Friday, November 24, 2017

Having your culture cake and eating it

There has been quite a fuss made of the EU's decision to stop UK cities applying to be European capital of culture in 2023. According to Downing Street, the government disagree with the decision and are seeking "urgent discussions" with the European Commission. Quite what these talks can achieve is debatable. The rules are simple. If you want to be considered for the EU's capital of culture, you have to be a member of the EU, the European Economic Area or an applicant to join. Nowhere in the rules does an applicant to leave have a right to be considered. Those bleating Brexiteers kicking up a fuss have no case.

Ian Stewart MP, Brexit-backing Tory MP for Milton Keynes, one of the applicant cities, argued in February 2016 that "I have concluded that the moment has come for us to part company with the EU." Yesterday he claimed the UK was not walking away from the EU, rather it was the other way round: “we are not turning our backs on Europe, yet this [culture city decision] looks like they are turning their backs on us”. This is a rather absurd attempt to rewrite history in the face of all the historical evidence. The position of Stewart, who is starting to find the Brexit-consequences chickens coming home to roost, is a bit like the UK pulling out of the Olympics and then complaining that we are not allowed to claim gold medals. Having your culture cake and eating it. What a pathetic state of affairs.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A pathetic, miserable, divisive waste of time

The Chancellor announced yesterday that the North of Tyne devolution deal is to go ahead. Instead of a strong devolution deal for the North East, the three authorities north of the River Tyne - Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside - are to break away to form their own mini fiefdom which will split the region and leave us all weakened in the face of stronger devolution deals elsewhere. I have heard on the grapevine in Gateshead what the deal contains - and what it doesn't. One of the crucial reasons for devolution - transport - is not to be devolved. There will be a few powers over training and housing, a modest pot of money for some economic development, and that is pretty much it. This is a shadow of what was previously on offer to the whole of NECA. It is a pathetic and miserable attempt by Labour and Tories north of the Tyne to rescue devolution from the car crash in which they left it in 2015.

While the deal may be appealing to the likes of the saintly Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, and his Conservative soulmate Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland County Council, it is the region as a whole that will pay the price of a divisive and weak settlement. The main culprits of this mess are the North East Labour Party that tore itself apart recently over devolution. Instead of aiming to get the regional deal back on track, Labour have helped turn the mess into a disaster.

What a shambles.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The brave new world of a Brexit Britain ignored

The extreme Brexiteers' dream of a Britain freed from the EU to stride the world as a colossus, making people listen to us, our influence reaching the parts of the globe that of EU-member Britain cannot reach. The reality is a weakened Britain that is seen abroad as inward looking and is walking away from membership of one of the most important international organisations on the planet. Note the recent failure of the UK to secure the re-election of a judge to the world's most senior court, the International Court of Justice. Brexit was not the cause of this but it was there in the background as dozens of countries ignored UK pleas to vote for our guy. Where does that leave the government's plans for "global Britain" when we've been tripped at the first hurdle?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Door-knocking in Dunston

Marilynn Ord John McClurey Jonathan Wallace Nov 17

I was part of a team of local Lib Dem campaigners in Dunston on Thursday, knocking on doors of homes near the former Dunston Hill Primary School which has been left to go derelict by Labour. We were collecting signatures on our petition calling for the old school to be demolished and the site to be used for affordable houses. We featured this issue in our recent Focus newsletter and we discovered that Labour had rushed out a rather panicked responses which, according to the many people I spoke to, had not gone down well! And this was in Labour's strongest area in the ward.

We had another team out yesterday. We are still pulling together the results of the petition.

Photo above: Whickham South and Sunniside Councillors meet up in Dunston to help with the Dunston Hill School petition: Marilynn Ord, John McClurey and me (in the woolly hat!)

Politics and prosperity

Did I hear this correctly? Brexit secretary David Davis is saying that we should put prosperity before politics. I support this view but I find it rich for a leading Brexiteer to be saying it. Pulling out of the EU is a political decision, supported by a small majority of those who voted in last year's referendum. It was taken despite concerns about prosperity. It was a decision taken in spite of economics, not because of them. Ultimately, there is a price the UK has to pay for the Brexit decision in terms of less future prosperity (note how we how have the most sluggish growth of all the major economies). Those of us on the losing side are doing our best to mitigate the circumstances but that does nothing to hide the fact that Brexit was a political decision that was taken before the effects on prosperity (and I would argue the UK's influence in the world) were considered. In other words politics before prosperity.

Davis is also saying we need the "freest possible trade in goods and services". Again, I agree. But, we already have that. It's called being a member of the Single Market and European Customs Union - which he wants to leave.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Whickham Focus

Whickham Focus Autumn 17-page-0

Delivery of our Whickham Focus is now complete. This is what we have been putting through local doors.

Whickham Focus Autumn 17-page-1

Sunniside Christmas Tree

Sunniside Christmas tree Nov 17 (2)

Marilynn Ord, John McClurey and I, as the councillors for Sunniside, have used part of the ward's Local Community Fund to ensure Sunniside village has a Christmas tree. The fund has also paid to install the electricity supply. We are planning a switch on event so if you would like to be involved, please get in touch on

Sunniside Christmas tree Nov 17 (1)

A glimpse of things to come

Brexit Secretary David Davis is calling on the EU to compromise in negotiations with the UK over the divorce settlement and on a future trade deal. He overlooks a couple of significant points when doing this. Firstly, the UK has taken the decision to leave. It was not the EU asking for this. It wasn't the UK and EU mutually coming to a decision that matters would be better if the UK leaves the organisation. It was a simple, straightforward decision by the UK that the UK was no longer to be a member of the club. Decisions have consequences and as we have voted to leave the club and no longer be subject to the club's rules, that has consequences for us. None of this was a decision of the EU so the onus on compromise falls on the UK if we want to enjoy some of the benefits of club membership without being a member ourselves.

Secondly, the world has moved to one in which smaller nations join together into political and economic associations to open up trade and regulate their economies while providing institutions which allow for solutions to outstanding issues to be addressed peacefully, rather than by war or threat of war, which tended to be the way of doing business before 1945. The EU is the most advanced of these international organisations and it gives the nations of Europe a stronger negotiating position in the world. Brexit removes us from the structure that has given us beneficial trade deals with over 40 other countries, deals which the individual nations of the EU, including the UK, would probably not have been able to negotiate in their own right.

The EU has built itself up to a position of major influence not just in Europe but throughout the world. It is the world's biggest market and the 3rd largest population. As a relatively small nation, the UK is not on the same level. The EU is a superpower compared to the middle-ranking UK. The EU has all the best cards and the UK has little to put into this game of international poker. We can bluff as much as we like but the EU doesn't have to compromise as it holds all the aces. The UK put itself in that position so we can't complain.

The uncompromising position of the EU is a glimpse of the future for Brexit Britain. We will no longer be able to magnify our power as a nation through the EU. We will be dealing with international organisations and nations such as the USA and China which are vastly more powerful than we are. They will hold all the best cards. And we will be bobbing along as an offshore island in the wake of the EU. For a country with a great history, this is a sorry state of affairs.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dunston Focus

Dunston Hill Focus Autumn 17-page-0

Delivery of our Dunston Focus is newsletter is just about completed so without more ado, here is what we have been putting through letterboxes.

Dunston Hill Focus Autumn 17-page-1

Monday, November 13, 2017

Lighting Up Whickham race night

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night Nov 17 (3)

There was another race night to raise funds for Lighting Up Whickham's appeal for the village's Christmas tree on Saturday 11th November. The packed event took place at the Glebe Sports Club. As the holder of a food handling certificate, it was my job to help dish out the pie and pea suppers. Alas, I did not win a single bet! I did manage however to be the "owner" of a winning horse. The prize was a bottle of wine. And in the raffle, I won a £10 voucher to spend at R Martin and Son, the butchers in the village. We haven't bought meat for years as we produce our own or trade for it. We will have to buy something we don't normally have. A nice beef joint springs to mind.

At this point I don't know how much was raised on Saturday. I will let you know.

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night Nov 17 (2)

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night Nov 17 (1)

Delivering in Pelaw and Heworth

Pelaw Heworth focus delivery Nov 17

On our current round of Focuses, Pelaw and Heworth ward was at the forefront of deliveries last week. Alas, Councillors Daniel Duggan and Ian Patterson were doing such a good job that I wasn't asked to deliver any patches! Keep up the good work guys!