Sunday, May 19, 2019

Delivering in Birtley

Lib Dem European Election postcards May 19

We are heading back to the polls this week and so today I was in Birtley to help our ward candidate Paul Elliott to deliver a few hundred postcards calling on people to vote Lib Dem on Thursday. Job done in two hours. I still have lots to deliver in various places in Gateshead by 23rd May.

Not getting carried away with opinion polls but....

I am too long in the tooth to get excited by opinion polls. I've seen lots before that have predicted one outcome but we end up with something else. The trend in recent polls is for a Lib Dem rise, a collapse in the Conservatives' ratings, and Labour slipping badly. Sadly, the Brexit Party is in the lead, and by a significant margin.

But, putting aside the Brexit Party, and taking the polls with a great deal of salt, the fun of seeing the Conservatives and Labour squirm at the sight of the Lib Dems doing well is a moment to be savoured. Sadly, such delights don't always last long. The European Election results may or may not come up to expectation but in the meantime, I am going to enjoy the polls and the Lab/Con discomfort.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Thank you Dave

Dave Fawcett May 19

Gateshead Lib Dem exec was held on Wednesday evening. We had a good discussion about the local election campaign and we provisionally agreed six more target wards. But the evening went to Dave Fawcett who was attending his last meeting as local party secretary. He stood down from the post he has held for many years due to health issues. We presented him with an engraved tankard and some bottles of craft beers. We wish him all the best in his  retirement.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Back to school

Goats at Whickham School May 19 (4)

It is mental health awareness week and I was invited by Whickham School to take some of our goats in today for the children to pet, stroke, feed and generally enjoy the company of. The conclusion was that such activities with animals are good for children's mental health. This is the second year running we have taken in the goats. It looks like it was become an established event in the school calendar!

Goats at Whickham School May 19 (3)

Goats at Whickham School May 19 (2)

Goats at Whickham School May 19 (1)

Lib Dem Cllr John McClurey to be nominated for Gateshead mayor

Below is the news release published by Gateshead Lib Dems tonight - tomorrow at the Council annual meeting we will be nominating Cllr John McClurey to be the first every non-Labour mayor of Gateshead.

Lib Dem Councillor proposed as first non-Labour mayor in Gateshead

Following on from the success of the Liberal Democrats in the local elections in Gateshead, the party will be proposing Cllr John McClurey as the first non-Labour mayor of the borough at the Council annual meeting on Friday 17th May.

Since the Council was first established in 1974, every mayor has been from Labour. Most other councils share the mayorality around all the parties that have local representation. In Newcastle, for example, the post alternates between Labour and Lib Dems.

Have-a-go hero Cllr McClurey was elected to Gateshead Council in 2008. He had previously hit the headlines when he battled his way through smoke, fire and burning debris to help save a mum and her child in a house fire near his shop in Newcastle.

As a result of his actions, John was recognised for his bravery by the Royal Humane Society.

“It is a great honour to be proposed by the Lib Dem group to be mayor of Gateshead,” said John. “I’ve lived in the area all my life and I know I can make a strong contribution to civic life in Gateshead.”

Lib Dem Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Jonathan Wallace, said, “Gateshead has never had a non-Labour mayor before and we believe it is time that changed. Labour should follow the practice of their colleagues on most other councils and alternate the mayorality between the two parties represented on the Council.

“They need to back John so that the post is no longer restricted to the narrow views of the Labour Party.”
Labour’s vote slumped to 44% in the local elections in Gateshead earlier this month. They lost two seats to the Lib Dems as well.

“After all, Labour no longer speaks for the majority in Gateshead,” said Jonathan. “It’s time for Gateshead’s mayor to be appointed on merit, rather than for political reasons.”


Notes to editors:

1)Press report on John McClurey saving occupants from house fire:

2)link to Royal Humane Society report on John McClurey’s bravery:

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Labour's European Election leaflet

Labour European election leaflet North East May 19 (1)

Labour's European Election freepost leaflet arrived today through my door. It seems Labour have little to say as there are some significant unused spaces in the leaflet. Helpfully, most of the front page is taken up with a photo of Jeremy Corbyn. That should scare the voters away from Labour (that was certainly what was happening during the local election.)

The bit about a confirmatory vote  reads, "If we can't get changes to their bad deal or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote." That's about as non-committal as you can get. Hardly surprising given Corbyn is a Brexiter.

Labour European election leaflet North East May 19 (2)

Oh joy - a by-election!

Journal Vera Baird May 19

It looks as though we are going to have to go onto election overdrive. It has been announced that Vera Baird, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, has been appointed as the new Victims Commissioner by the Conservative government. It means she will be vacating the PCC role. Oh joy, a by-election across the whole of Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.

I was the Lib Dem candidate in the last PCC election in 2016, held on the same day as the local elections. I campaigned on the basis that the PCC role should be abolished and its functions should be part of the powers of elected regional government. And then Labour fell apart in the North East over devolution with the North of Tyne going off to do their own thing and the South of Tyne left going nowhere. The devolution and PCC combination will have to be revised!

In the PCC election, there were 4 candidates (this was in the days of UKIP having a presence on the political landscape). I romped home in, errr, 4th place! However, I came second in both Gateshead and Newcastle, reflecting our stronger local government base there. We can now add Sunderland to the list of councils where we are growing significantly.

Personally, I think the vacancy should be left unfilled until next May when the next PCC election is due (on the same day as the local elections). That would save a huge amount of public money (and shoe leather!)

Monday, May 13, 2019

North East Lib Dem European Election video

North East Lib Dems have produced an excellent campaign video about the European election campaign and why people should vote Lib Dem on 23rd May. You can view it on this link.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Delivering in Ryton

Lib Dem European election leaflets May 19

While most people today were putting this sunny Sunday to good use at home, I was in Ryton delivering 500 leaflets in the Riverside Estate. Two hours of treading the streets and only one negative comment!

I still have quite a few hundred leaflets left to deliver elsewhere!

Low Fell eFocus no. 35

Just published by our Low Fell Focus Team, edition 35 of eFocus. This edition includes:
  • Save the Hardman Centre
  • Northumbria University's 'Making Low Fell Better' event a success
  • Time running out to give your views on Tyne Tolls plan
  • Low Fell's Summer Fayre

Be wary of projecting opinion polls

I have been in politics too long to be excited by opinion polls. Having seen stratospheric ratings for the SDP/Liberal Alliance in 1982, Lib Dem ratings within the margin of error of zero in 1989 after the Lib/SDP merger, poll ratings for the Lib Dems in the Blair years which were interpreted by Labour as the end of liberal democracy and 2010 poll ratings which overdid the Lib Dem vote, I tend to take them now with a large pinch of salt.

Opinion polls are guestimate snapshots. Useful for showing trends, getting an accurate prediction is something more challenging (remember the polls in 1992 and 2015). So, don't get carried away with polls this morning that put the Lib Dems ahead of the Conservatives in the European elections. Yes it is the case that the Brexit "Party" is almost certainly romping ahead of the field (but not with a majority of the votes) and Labour and especially the Conservatives are slipping badly. Yes, the Lib Dem vote is up a bit. But success also depends on having a party machine on the ground that can deliver victory.

The grassroots organisation of the Lib Dems is what ensured we survived the Coalition years. The same, but expanded, grassroots organisation delivered the big gains we made in the local elections earlier this month. The European elections are quite unique in that the need for a grassroots organisation to deliver a campaign is far, far less. As long as there is a list of candidates in each region, the rest of the campaign can be delivered from an office in London.

That advantage does not carry over to a general election in which 650 candidates and 650 agents are needed, as are 6500 signatures and lots of form filling, and that's without even thinking about a constituency campaign. So while the Brexit "Party" can mop up lots of votes in the European election, running a general election campaign that delivers the constituencies predicted as likely to go to them is a challenge which the Brexit "Party" will find extremely difficult to mount. Just look at the 2015 general election in which UKIP failed to win a single seat but scored a reasonable share of the vote.

My advisory note to Lib Dem colleagues is not to get carried away with rising poll ratings for the party. Effective targeting, as carried out in the local elections, is what wins elections.

And now I'm going to spend 2 hours of my Sunday lunchtime delivering 500 Lib Dem European election leaflets in Ryton.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Flying visit to Dunston Festival

DHWE cllrs at Dunston fair May 19

After our European election leaflet delivery today, we popped into the Dunston Festival at Dunston UTC. Sadly, I couldn't stay long (but I was there long enough to get a burger!) as I had to drive Fiona Hall back to her car for her next event in Newcastle. It was good to see the Dunston Lib Dem Councillors at the festival as well (see photo above). Like me, all 3 had been delivering European election leaflets in the morning.

The next local fair is at Chase Park, Whickham, on 18th May.

European campaigning

European campaigning Festival Park May 19

Fiona Hall, the lead Lib Dem candidate for the North East in the European election, visited Gateshead today. Quite a few people turned up to help so we split into a number of teams. I took Fiona and two others to Festival Park to deliver the estate. From there we went to Windmill Hills in Bensham. Other teams delivered in Dunston, the Staiths Estate and Felling. Lots of leaflets went through letter boxes!