Friday, November 09, 2018

Gateshead's Millennium Study

I filmed this video just before and just after a seminar for Gateshead councillors about the Gateshead Millennium Study, a research project that followed 1000 people born in 1999/2000 until they turned 18. There was quite a concentration during the presentation on the issue of obesity, which affected children from all income groups, though it was higher among children from the lowest income households. There are no single solution to tackling obesity and, as I pointed at at the meeting, ready-made meals and takeaways taste great and are packed full of things the body craves and which, naturally, are in short supply - salt, fats and sugars for example. However we don't live naturally. Anyway, my views on this are all in the above video.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Blaydon branch meeting

Last Thursday the Blaydon Lib Dem constituency meeting was held. I was there to give my report as group leader for the year as a whole as this was the AGM. I talked about our "6 to fix" which we used in the local elections but also raised Gateshead Council's late housing strategy

Officers were elected for the year ahead and we concluded with a report on preparations for the local elections, especially as they relate to the five wards in the constituency in which we have an active interest and the one ward in Gateshead constituency in which Blaydon constituency assists the campaigning to build up to a gain from Labour in the future.

Why I don't think there will be an election

I recorded my thoughts on why I don't think there will be an election last week when I arrived at Gateshead Civic Centre for a meeting. It could be my famous last words but talk of a snap election is, I feel, misplaced. The Conservatives are ahead in the polls but their fingers were badly burnt last year when May lost her majority in an unnecessary snap election. Their poll leads are modest but not enough to risk a run to the country. Furthermore, the Conservatives will want the boundary changes approved before a general election.

I could, of course, be completely wrong! We could end up, if not a snap election, with one in May next year, coinciding with the local elections. Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Arson, budget and elections

On Monday I paid a visit to Marley Hill bowling green. I have been helping the club with publicity and advice on a community asset transfer. The reason I was visiting however was an arson attack on the club house last week. Someone broke in and set fire to the rubber mats used by the bowlers. The result is that everything inside has been destroyed by smoke damage. Fortunately the building is structurally sound. We are looking at how the club can be helped to get over this setback.

Afterwards I headed to a meeting with Gateshead's chief exec and director of finance to discuss the council's budget for next year. There is a £29 million funding gap to bridge which rather undermines the claim by the Conservatives that austerity has ended.

And in the evening I headed to felling for a Lib Dem meeting to work up more details of the campaign plan for next year's local elections. I left with a rather large to-do list!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Lib Dem action day in Low Fell

Yesterday we had an action day in Low Fell, Gateshead. It went ahead despite the snow and the cold wind. Fortunately by the afternoon the snow had gone. Our aim was to carry out a survey of a particular target group. I'm pleased to say we got through the whole group, though admittedly there were lots of people who were out when we called. The response was positive though I did come across someone who confessed to being a Labour member though we was rather apologetic about it! The video above follows us through the day.

Could Labour MPs save May's Brexit plans?

This is another of my thoughts set to video while I am stuck at the wheel of my car: could Theresa May be saved by Labour MPs? There is constant talk of her being gone within days. Ever since her shoot-her-own-foot decision to go for an early election, headlines of her being deposed have never been far from the front pages. Yet, a year and a half since then, she is still there. Her ability to cling to power is really quite something.

So, can she get her Chequers Brexit plan through Parliament. Under the current Parliamentary arithmetic and taking into account rebellious Tory Brexit MPs (and possibly rebellious Remainers as well) it is looking like she is toast. But there are two matters to consider. Firstly, there is always a great deal of noise about rebellions before they happen and there is a tendency for the figures of government MPs going through the opposition lobby to be somewhat inflated. Nevertheless, if there is a vote on Chequers, any Conservative rebellion could bring it crashing down.

Secondly, what about the Labour rebels. The dinosaur tendency has already saved May on Brexit legislation votes. They have not been punished by the Labour whips. There could now be a further Labour rebellion, but not just by the dinosaurs such as Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell. There is another group in Labour to consider - the looking-over-their-shoulder wing of the party, the Caroline Flints of the world. They claim to be Remainers but like May, they are now pushing the Brexit side of the debate. I suspect they could be sufficient enough in numbers to swing a Parliamentary vote.

And I suspect any actions in supporting the Chequers deal may not put them into conflict with Corbyn. He knows that were there to be an election and he were to win (not a done deal by any means given Labour are behind in most polls), he would have to negotiate a deal with virtually no time left and with no other weapons in the armory than the Tories have. Surely it's better for Corbyn to let the Tories do the hard work, get a Brexit package passed on which he could never make any improvements while he makes a noise about how bad things are but never puts forward a serious alternative.

This scenario relies on Labour MPs rebelling to support the Conservatives. Given the lack of activity by Corbyn on the People' Vote issue, his turning a blind eye to a Labour rebellion could save May's skin again (and saves his own from having to lead a disastrous government with no Brexit alternative.)

Delivering in Dunston

On Friday, I delivered 220 Focuses in Dunston Hill, one of our target wards which Labour are defending in May 2019 (in May this year we won with a majority of around 600). The Focus led on the issue of Labour's plans for 582 executive homes on Whickham Highway. Other stories included the closure of Dunston Hill Hospital and the Dunston health centre.

The Focus included the petition we are running against the housing plans. Yesterday morning we received the first of the replies by post.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Gateshead Lib Dem members' email newsletter

Earlier this week I published the latest Lib Dem members' email newsletter. It covered the People's Vote rally and the action day we have in Low Fell on Saturday. You can view it on this link.

Planning and printing

Yesterday I headed to the Woodmans pub in my ward for a meeting with the owner about a planning application for an extension of the premises. The plans look good and, if given the go ahead, will lead to eight new jobs being created. The aim is to create a venue suitable for wedding receptions. The issue however is that the location is in the greenbelt. My view is that the countryside cannot be pickled. Businesses need to be able to operate and expand within reasonable limits. I will be making this point to the planners.

Following the meeting, I headed up to the Lib Dem office in Consett where, with Cllr Kevin McClurey, we printed a focus, a petition and three surveys. It looks like we will be burning shoe leather over the coming days.

The small issues are the biggest part of the role

On Tuesday I had a meeting with Gateshead Council officers who deal with community matters. It is the latest in a series of meetings where we discuss ward matters and how to take them forward. Dealing with such matters actually forms the bulk of the work I do as a councillor. The meeting covered a range of local matters but key was the need to set up a partnership between local organisations to help community groups work together. This will be a major activity for us in the new year.

Later in the day I headed back to the civic centre for a training session on the PREVENT strategy and how to spot those more likely to be drawn into extremist and violent behaviour and terrorism. It was quite an eye-opener.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Conspiracy theories and the problem of thriving bees

In Gateshead a bunch of conspiracy theorists are convinced that non-existent 5G technology allegedly installed in lampposts are exterminating all insects and small birds while causing mass nosebleeds, cancer and death. They allege that the 5G technology (which does not exist in Gateshead) has been installed as part of a secret deal between Labour run Gateshead Council and the Conservative government to test a weapon system on the people of the area. And for good measure they argue that the Council has set up a funeral business to cash in on the extra deaths they claim will result from the alleged 5G technology. As far as conspiracy theories goes, this one has to be there near the top.

However, the conspiracy theorists claim that all my bees have died! They even tried to make this part of their case against an injunction sought by the Council against one of their ring leaders who has intimidated and harassed councillors (myself included) and council staff in their campaign against 5G. So, to help them in their journey back to the real world, I filmed the video above which shows my bees thriving, even in the middle of October, a month not well known for ideal foraging for bees.

And while I have had quite a few abusive message from the conspiracy theorists, none of them have yet responded to this video. I wonder why.

Meanwhile, I am pleased to report that Sunny, the goat that appeared in the video, is back in excellent health.

People's Vote rally - video

I attended the People's Vote rally on Saturday in London, along with thousands of other Lib Dem members. This is the video I made of the event. It was attended by members of all mainstream parties and by those with no political allegiance. Noticeable for his absence was Jeremy Corbyn.