Sunday, August 25, 2019

The contortions of Labour's Brexit

The spinning, bending and writhing of Labour over Brexit are enough to put a professional contortionist to shame. Having been dragged kicking and screaming to a point where Leaver Corbyn will support a confirmatory referendum, a Labour government remains committed to their own Brexit which would be put to the people in a remain versus Labour Brexit referendum. Such a deal is one of those mythical unicorns that are now so associated with the Brexit debate. But let's just suppose that they manage to pull off the impossible and get some kind of negotiated deal that is different to the deal negotiated by Theresa May (though the EU have made it clear there will be no renegotiation). Labour claim they are committed to campaigning to remain. In other words, their current position is to go to the people in a general election, ask them to vote them in to negotiate a different deal which will then be put to the people in a referendum in which Labour's official position is to campaign against their own deal!

It's hardly surprising that Labour's vote has collapsed in opinion polls and electoral contests with leadership like that!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

More printing

Printing Whickham South Focus Aug 19 1

After my council surgery this morning and a quick photo session with fellow councillors, I headed to the Lib Dem office in Consett to print the back page of our next focuses for Whickham South and Sunniside. We have now had to increase the print run as new houses in Marley Hill and Streetgate now have to be added to the delivery list. A colleague will complete the printing on Sunday. And then, all we have to do is deliver them!

Printing Whickham South Focus Aug 19 2

Friday, August 23, 2019

Birtley eFocus edition no. 5

Birtley eFocus was published tonight. Issues covered include residents reject Labour's bridge tolls, £2.5 million wasted on unnecessary PCC by-election, Morrisons planning application, empty homes and others.

Whickham eFocus edition 122

Just published, eFocus for the Whickham area, edition no. 122. Issues covered include Whickham and Swalwell post offices, concern about the empty Dunston Health Centre, defibrillator installed in Sunniside and more.

You can read eFocus on this link.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

New Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet

North East Lib Dem regional conference Nov 18 (8)

Jo Swinson today announced her new Shadow Cabinet. I was pleased to see my friend Ed Davey has been appointed Shadow Chancellor and Business and Energy Secretary. I was also pleased to see Christine Jardine appointed as Shadow Home Secretary. Last year she spoke at the North East Lib Dem regional conference. I was impressed by her.

The Shadow Cabinet in full is:

Jo Swinson: Leader
Ed Davey: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Chuka Umunna: Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, International Development, International Trade
Christine Jardine: Home Department, Justice, Women and Equalities, Deputy Chief Whip
Tom Brake: Exiting the European Union, Duchy of Lancaster
Jamie Stone: Defence, Scotland
Vince Cable: Health and Social Care
Layla Moran: Education, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Wera Hobhouse: Climate Change and Environment, Transport
Tim Farron: Housing, Communities and Local Government, Work and Pensions, North of England (Northern Powerhouse)
Alistair Carmichael: Chief Whip, Northern Ireland
Jane Dodds: Wales, Food & Rural Affairs
Catherine Bearder: Europe
Siobhan Benita: London
Willie Rennie: Scotland
Kirsty Williams: Wales
Dick Newby: Leader of the House of Lords
Sal Brinton: President of the Liberal Democrats

Collecting memories

Sunniside Methodist Church are running a set of events in May next year to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of war in Europe. They had a meeting last night to which I was invited as local councillor to see how I can help them and what ideas I had to contribute to their plans. At the same time, Sunniside History Society, of which I am chairman, is launching a project to collect people's memories of the war years and the immediate postwar years. There is scope for cooperation especially on collecting memories and putting together a display. I suggested on 8th May next year I could run a wartime "British Restaurant" in the church hall while the display is being held. Sadly, the menu won't be in 1945 prices!

We have agreed to spend the rest of the year collecting people's memories. In early January we will meet again to put together the plans for May. We hope to have a great set of events in place for the community.

Shunting HS2 onto the sidings

It's a nervous time for those of us who believe the train should take the strain. Prime Minister Johnson has ordered a review of HS2. By the end of the year there needs to be a recommendation over whether or not it goes ahead. For the North East, this is a significant issue. The East Coast Line is operating at capacity. Passenger numbers are at a record high. Fast intercity passenger trains have to share lines with freight and slow moving commuter trains. We need more capacity on the rail system into and out of the North East. Without that, we will end up with the East Coast acting as a 450km long bottleneck. Shunting HS2 onto the sidings will be a significant restraint on our North East economy.

Chick peas at Winlaton Mill

Land of Oak and Iron Heritage Centre Aug 19

I missed the official opening of the Land of Oak and Iron Heritage Centre at Winlaton Mill because it clashed with something else I was doing. On Sunday I was able to make my first trip to the building. As I have written many times before, we need to boost the tourism economy in our area. We need places for people to visit so the Heritage Centre is an important addition to the tourism offer.

Red Kite pub Aug 19 (2)

A short walk from the Heritage Centre brought us to the Red Kite pub. I'm not a vegetarian but most of my meals are meat free to reduce the impact my lifestyle has on the environment. I have a rule which is that when I eat out (not so often these days), I eat vegetarian. So chick pea burgers were a good choice in the Red Kite on Sunday.

Red Kite pub Aug 19 (1)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

I thought the Greenland story was a spoof

When I first read about Trump's interest in buying Greenland from Denmark, I thought it was a spoof story doing the rounds. So I was a bit surprised to learn that the story was for real. Greenland is the biggest area to leave the EU and the population of 60,000 has something of a reputation for wanting at least their own internal independence. It's unlikely they will ever want to be bought or sold in some kind of 21st century Louisiana Purchase.

Whether or not Trump's USA will have enough money to buy Greenland after having snapped up the bargains of Brexit Britain is another matter.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Visiting the Hop Garden in High Spen

oyster mushroom Aug 19

I visited the Hop Garden in High Spen today. I've been to this community garden a number of times before. Today Sarah and David who run the site were selling produce from the garden. I ended up with a large oyster mushroom and a bag of bashed apples for my goats. The cost me 2 boxes of quail eggs and a bottle of my homemade gooseberry ketchup, plus a modest cash donation.

Low Fell eFocus no. 40

Published this weekend, edition 40 of Low Fell eFocus, covering:
  • Boer War Memorial on Durham Road to be cleaned
  • Extra bin trial - your views wanted
  • Making Chowdene Bank safer
  • Empty houses but Council spends thousands on temporary accommodation.

Another Whickham delivery

DHWE thank you focus Aug 19

I was in Whickham this morning to deliver 120 Focuses. It may have been breezy but thankfully, this time, there was no rain, though there were lots of hills to climb! I had only one conversation during the hour I was pounding the streets, about diesel powered cars and their disappearing second hand value!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

For Corbyn it's about the keys to Downing Street

I would trust Jeremy Corbyn as far as I can throw him. So I am pleased that Jo Swinson has said the Lib Dems will talk to Labour but not support Corbyn's appointment as Prime Minister. The last thing we should be doing as a Remain party is to put a Leaver in the driving seat. Corbyn doesn't even command the support of the bulk of his MPs. A National government will need the support of some Conservative MPs. Corbyn will kill off any idea that a good size group of Conservative MPs will back a National government. But it could be possible for enough MPs from across the political spectrum to come together to back a government led by a senior Labour or Conservative figure. Today, the names of Harriet Harman, Ken Clark and Hilary Benn have been mentioned as possible Prime Ministers.

We are running out of time to sort all this out. Corbyn setting out to be PM will waste much of the little time we have left. The Lib Dems will support a no-confidence motion (we were calling for it before the recess but Corbyn sat on his hands). Corbyn says other opposition parties need to make compromises but he seems reluctant to follow his own advice by backing a Harman or Clark or Benn PM.

Nor are Corbyn's claims that he must be considered for PM as the leader of the 2nd biggest party. When the Labour government collapsed in 1931, Ramsey MacDonald continued as Prime Minister but not as Leader of any party (he was expelled from Labour). Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin had the 2nd largest number of MPs but did not take on the Premiership. Likewise, in 1940 when Chamberlain resigned as PM, he continued as Conservative leader even though Winston Churchill had become PM.

Both MacDonald and Churchill took over the reins of government without leading political parties but able to command a majority of MPs in the Commons. Corbyn cannot do that even as Leader of the Labour party. But, of course, this is not about Brexit as far as he is concerned. This is about getting the keys to Downing Street.

Finishing Bensham patch outside historic home of a Liberal

Robert Spence Watson house Bensham Aug 19

I was back in Bensham this morning to finish delivering the Focus patch I was unable to complete on Sunday because of the rain. Today it was breezy but sunny so I ended up with no soggy leaflets! I couldn't resist the temptation to take this picture of the plaque outside the home of the famous Liberal Robert Spence Watson. Gateshead was a stronghold of liberalism a century ago. It's time for the borough to return to its roots!

Another MP

Just before I headed off to bed last night, an email arrived telling me that Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, has joined the Lib Dems. Great news! But there are other MPs still to make the leap over to the Lib Dems. We await their arrival.

Off to a flying start - yesterday's Journal

Journal 14 August 2019 2

My campaign for Blaydon seems to have got off to a flying start. Yesterday, the Journal carried an article about it - see above, though ignore the article on the left about the rather silly and childish comments by Laura Pidcock, Labour MP and worshipper of the god Jeremy Corbyn. And then later in the same paper was an article about empty houses in Gateshead, complete with quote from me and my photo! So double helpings yesterday!

I bet Labour were pleased! (not!)

Journal 14 August 2019 1