that change requires one political party to be replaced as the governing party by another party (or parties).

The idea that voting Labour in Gateshead is a vote for change is ludicrous. Labour have been in power on the council for 50 years - the entire time Gateshead Council has existed.

But stick with Labour's logic for a moment. If they are arguing that people should vote for the party that is in power (as they do in Gateshead), to be consistent they are presumably arguing at the national level that people should vote Conservative. After all, "Real change for the area can only be made by the party in power."

Meanwhile, Mr Waugh states that the Lib Dems have been in power for the past 14 years. History is clearly not his strong point.

And finally, Mr Waugh claims that if elected he would be the "loudest" of the Low Fell members. Sadly, many other people are yet to experience even a fraction of a decibel from him. Last year when the council debated the Lib Dem amendment calling for funding to be made available to keep leisure centres open in Gateshead, then Councillor Waugh had nothing to say on the matter. Rather than being the loudest, if appears he took a vow of silence.