Jonathan Wallace

About me, my life, my politics, my travels, my thoughts

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

 

30,000 viewing on YouTube

Last night the overall number of viewings of videos on my YouTube channel reached 30,000. My first video went up in late June and I am now getting about 350 viewings a day.

There are 132 videos on the channel and admittedly the majority I shot whilst travelling abroad. Needless to say, they have more viewings than the political and local news ones I have put on the channel. Nevertheless, the viewing figures of my local videos, the links to which are sent to constituents, are rising.

My most viewed local news/politics video is about an opencast scheme proposed for my ward with just over 900 viewings. But it is the only one in the top 10:

Copacabana 2740
Pyramids and Sphinx 2240
Soviet Submarine Base 1488
Samba 1218
Santiago de Cuba1069
London Eye 937
Opencast 903
Orang utans in Borneo 795
Tango, Buenos Aires 758
Petronas Towers 745

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

 

Trident Forum a success

The Trident Forum last night was a success. I was there to help run the mechanics of it whilst Nick Harvey answered the posts. We finished at 10.30pm, an hour and a half after the scheduled time. So plenty of interest.

Deadline for amendments closed at midday today. It will be interesting to see what has been submitted.

Monday, February 26, 2007

 

Trident web forum

If I have any criticism of the way we make policy in the Lib Dems then it is focused on the period between the puublication of a policy paper or conference motion and the actual conference debate. In the past I have wondered how much informed discussion and debate has taken place at a grassroots level before the full conference debate is held.

So the decision to hold a web forum tonight with Nick Harvey, our defence spokesman, about the future of the Uk's nuclear deterrent is a sensible move. Well, I suppose I would say that given I helped run the previous web forums we held on Royal Mail and tax! The serious point is that whether or not you support the FPC proposals for halving the number of warheads, and taking a decision on whether or not to replace the submarines after we know the outcome of the 2010 Nuclear Non Proliferation talks, you can raise questions directly with the person who will, if the policy is agreed, have to speak for it in Parliament.

So if you support the motion, support the amendment, are undecided or just want to see what the issues are, the forum will be worth a visit tonight.

I would put the link here but I don't have it with me as I'm currently on the train heading to London from Newcastle!

 

Trident web forum

If I have any criticism of the way we make policy in the Lib Dems then it is focused on the period between the puublication of a policy paper or conference motion and the actual conference debate. In the past I have wondered how much informed discussion and debate has taken place at a grassroots level before the full conference debate is held.

So the decision to hold a web forum tonight with Nick Harvey, our defence spokesman, about the future of the Uk's nuclear deterrent is a sensible move. Well, I suppose I would say that given I helped run the previous web forums we held on Royal Mail and tax! The serious point is that whether or not you support the FPC proposals for halving the number of warheads, and taking a decision on whether or not to replace the submarines after we know the outcome of the 2010 Nuclear Non Proliferation talks, you can raise questions directly with the person who will, if the policy is agreed, have to speak for it in Parliament.

So if you support the motion, support the amendment, are undecided or just want to see what the issues are, the forum will be worth a visit tonight.

I would put the link here but I don't have it with me as I'm currently on the train heading to London from Newcastle!



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Saturday, February 24, 2007

 

We have an allotment

Well, not quite a full allotment, but half a friend's. We had applied to the owners of the allotments in our village of Sunniside, Gateshead, earlier this year to take on a full allotment but they had none spare. However, our friend Glenys offered us half of hers. David went to see it this morning when I was down in our constituency office to sort some printing.

So, to add to the home made jams, and the home grown food from my Dad's allotment, it now looks as though we will be growing more of our own. We will also be planting out our garden in London soon with vegetable crops. We have already planted fruit bushes there.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

 

Back to those MP travel expenses

Labour MP for Tyne Bridge, David Clelland, claimed in our North East regional evening newspaper, the Evening Chronicle (15th February) that he flies to London so much rather than uses the train because he “lives near the airport.” The explanation was given after the travel expenses of MPs were outed last week.

So I tested his claim against the AA online road map which tells me that the distance from his house to Newcastle Airport is 8.5 miles. But the distance from his house to Newcastle Central Station to catch a train is 7.3 miles.

Mr Clelland said in January at the launch of an exhibition in Newcastle about climate change (ironically in the Centre for Life which is next door to the Central Station!) that people should be encouraged to “make small changes to reduce their carbon footprint.”

In other words, we must each change what we do so that we cause less pollution.

I wonder why Mr Clelland does not seem to be following his own advice by taking the train? After all, it is a suitable alternative to get to London, it is a shorter distance for him to travel from his house to catch a train, and it is far less polluting. Were there to be no alternative, flying is acceptable. But we have the East Coast line that takes him straight into Central London.

His explanation that flying saves him a hour on his journey is questionable. He's got to get to the airport, check in at least half an hour before the flight, then there's the flight time, then landing and getting out of heathrow and then an hour on the tube to Westminster.

But he can get a train to London on a journey time of 2 hours, 45 min (the one I try to get on Monday mornings at 7.18am!). I can leave my house in Gateshead at 7am and be at my desk in Cowley St at 10.40am by going by train.

So is the advice of this Labour MP to cut down on carbon emissions just for others to follow?

Monday, February 19, 2007

 

A pranged car, a missing letter and a jammed lock

Disasters come in 3s and over the weekend I have my admittedly very minor 3 events that should not have happened.

The first was on Saturday morning when I pranged the car on our front wall whilst pulling out of the drive. The actual cause of this was a badly parked truck someone had kindly parked opposite our drive. We will need a new bumper.

The second was a missing letter. I wanted to send a letter to all the constituents in my village who have been in touch with me recently about bus services. There were cuts to the services in September last year and more unhelpful changes are taking place this year. So my letters were emailed to Gateshead Civic Centre last week to update constituents on the current situation and to invite them to a meeting in my house on Sunday, yesterday, to discuss how we approach the bus company and get some improvement to services. The letters were then to be printed and posted out.

But on Saturday, I discovered that people who were supposed to have received the letters had received nothing. Fortunately, the meeting was able to go ahead because I had also emailed and phoned some constituents who therefore turned up. I will need to ask the Civic Centre what happened to my letters. I have an awful feeling people could receive a letter today for a meeting that happened yesterday.

The final minor disaster was the lock on the door to our constituency office. I went to the office on Sunday morning and printed 1800 village Focuses for part of my ward. I then took back a large pile to my house to hand out to some of the leafletters who I knew were coming to the buses meeting.

I then returned to the office to finish folding the rest of the leaflet only to find the lock on the door had jammed. So I still have my focuses for Sunniside on the other side of a door we cannot open until a locksmith calls out today.

So I went back home and did some work in the office in my house. This included starting the media and campaigns report for Gateshead Lib Dems. I often give an update on the number of email addresses we have of constituents. We now have over 1200, all of which get our monthly eFocus newsletter - many of whom pass it on to others. So we are comfortably past our target of 1000. Our new target is now 1500.

It's now Monday morning and I'm heading to London on the 7.18am train out of Newcastle. Wake me up when we get there.

One big different today from previous Mondays - when I get to Cowley St, the office in which I am based will be occupied by the rest of the Political Communications Unit. The Policy Unit has now been turfed out and sent over to Abbey Gardens, one of the Parliamentary buildings. And that means that George Crozier, Jake Holland and there 2 interns have now moved out of the Whips Office to join me and James, our 3rd intern, in Cowley Street. So at last our unit is under one roof.



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Friday, February 16, 2007

 

Washingwell Woods and Watergate Park

Just a video I shot in the woodland and parkland near Sunniside, the village in which I live in Gateshead. Much of the parkland was a mining area but was restored in the 1990s.


 

Today, Lib Dem Blogs, tomorrow, the North East!

A few weeks ago our North East regional morning newspaper, The Journal, announced they were setting up what is effectively a blogs aggregator of people in the region and invited bloggers both current and prospective to be included. So I sent off an email. The editor has just sent me this message:

We're hoping to roll our Journal Blog Central in the next couple of weeks. I've been meeting most people interested in taking part, ostensibly just to make sure that they are who they say they are! I think we can probably dispense with that in your case.

I've given everyone a guide to blogging, which again is probably superfluous to you, but could you have a little look at it, particularly number 6 (our rules!).

If you still want your blog to be hosted on Journal Blog Central, let me know and we'll get it up once it's running.

So I've sent off another email to formally sign up.

This should be fun!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

 

Parliamentary by-election called!

A little known Parliamentary by-election has been called. And the constituency which has the delight of going to the polls is? Well, there ain't one. Instead, this is one of the bizarre results of the miserable failure of Lords reform and the absurd compromise of 1999 leaving 92 hereditary peers in the Lords.

The by-election is for the vacancy left by the late hereditary Tory peer Lord Mowbray. There are 42 candidates, a figure that comes close to matching the 47 electors. Ladies need not apply. All the candidates are men, as indeed are all the electors, who happen also to be all Tories. Staggering to believe that this ancien regime style of democracy is alive and kicking in the Mother of Parliaments. Had this been the story line for a Black Adder plot, it would have been rejected on the grounds of being too absurd!

Picture the 42 different campaign HQs. Blue ink letters could each be written individually. Indeed, the leaflets could be written individually! One'e butler could deliver them for one. One could even host a campaign meeting in the stately pile. Of course it will mean stopping fee paying tourists from having guided tours through the old building but sacrifices have to be made for the democratic process!

Just how is it that the country can be in this position?

(This blog entry was written with apologies to the various hereditary peers I know!)

 

St Valentine's Day massacre in the Mothers' Union

I have just popped into the Mothers' Union shop just down the road from Cowley St to buy a get well card for a constituent and a couple of stamps (okay, yes I needed to get a Valentine's Day card as well). The scene that hit me as I walked in through the doors will be with me for the rest of my life. Hordes of people battling to get the few remaining Valentine cards. Elbows were the secret weapon needed to battle one's way across the store and to squeeze through the crowds gathered around the displays where people were weighing up whether to get plain, joke or downright tackie and tasteless cards. I guess the choice says a lot about the individual and the nature of his or her relationship (actual or prospective). As for my choie of card.......mind your own business!!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

 

Labour haven't quite understood leafletting

This little gem was emailed to me yesterday by Chris Ord one of our councillors in Gateshead. He said Labour had put out a leaflet in Lobley Hill and Bensham ward inviting people to meet their councillors at a meeting they were holding. "What's the problem with that?" I hear you all ask. Well, the leaflet came through the door on Sunday for a meeting held on Saturday, the day before! They haven't really understood leafletting despite having represented this area for generations - though with a 92 majority in the ward, we intend changing that unbroken run of representation in May!

Our campaign there is certainly picking up steam. Our candidate Susan Craig is getting plenty of casework calls from constituents. She was out for quite a bit yesterday doing casework. The Focus leaflets are getting a good response as well, as is the one we put out in the neighbouring Dunston and Teams ward, though that one was designed only for a limited area. The ward wide Focus will follow soon.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

 

Do you want you photo taken with Nick Clegg at conference?

Would you like a photograph for your local Focus of yourself with Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Nick Clegg, discussing your local crime survey results?

Nick has generously set aside an hour at Harrogate conference for this. If you're interested this will take place between 5pm and 6pm Saturday, in the central foyer of the conference centre, at the bottom of the spiral ramp, next to the doors facing the hotel. I will be there in my Political Communications Unit role to take photos (which we will email to you), but you can bring your own photographer as well if you like. This is open to all local Lib Dem campaigners, not just PPCs. No need to book but it would be helpful if you could email me (j.wallace@libdems.org.uk) to let me know you will be coming, so we can gauge the level of interest.

 

The Crime Debate in Parliament

By all accounts (well, at least those not written by the Labour Party), our Opposition Day debate on crime on Wednesday was quite a success. Labour members as you would expect were briefed in advance with a long list of misrepresentations, misquotes and misleading points about the Lib Dems. I hear that Nick Clegg flattened them rather well.

So who should pop up yesterday during questions on Business of the House to put in a feeble plea for another debate on crime to attack the Lib Dems? Dave Anderson, the gaff prone labour MP for Blaydon who was recently caught (thanks to yours truly) using Parliamentary stationery and mail to slag off Lib Dem councillors in Blaydon and drum up support for Labour council candidates. (He has been forced to pay back the costs.)

Now, isn't this the same Dave Anderson who, when seeking the Labour nomination for Blaydon before the 2005 general election, shouted from the roof tops about his being arrested and locked up by the police? An interesting unique selling point for an aspiring MP. Mr Anderson's left wing strutting and 'I'm the rebel against new labour and am very working class' posturing won him the Labour nomination. And in the surreal world of trade union fixes within the Labour party, being the boss of Unison probably helped as well.

Now look at him. Bag carrier and loyalist to Blair. All that fancy left wing baggage was dumped the moment he stepped through the door into Parliament. I can see now why Blaydon Labour members are feeling annoyed enough to leak me things that embarrass him!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

 

One snow flake and the country grinds to a halt

I got to the station this morning to get the 8.39 into Victoria. I have just got on the 7.55 train instead which was only 40 min late. Why is it that one snow flake and the country grinds to a near halt? I guess by the time this train gets to Victoria it is going to be a bit on the crowded side.
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Monday, February 05, 2007

 

A quick Focus photo on way to catch the train

David had to defrost the car before we left the house. Due to roadworks on our normal route, we took a detour through Dunston. This was a useful change as I was able to take a few quick photos for a forthcoming Focus.

Talking of which, much of Dunston lies within the Dunston and Teams ward. This is where we had the byelection last year which was held by Labour but where the BNP failed to live up to their expectations of winning their first seat on Tyneside. (They came third though they were ahead of the Tories.) Our candidate Michael Ruddy, is keen to continue working the ward so we have bumped it up the target list so that it can get some extra help from us. We've just done a petition there, on a phone mast, and had 160 signatures in one weekend. And another 20 or so email addresses came in which means its now worthwhile giving more coverage to Dunston and Teams ward issues in our email newsletter that goes to people in the Team Valley area.

Anyway just got onto the train to head to London. Over and out.
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Friday, February 02, 2007

 

Parliamentary Campaigner on its way

One of those rare situations tonight. Through the week I drafted the Parliamentary Campaigner, which goes to Parliamentary Candidates Assn members. Normally it needs big changes before we feel it is ready to send out. But tonight the changes took just a few minutes. Members should get it tonight or tomorrow.

As for myself, I am heading up to Gateshead now. I got the 9pm train out of KX. Not having eaten, I got a sandwich, a bag of crisps and a cup of tea in the buffet car. They cost more that I spent in total over the past week on my lunches (which consisted of a packet of Ryvita, a bag of clementines and a lump of cheese). But at least I have lost all my Christmas kilos!


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