Saturday, June 30, 2007
Get Carter Car Park to be demolished
The multi-storey car park in Gateshead made famous after it was used as a location in the 1972 Michael Cain "Get Carter" film classic is to be demolished. This is the video I produced for constituents about the demolition plan.
Caution: contents may be hot
I have just purchased a cup of tea from the trolley. It counts as one of the worst I have ever consumed. It was barely warm. Rather laughably, the warning on the side said "Caution: contents may be hot." Hah! If only.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The curtain closes and the showman leaves the stage
But today it was the curtain closing and the showman leaving the stage. Whatever my criticisms of him, I have to hand it to him that he was a star performer. The content was somewhat dodgy, largely towards the end. The performance started well 10 years ago but then went downhill in 2001.
The new person on the stage is no star performer in the sense Blair was. Brown will be hard pressed to engage in the way Blair did. He does of course have Labour's addiction to spin. Indeed, he has used spin more than most in the Labour top brass. But I am utterly unconvinced by the spin today about a new start, a change of government, and change in direction. It's nothing of the sort. He will change the people, but he will not change the culture of this government.
Nevertheless, Brown is a formidable tactician. He should not be underestimated. He may be a bully, rather dour, unconvincing when he smiles but he is atough operator, Stalin in a suit.
So whilst the Politburo is reshuffled and those who have crossed swords with him are sacked in the name of change, be ready for the political policy fireworks over the next week. And then examine them closely to see if they have as much content as they have headlines.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Oh joy, another by-election
Flooding near Grantham June 2007
I filmed this bit of video north of Grantham as I travelled on the train through some of the areas hit by flooding.
Menzies Campbell speech to Cowley St June 07 part 2
2nd half of the audio recording I made of Ming's speech today at Cowley Street.
Ming Campbells speech 26th June 2007 part 1
First half of the audio recording of Ming's speech to Cowley Street I made today.
Pic of the flood I went through to get to London
Monday, June 25, 2007
I got to Cowley Street at 4pm
I got to Cowley St at 4pm, so it was over 8hours to get here.
Go and stretch your legs
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When I said thank goodness for late trains......
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Thank goodness for late trains
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Saturday, June 23, 2007
The inspiration for Saxon
And what a stroke of genius to bring back the Master and Captain Jack at the same time in last week's episode. I'm in Dr Who heaven!
Labour talks up BNP vote
I have just picked up the Labour leaflet in which the Labour candidate Gary Haley (who holds the record in the Gateshead Labour party for being defeated the most times at the polls - currently running at 5) claims "Not voting, or voting LibDem or Conservative could let the extremist BNP is."
The claim is of course absolute rubbish. The BNP are third on the ward and even though it has been their top target in the North East, their performance there has been poor. The BNP are a busted flush in the ward. Their candidate from previous elections has thrown in the towel and their hopes of a breakthrough have been dashed.
We are in 2nd place in this ward which in most circumstances is strongly Labour. So Labour should not have to be talking up the vote of the fascist fringe to hold on. There are 2 main reasons why Labour are resorting to this tactic. Either the Labour party are just plain stupid or they really are concerned about their vote. Perhaps they have looked at the abysmal polling record of their candidate and seen how he has a tendency to cause the Labour vote to slip and the Lib Dem vote to rise!
Friday, June 22, 2007
Video shoot tomorrow
We all gather at the same point at 9.30am tomorrow so filming that will be easy and we will meet at the end at the same point. We may have to revisit some of the locations with the camera later on. It's all a bit of an experiment but hopefully it will work.
Sitting on the train now heading up to Newcastle from London now, I have to write the introduction to the video. We only need about 20 seconds so "writing it" may come down to jotting down a few notes and memorising them. Otherwise, everything else will have to be ad lib.
And if this little experiment in using video to communicate with constituents is a success, we will do more of it.
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Thursday, June 21, 2007
It upsets Labour more than Lib Dems!
It also shows that Brown, like Blair, has little concern for his party members. Whilst some Labour activists I have the dubious pleasure of encountering are duplicitous wanabees who have little to offer the world (they view the Labour party as a way of getting on in life) they nevertheless must be feeling their unelected leader Generalisimo Brown has no time for them. They have not been consulted on a significant proposal for their party to enter what was effectively a coalition, when no coalition is needed - Labour after all has a clear working majority.
If I were a Labour member, and I thought Brown was being serious in the offer to the Lib Dems, I would be wondering what the hell the Leader was up to. Indeed, I have heard that today from one Labour member myself. And you can imagine what the old Labour dinosaurs in the Labour Jurassic Park in the North East are thinking as well. Much of it would be unpublishable!
And whilst I thiink our own system that we as a party have to go through to agree a coalition is madly byzantine and gruesomely slow, I still accept some need for the leader to take the party with him. Yet over in the Labour Party Generalisimo Brown treats his troops with contempt.
Mind you, pity poor Peter Hain. Well at least spare him a thought even if you can't bring yourself to pity him. He wakes up this morning to find Brown has offered his job to Paddy Ashdown!
And finally, how will all this play with the electorate? Frankly, not too badly for us. We can show everyone wants us! Cameron wants us, at least in London, to get rid of Not So Red Ken. And now Gordon wants us as well. So if our opponents want us what about the voters?!
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The Cowley Street jam war breaks out again!
Staff were treated to a huge array of the usual and downright obscure from the world of jam. War weary staff were forced to choose between 6 or 7 different types of jam at the same time to have on their toast in the morning.
This year the jam war is being repeated. This week, my gooseberry and elderflower jam went into battle with Linda's loganberry. But I introduced an unexpected secret weapon into the jam war by bringing in home made elderflower pancakes! So first round in the war end with a win for me with not only jam for the Cowley Street masses, but also something to spread it on!
The Parliamentary Team however demanded their piece of the action and after emails were sent complaining no jam was being delivered to the kitchens in the House, I brought in an extra jar for he who made the most noise, a certain Mr Norman Lamb MP. He even paid up a couple of quid for a jar of gooseberry and elderflower. I could keep my local party funds afloat on jam!
My next jam venture is to make gooseberry and cherry jam. The plan was to make it tonight but that seems unlikely now. I'll do it tomorrow. I also have a large amount of mint growing as well. Will make a rather nice jelly. And that will go well with Lamb!
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Cabinet seats and spin
This is spun to make him look inclusive in contrast to the real Stalin Brown who no doubt has already drawn up the list of internal enemies due for the show trial and the Gulag.
The reality is that politicians of different parties have meetings all the time to discuss issues and how to progress them. Councillors do it at a local level, MPs and ministers at a national level. It is common knowledge that Ming and Brown regularly talk shop. After all, they represent constituencies from the same neck of the woods.
So it is good to see that Ming, backed up by Ed Davey, has said a firm "no" to seats in government, whatever that means (presumably a reference to seats in cabinet).
But beware of Brown spin and the Stalinist style of government. He is the worst offender for spinning, rehashing and exaggerating. He is a bully and hates colleagues opposing him. But don't just take my word for it:
Telegraph, Leader, 12th May 2007
Mr Brown is no stranger..to spin. For 10 years, he has produced gimmicky budgets, triple-announced spending, hired devious spokesmen. His promise of collective government sits a little oddly with his for-me-or-against-me approach to getting the leadership.
Independent, Andrew Grice, 12th May 2007
New Gordon’s most striking phrase was to say he wanted to lead a government “humble” enough to know its place. It is not a word some bruised cabinet colleagues associate with him.
Observer, Andrew Rawnsley, 13th May 2007
Cabinet colleagues laugh cynically and scan the skies for squadrons of flying pigs when they hear Gordon Brown pledging to run a ‘humble’ government that seeks ‘consensus’. Humility and consensuality have not been the hallmarks of the way he [Brown] has treated his colleagues over the past decade.
Sunday Times, 13th May 2007
A Cabinet member said of Brown, “The man is impossible to deal with in government. He’s rude, rants at colleagues and doesn’t like people arguing with him. Ministers have found decisions get made without them knowing and then handed down to them by officials.”
Independent, Bruce Anderson, 14th May 2007
Mr Brown would have another problem if he were to claim that the era of spin and deceit was at an end. He is a master spinner and he had his dabs all over the first New Labour lie. With the possible exception of the dodgy dossier and the 45-minute claim, the Pulitzer Prize for spinning ought to go to Gordon Brown, because of his record over 11 budgets.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
A few photos from the past couple of weeks
No change in Newcastle by-elections
The by-election resulted in no change.
The double vacancy was caused by our one councillor in the ward resigning due to a change in job. The ward itself has a bit of a mixed history. Until the late 1980s it was strongly Conservative buth then went Labour. During the 1990s and early 2000s it was safely Labour. As with so much of the North East, the Conservatives have made no recovery at all and are reduced to the margins.
In 2004, when Labour collapsed in Newcastle, the Lib Dems took the top seat but the other 2 stayed Labour. In 2006, Labour were defending and held on with a majority of only 37 over us. Labour were assisted this time by the fact it was a by-election. That meant the fringe parties such as the Greens and Conservatives were able to put more effort into the ward. It also meant Labour were able to throw in all their weight. Their campaign was helped by the fact their defending councillor is high profile.
That wasn't enough however for Labour to take our seat. Labour came first and third, we were 2nd and 4th.
In what is politically a mixed ward, this will make for an interesting contest next year.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
BNP candidate throws in towel
He has been replaced in the ward by their candidate who stood in the neighbouring Lib Dem held Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward where she got a derisory 5% in May. Indeed, she was even beaten by the Conservatives (though only by 5 votes). Given that there is a tendency for the Conservatives to come 4th behind the BNP in Gateshead, this result was therefore quite an achievement.
Also making an appearance in this by-election as the Labour candidate is a certain Mr Gary Haley. This person was the self-styled champion of Whickham South and Sunniside from 2002-4 when he fought my ward. He spectacularly performed an amazing demolition job on his party's vote in 2004 when he ran a shrill and hysterical campaign against the Lib Dems, blaming us for just about every disaster that has ever afflicted the planet. His reward was a collapse in his vote from 1800 to just 900.
2 years later Mr Haley re-appeared as the self-styled champion of Dunston Hill and Whickham East, another Lib Dem held ward which was created mainly from a safe Labour ward in 2004. It counted as a gain for us in that year though the majority was marginal. Mr Haley's actions and claims in the ward have been outstandingly successful in helping us to increase our majority in the ward in 2006 and 2007. In 2004 our majority was 130. This year it was 520.
So Mr Haley is making his 6th attempt to get on the council, this time as the Labour by-election candidate for Dunston and Teams. In May Labour won the ward with 55%. He is therefore the front runner.
Clearly Labour are struggling to find quality candidates who have an interest in the community to which they aspire to represent.
I delivered our leaflet this morning in part of the ward. Front page included a photo of Mr Haley conceding defeat at the count for Dunston Hill and Whickham East in May. It was taken from the video I filmed of the declaration. It was the same video Mr Haley sought to have removed from my blog. It's still there for everyone to enjoy!
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
One of those moments of despair
The Bank of Ireland want to install a 24 hour, free to use cash machine at the front of the Post Office. It will be the only one in the village. I handed a 240 signature petition into the council in favour of it. The application is well within the planning policies of the council on supporting small town centres, tackling social exclusion and supporting post offices (the Bank would pay rent to the branch for siting the machine there).
The only objection was from the Council's own engineers who opposed it because it was next to a pedestrian crossing.
I spoke at the planning meeting this morning in favour of the application and took with me Paul Mein, Sunniside's post master who spoke for it as well.
The vote split along party lines. 7 Labour against, 5 Lib Dem in favour and one honourable Labour member in favour as well.
Even the officers were talking about their recommendation to refuse being an "on balance" one. It was clearly one where a bit of judgement is needed. But Labour opted instead for the heavy handed and over zealous imposition of a rather nebulous road safety point which is not a problem at the moment - the Post Office is a news agent and there is no parking problem currently with people pulling up in their cars to nip in to buy a paper. With the pedestrian crossing outside the shop, it would be extremely difficult to park there anyway and a few bollards would solve the problem if there was a parking problem developing there (which is highly unlikely.)
So much for Labour supporting post offices. The first opportunity they have to let a branch develop business that would secure its future and they kick it out.
And it is a bizarre ruling that a business on a front street of a community can't be allowed to develop for fear of attracting people to use it. We live in a mad world.
And I still feel very angry about this decision.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The Good Life in Gateshead
One, admittedly small, corner has over the past 2 weekends, been dug over. We have planted onions, leaks, cauliflowers, strawberries and gooseberries. And I have dusted down my wildfoods cookbook which I haven't used for a while.
We have already had our first crops which, I have to confess were already growing on the allotments: last week I pick 6kg of rhubarb and the weekend just gone 3kg of gooseberries. Cowley St colleagues are now enjoying the first jars of jam to be made from these crops. We now have a stock of 27 jars of rhubard and ginger jam and 12 jars of gooseberry and elderflower. I suspect the jars I put in the Cowley st fridge will not last long. (Past experience suggests 2 days!)
So if David and I are doing a Geordie version of the Good Life, we haven't yet decided which of us is Tom and which is Barbara! We don't yet have a Margo and Gerry! Volunteers would be appreciated!
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Final pics from the Rennard BBQ
Even more pics from the Rennard BBQ
Friday, June 08, 2007
The Rennard BBQ video and a few more pics
Thursday, June 07, 2007
And a few more Rennard BBQ photos
Exclusive photos from the Rennard party
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
At the Rennard summer party
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Friday, June 01, 2007
A belated entry about Newsnight
Sarah Teather put in one of her best performances and she certainly earned her right to be the party's representative on future editions of the programme.. But Caroline Spelman was all over the place and exhibited a shocking ignorance of history with her claims about Churchill not going abroad during the 2nd WW. Perhaps he had a lookalike attending Casablance, Washington, Cairo, Tehran and so on, but what staggered me more was the failure of the historian sitting next to her, Simon Sharma, to pick her up on her monumental historical gaff.
Still, watching her struggle to sell the Tories' latest u-turn on grammar schools was one of the most entertaining episodes of the evening. Back in Margaret Thatcher's days as education secretary, she wouldn't have taken all this nonsense and gobsh*t about demographics. She would have just closed down the gramar school and replaced it with a comprehensive!
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