Jonathan Wallace

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

Saturday, August 30, 2008

 

At the by-election celebration party

We are currently at the party to celebrate our victory in the Whickham South and Sunniside byelection in Gateshead. We held the seat on 31st July with a mere 72% of the vote. I have an interest in the ward as I am one of the councillors here. But our new councillor, John McClurey, has put on this bash for the helpers and 60 people have turned up.

And if anyone from the local Labour party is reading this blog - and let's face it plenty of you do! - come along and join us in the Coachmans in Whickham. And since you have nowt to celebrate yourself, come and celebrate our success! But there again, by the time you read this, I guess we all would have headed home. So in the meantime, we are all thinking of the local Labour party, and having a good laugh!

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Friday, August 29, 2008

 

Next eFocus done

Before leaving Cowley St I sent out the next eFocus, my email newsletter to constituents. The lead story was our victory in the Whickham South and Sunniside by-election which we won with a nailbiting 72% of the vote. I didn't think I was going to fill six pages of A4 as obviously, August is the quiet month. Somehow I did!

Now I am on the train heading home for a weekend of gardening and allotment stuff. We have to dig up our potato crop, plant a couple of trees and pick a large quantity of blackberries. And Cowley St colleagues are making demands for blackberry jam. I'm also sometime soon going to have a go at making red champagne from blackberries. That should be fun!

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More from the mad mad world of "Liberal Demolition"

I have just about exhausted the stories about the crass stupidity of John Spellar, Labour MP and self appointed Labour attack dog on the Lib Dems. For those who haven't followed the saga, Spellar has produced a document called "Liberal Demolition" full of the most badly researched and brain dead claims about the Lib Dems.

One of the claims made in the most recent edition started with the screaming headline of "Lib Dems in Portsmouth refuse to back charity event for wounded soldiers, in case it offends ethnic minorities". With a headline as long as that, who needs any editorial? But at least the headline speaks for itself. The problem is that you actually have to read to the end of the article to find out that the Lib Dem led council had not after all refused the award. But Labour never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Meanwhile, Attack Dog Spellar must have developed a phobia about Lib Dem Portsmouth. He launches another attack on the City's Lib Dem council over a woman who was told to get insurance and full time cover for a two feet deep pool she provides for local children. This does seem a bit heavy handed - telling her she can't provide the pool until insurance and supervision is provided - until you discover what Spellar doesn't tell you.

Basically, following the accident on a bouncy castle that led the the dead of a child a couple of years ago, the Labour government has massively tightened up on the requirements on all those putting on temporary facilities. The requirements are legal requirements and are not, as Little John Spellar seems to imply, the work of an over bureaucratic local authority packed full of jobsworths. Spellar seems to take the view that a Lib Dem council that carries out the Labour imposed on it by the Labur government is clearly evidence of lunacy and a desire by Lib Dems to eat your babies for breakfast.

A similar attack is made on North East Lincs council. Spellar attacks Lib Dems on the council for requiring a resident to take out public liability insurance for a cake stall she runs in a public place. He conveniently misses off the point that this is not a decision of the council, but rather of the Labour government. All the council is doing is implementing a government requirement.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

 

Half a million YouTube viewings

I have reached that magical milestone, half a million viewings of my videos on YouTube. I am off to celebrate by going to a pub quiz where, if our performance was anything like it was the last time we were there a few weeks ago, we won't win!

If anyone really wants to see my videos, here's the link: http://uk.youtube.com/user/jonathanwallace

Top viewed video is the one I filmed in the former secret Soviet submarine base in the Ukraine in October 2006 with over 86,000 viewings (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Ylag1L_p48I).

My least viewed videos are, well shall we say, perhaps best forgotten about!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

 

45 Labour MPs are "soft on crime"

Readers may recall the on going set of posts about the mad and appallingly badly researched "Liberal Demolition" document written and circulated by John "Attack Dog" Spellar, Labour's self-appointed Westminster Village Idiot and Chief of Spin against the Lib Dems. One of his attacks on the Lib Dems is that we are "soft on crime" because we support community justice panels and punishment in the community for some low level offences. (Labour thinks they are such a bad idea that they are rolling out pilots of them across the country as we speak.)

Anyway, Lynne Featherstone thought they were such a good idea that in January 2007 she sponsored an early day motion backing community justice and punishment. Given that according to Attack Dog Spellar, such ideas equate to being "soft on crime", then it would be somewhat embarrasing for him if any of his colleagues signed the motion.

Well, 45 Labour MPs signed up, one more than the Lib Dems. If you want to see the motion and who backed it, the link is: http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=32209&SESSION=885

So the next time your local hypocrite Labour MP fires off one of those braindead Labour leaflets about the Lib Dems being "soft on crime" whilst having signed this EDM, you may just want to draw attention to the interesting difference between what your Labour MP says in Parliament and what he/she says back in the constituency.

Monday, August 25, 2008

 

More on "Liberal Demolition" and that ridiculous little man John Pellar MP

Third in the long running saga about the ridiculous claims of John Spellar, Labour MP and self appointed Labour attack dog on the Lib Dems. The story so far... Little John Spellar has produced "Liberal Demolition" with all sorts of claims about the Lib Dems. So far he has attacked Lib Dem Mayor Dorothy Thornhill for taking a trip abroad financed by the Moonies whilst ignoring the fact that one of his colleagues and friends has taken the same trip financed by the same people. And then there was the attack on Lib Dems for supporting community justice panels at the same unfortunate time as the government is rolling out pilot schemes on, errr, yes you guessed it, community justice panels!

Now Attack Dog Spellar is having a go at the Lib Dems taking action to protect children from possible paedophiles. Turns out that a local council asked a woman to stop taking photos at a swimming pool because she might be a paedophile. "Southampton Lib Dems in paedophile hysteria" screamed the headline in Liberal Demolition. Quite surprising to find a Labour MP who does not want safeguards to protect children. But the most amazing thing is that Southampton is Conservative controlled. The Lib Dems do not, as Attack Dog claims, run Southampton City Council!

You can just imagine the next "Liberal Demolition" with screaming headlines such as "Lib Dem Russia invades Georgia", "Lib Dem China abused human rights in Tibet" or "Lib Dem run Britain backs illegal US invasion of Iraq". After all, Mr Spellar certainly doesn't let accuracy get in the way of a good story.

Apparently, Attack Dog Spellar used to be transport minister. Now you know why transport is in such a mess in the UK.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

 

Sitting in our bacj garden watching the foxes go by

We came down from Cambridge this afternoon to London and are now sitting in the back garden of our house here. I've just watched as a fox merrily wandered through the next garden. Whilst fascinating to watch, it is not such good news for our next venture - keeping chickens. That chicken run is going to have to be doubly secure.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

 

Will Brown be challenged?

There is something disconcerting about watching Gordon Brown, Labour's most unpopular leader ever, trying to boost his ebbing popularity by mixing with the sportspeople who have made such a success of the Olympics for the UK. I have even seen Labour attempt to claim credit for the successes. If any politician can claim credit, it has to be John Major. He brought in the National Lottery which has been the key source of funding for the facilities sport in the UK which had previously been starved of cash.

But for once, I have to say that Brown's smile was genuine, rather than that the rather chilling, forced grin he often exhibits. Why? Well firstly, who wouldn't be happy whilst mixing with the best of British athletes who have just knocked up our best Olympics performance for a generation. Secondly, I think he has calculated the chances of a leadership challenge before the end of recess in October are diminishing fast.

Now that Labour are over the shock of the loss of Glasgow East, the hysteria about Brown has died down. David Miliband's article was a wonder for a few days and was seen as a challenge at the time. A month later and talk of a challenge has withered.

Assuming the Glenrothes by election is held after the party conferences (and that now seems a safe assumption), the next hurdle for Brown is his conference speech. And no matter how poorly her performs, I find it hard to believe Labour will assassinate their own leader using his conference speech as the trigger. And let's face it, Brown will throw the whole government machine into the battle for his own survival.

Will Miliband challenge Brown? I think it unlikely. I don't think he's got either the balls or the backing to do it. As I have said on this blog before, I do not believe there is an appetite for a new leader who is so closely identified with Blair. Indeed, I think that the lack of a leadership challenge from Miliband will undermine his credibility further. For that he has himself to blame as he failed to close down the speculation a month ago that he could challenge Brown. He failed to stand last year, he failed to challenge this year. He is a man who fails - and that will be more Labour members' view of him than mine.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

 

Going to Cambridge

Not the University, but I've just arrived at Cambridge Station to stay at Bottisham, a village outside the city, where David's mother lives. We are here for a couple of days. My mother is looking after the house in Sunniside. This did of course mean that I had to get through rush hour London on the tube and then took an overcrowded train to Cambridge. What a joy that was.

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"Liberal Demolition" - some more fun about Labour foolishness

I wrote yesterday about the hilarious attempt by Labour Attack Dog Little John Spellar, Labour MP for Self-Righteous Indignation Central, to have a go at the Lib Dems. And I promised I would reveal more about "Liberal Demolition", the, for want of a better term, comic he has produced which attempts to highlight alleged failings of the Lib Dems. Well, thanks to everyone who has been in touch. Here's the next installment.

Attack Dog Spellar has a go at Chris Huhne for being "soft on crime". And the stunning evidence for this claim - Lib Dems support community justice panels. Lib Dems rightly argue that in some instances, low level crime and anti social behaviour should be punished in the community which would be paid back for the damaged caused to it.

Labour it would therefore appear are totally against this plan. They would, it would seem for Spellar, never ever ever endorse community justice.

So the community justice panels etc that the government is currently piloting must be something completely different. Errr, well no they are not. Yes, they started off as experiments by Lib Dem councils in the West Country. But they were working so well that the government picked up the idea and rolled it out to other areas.

So Attack Dog Spellar, we think you've done a bit of a whoopsie on that claim!

After attacking the Lib Dems on crime, Attack Dog then goes on to attack the Lib Dems for being, well, would you believe it, too tough on crime! He wrote:

"Lib Dem attempt at political point scoring puts defence jobs at risk - in Lib Dem towns!

"The Lib Dems in Westminster were quick to criticise the Serious Fraud Office for dropping its enquiry into BAE and its alleged dealings with Saudi Arabia. Do their Lib Dem colleagues in towns where BAE systems is an important employer, such as Leeds, Leicester, Hull, New Malden, Newcastle, portsmouth and Southampton agree with them?"

So Labour want to make low level crime and anti social behaviour hanging offences but want to let off those businessmen allegedly involved in major international fraud and conspiracy. Who is tough on crime now Attack Dog?

Anyway, more from this idiotic MP soon. Oh, and by the way, I will be digging up soon the list of Labour MPs who have supported community justice. But that's for after the bank holiday. I wonder which of my usual suspects will be on that list?

I can't wait for the next edition of "Liberal Demolition".

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

 

Labour MPs dabbling with the Moonies and hypocrisy

I was greatly amused by Labour's latest edition of "Liberal Demolition", a document that is meant to be a weapon in the war against the Lib Dems and a copy of which I have just received. It is produced by John Spellar MP, who I suppose is meant to be Labour's chief attack dog on the Lib Dems. Judging by the shallow drivel he has pulled together, this is an attack dog with no teeth and suffers from a severe case of political mange.

What caught my interest was an article attacking Lib Dem Mayor of Watford, Dorothy Thornhill. This is what he wrote:

"The Lib Dems in Watford appear be in the good books of the Moonie cult. The Moonie run Universal Peace Federation shelled out for the Lib Dem Elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill to visit the Middle East in January. This followed a trip made last year by her Lib Dem colleague Cllr Janet Baddeley to South Korea, Home of the Moonies, which was paid for by the same organisation."

Tut tut. Of course, no Labour member would ever ever ever take a freebie financed by the Moonie run Universal Peace Federation. Of course not, no no never ever ever......

Except of course for Mr David Anderson, friend and colleague of Attack Dog Spellar and Labour MP for Blaydon (where I happen to live).

Not only Dave, but Mrs Anderson too. The couple jetted off to Israel and Palestine in August 2007 for a "fact-findng" tour, all travel and accommodation kindly paid by the Moonie organisation that Dave's mate Spellar seems to dislike so much.

Alas, I didn't get a postcard from Dave.

Meanwhile, I can report that Attack Dog Spellar himself took a freebie visit to Israel and Palestine in February this year. Alas, it wasn't paid for by the Moonies, but rather by the Labour Friends of Israel but with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsidizing the hotel bills. In addition, the Palestinian Authority and Legislative Council stumped up for "hospitality".

Nice if you can get it.......

Meanwhile, watch this space over coming days as I dissect other claims this Labour hypocrit has made.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

 

What that whiskey recipe involved

After I posted this morning that I had made blackberry whiskey last night, I received a number of queries asking if I were distilling whiskey in a, shall we say not quite legal tax avoidance way! Alas, it was very much the opposite. I had to buy a bottle of the cheapest whiskey I could get (Sainsbury's own brand for just under £9). Frankly I wouldn't know how to distill spirits if my life depended on it.

So given the interest from friends, here we are, my blackberry whiskey recipe:

400g blackberries
100g white sugar
70cl bottle of cheap whiskey

Add the blackberries and sugar to a pickling jar (I leave it to your own judgement as to whether or not to mash up the blackberries but like most soft fruit you probably won't need to)

Pour in the whiskey

Close lid and give it a shake

Leave to stand for 3 months shaking occasionally to dissolve the sugar and help the blackberry juice infuse the whiskey.

Once the three months are up, strain and bottle the liquid. It is of course now ready to drink.

Use the whiskey sodden fruit pulp as a topping for ice cream or a pudding of some sorts - well it does seem a shame to throw it away - waste not want not.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

 

Whiskey galore

We were given a tub of blackberries by one of our neighbours in London last week. They were put in the freezer whilst I decided what to do with them. Well, now I have decided. I am going to make blackberry whiskey. The idea came from my colleague Tamsin over lunch. So watch this space to see how I get on.

In the meantime, I am pleased to announce that last night we had our first self-sufficient meal, all of it coming from the allotment, except of course the olive oil we used. Okay, so the meal was 99% self-sufficient. We had a stir fry consisting of Swiss chard, thinned out carrots, onions, courgette. Tonight will be pea and bean soup, spiced up with some old chinese spices I have had for ages. (Okay, so that means it's 99% self-sufficient as well!)

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Monday, August 18, 2008

 

The Monday morning blog: an uncivilized start to the week

There is something vaguely uncivilized about catching the train at 6.30am. It means getting out of bed at 5.30am. And since I foolishly sat up til after 1am watching a film called 'The Go Between', the I am already feeling a bit knackered (I last saw the film 24 years ago when I studied the novel for A' level English Lit.)

Much to my delight National Express have not cancelled the train though as usual, the type of seat I have is not what I booked. So I climbed aboard complete with briefcase, camera case, a bag full of jams for Cowley St and a bag full of produced from the allotment for the flat! I just hope I suitably packed the latter or else there is a danger this carriage is going to be stunk out by onions!

We are due into London KX at 9.35am. That's when I intend waking up.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

 

Photos of Georgia

I visited Georgia in October 2006. Recent events there have focused international attention on what is a small and largely unknown country which is trying to escape the clutches of its former Russian rulers, be they Tsarist or Soviet. So I thought I would post up a few of the photos I took when I was there. My brief visit was spent in Batumi, on the west coast just north of Turkey. The city to have avoided Russian attack.


Above, one of the reasons for going to Georgia was to visit the Roman fort of Gonio, on the coast.


I caused a considerable amount of interest and amusement when I went into the Batumi fish market and started to take photos. The ladies working there quickly understood I was after interesting pictures of fish and food (photographing markets is a hobby of mine).
Above, the view of Batumi harbour from the Batumi Botanical Gardens. The gardens are nearly 100 years old and contain a wide variety of mature tree species. The garden was established by the last Tsar, Nikolas.

Below, we were treated to a performance by local dancers and singers. Probably one of the best performances of traditional music and dancing I have experienced.



















Friday, August 15, 2008

 

And now for something completely different

I was going to put this post up months ago but go sidetracked on to other things. But here it is. When we were on holiday in December last year we met a lady called Wendy Graham. She is an artist and painted the two pictures below.

The first one was based on a photo of a chameleon I took when we were in Madagascar. I emailed her the photos after the holiday.

Rather good pictures.



Thursday, August 14, 2008

 

Chicken run

I updated my allotment blog (www.self-sufficientinsuburbia.blogspot.com) before leaving Cowley St tonight, with posts about what we were up to over the weekend. And whilst I was sitting at my desk, an emal from David arrived with a link to a site that sells hens. Yes, we are planning to get chickens, for our garden in London, not Gateshead. Since we have a family of foxes living near us, building a chicken run that keeps them out is going to be a bit of a challenge.

Nevertheless, watch out for developments on this. And if it ever gets going, watch out for a blog post about our first egg!

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Miliband written off on the train

It's interesting listening to conversations taking place on the train to work in the morning. I can't avoid the conversation taking place behind me as it is taking place between two people who have an aisle and two other people between them.

But what they are talking about is interesting. They are Labour members and they are talking about the leadership (what else do Labour members talk about?) They are gleefully talking about Miliband being less popular than Brown, and have written off his chances.

As forthe dream ticket of Johnson and Cruddas, mentioned recently in the Observer, they think that stands "no chance" they also think the combination is a bit of a joke.

Interesting.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 

Putting in a terrible performance in the pub quiz

I am in the local doing a pub quiz. So far we are doing appallingly. And that's being generous. The picture round was naming mountains. Only one of the ten I was sure of: Kilimanjaro - and that's only because I have seen it, from a distance.

A large number of questions is about the Olympics. I should have taken much more notice of the sports news recently.

Oh well. It's the taking part that counts. Yer like!

At least tonight I was able to post up on my allotment blog some recipes for cherry vodka and mint preserve I used over the weekend. Go one, vist the blog: www.self-sufficientinsuburbia.blogspot.com.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

 

Monday morning blog: shock as National Express do not cancel train

Mark this in your diary. Today I turned up at Newcastle Central to catch the 7.40am train to London and it hasn't been cancelled! I can hardly believe my luck. I don't want to count my chickens before they have hatched as the train is not yet at the station, but things could be looking up with National Excess. Perhaps they have been reminded they are a train operating company, which means they have to run train services, not simply cancel them.

Good news - train now approaching platform.

Not so good news - I am now on the train and as usual, this is not the seat I booked. I don't know why National Excess give the option of choosing the type of seat you want to occupy. It is always different to what is booked.

Anyway, unless I missed it (which is a possibility as I spent most of the weekend either in the kitchen or gathering in food from the allotment or from wild sources) there was no major political news over the past couple of days. No Labour rows or punch ups on which to comment. The warfare instead has been taking place in Georgia.

I visited this country in November 2006. It had been one of the Cold War's front lines. We went along to the border with Turkey, on the coast to get a flavour of what it was like in Soviet days. Then we went off to look at Roman remains and then around Batumi.

I was left with the impression that this was a country that was poor but wanted to move on. It is not surprising that it was looking to the West. The country had constantly passed between one regional great power and another, contributing to the patchwork of ethnicity and languages that covers Georgia and the Caucasus generally.

So is Russia largely in the wrong to invade? Generally, the answer is yes. Georgia is, after all, a sovereign country. Yet the West does not have a clean record on issues of other countries' sovereignty. Just look at Iraq. And the independence of Kosovo as a solution to ethnic divisions has clearly been taken by Russia as the model for intervention here.

Russia is guilty of invading a sovereign state (even though they already had troops there in a "peacekeeping" role). Russia clearly wants to prevent Georgia from joining Nato and the EU. Russia continues to see Georgia as its own backyard. And some of the actions of the West have given the Kremlin the off-the-shelf model they need to intervene. This is not a black and white situation. We need both to condemn and understand what has happened.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

 

A weekend of food production coming up

I am sitting on the train at Kings Cross, waiting to head up to the North East for a weekend of food production and meeting constituents. There will be more details soon on my allotment blog of what my food production issues involve (anyone interested can check it out at www.self-sufficientinsuburbia.blogspot.com towards the end of the weekend) but hopefully it will clear out the freezer of as much of the contents as possible, some of which have been there a little too long. Basically, we need the space. Last year we put a large quantity of produce into the freezer, including enough soft fruits to keep colleagues in jam for a significant length of time.

Meanwhile, I have been getting more and more addicted to Facebook. I did warn that this would happen. It is also a good place to post up my photos. And let's face it, I have quite a few! (BTW if you are on Facebook, look me up and be my 'virtual friend'!)

Anyway, I couldn't go by without another mention of the latest National Excess cock up. Yet again, the seat I booked is not the one I ordered. And no one yet has rid me of this incompetent train company.

This post has taken so long to write, (and rewrite) that we have now arrived at Stevenage. And in the meantime, I have had a call from Peter Maughan telling me how many signatures he has collected on the petition tonight to save Blackhall MIll Post Office from closure. He is handing in the signatures on Monday morning.

I'm now going to try to finish reading "Imperium" by Robert Harris. I started it weeks ago but have only had the chance to snatch odd minutes to read it since then. Here goes......
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

 

Disappearing jam and reappearing photos

I checked the fridge in Cowley St just before leaving at 9pm. Jam has nearly all gone! I expected it to last a little longer given people are away on holiday, but the jam addicts have had multiple fixes!

One thing I did do tonight was to put more of the photos I took last year at the Sedgefield by-election onto Facebook. I warned a few weeks ago that I was likely to get hooked on Facebook. Alas it has happened. As for all my virtual friends, check out the additional photos. After all, many of you are tagged in them! The ones I put up last night have already experienced an invasion of people reviving old memories and tagging those I had missed!

Meanwhile, this is spooky - the couple next to me on the train are currently talking about.....Facebook. Virtual world is taking over the real world.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

 

Prescott and the Titanic

It seems that John Prescott has just played the part of the iceberg, holing Labour below the waterline with his latest comments comparing Labour to the Titanic. The difference with the events of 1912 was that the Titanic was a brand new vessel which impressed people and in which people had great confidence. Labour on the other hand doesn't really count as "new" any more and anyway, is possibly already holed below the waterline.

Quite what Prescott thought he could achieve by comparing Brown to the captain of the Titanic will remain a mystery but bizarrely, the comments were meant to be supportive of the Prime Ministerm. It was, he claimed, the iceberg that sunk the Titanic, not the captain. That does of course overlook the problem that it was the captain who ordered full steam ahead into the area of ocean full of iceberg and danger.
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Monday, August 04, 2008

 

The Monday morning blog - Labour's divided weekend

I am currently on the train heading to London. This ticket cost me an arm and a leg as it is an open ticket. I suppose this is the return leg. Ho ho! Anyway, I am on a National Express service on which nothing has gone wrong. That in itself is newsworthy.

And so to the weekend of Labour's divisions. Milliband's article last week has been taken as the launch of his leadership bid. Despite his protestations otherwise, that is what it is. Indeed his claims that he is not waiting in the wings to pounce look like the biggest work of fiction since canoeists took to the beach at Seaton Carew. He knew that writing an article about the way forward for Labour in the febrile atmosphere currently being endured would be seen as nothing else. The fact he did this suggests to me that Millipede thinks that Brown's time is probably up.

The response from his Cabinet colleagues however was interesting. The cabal of Slippery Straw, The Lady Harriet and John Who? Denham rushing around the tv studios announcing their undying love for Brown who must, must, must continue as Labour's leader as he is the only person who can get the country through the economic crisis, is a sure sign that Brown is in deep trouble and is in the brown stuff up to his neck.

It seems as though many Cabinet members are preparing an anyone-but-Millipede candidate. They probably don't need to. Despite Blair being the most successful Labour leader in history, I see no appetite for a new Leader who is so thoroughly identified with the ancien regime.

And all this presupposes Brown's prime ministership is about to die. Straw, Milliband, Balls, even the awful Lady Harriet are sitting there like vultures, waiting for Brown's leadership to die. Yet none of them have the balls to stick in the knife. And I don't expect Brown to jump on his sword. He will do everything needed to cling to power. The vultures may go hungry for some time to come.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

 

What this by-election means

So what to make of the Whickham South and Sunniside by-eleciton in Gateshead? Well, we achieved all our campaign objectives: we won, we increased our share of the vote, and we squeezed the Tories back into third place.

Winning was not in any great doubt. This is after all one of the strongest Lib Dem council wards in the country, though we never take it for granted. Meanwhile, getting an increase in share of the vote was challenging but achievable.

It was the third objective that was going to be difficult to achieve and which, frankly surprised us the most when we saw the Conservatives collapse. In the May local elections, on the back of no campaign whatsoever, not even a leaflet, the Conservatives moved into 2nd place. Part of that was a measure of the weakness of Labour but it was also a measure of how well the Conservatives were doing nationally.

Since the Conservatives were continuing to do well, it seemed fair to assume that even a minimal campaign from them in the ward would at least help them to solidify their 2nd place, even if it is a rather distant one. Though we set out to ensure that that did not happen, I was not particularly convinced that we could push the Conservatives into 3rd place.

Yet in the end there was a collapse in the Conservative vote and as I said in this blog on Wednesday, tactically it was better for us for the Conservatives to come third. That focuses people's minds on this constituency of Blaydon and Gateshead generally being a battle between Lib Dems and Labour.

To the Conservative Party, it probably doesn't matter a fig that they were third in the ward. Gateshead and Blaydon are unlikely ever to register on their radar screens. So ultimately, getting squeezed from 18% to just under 10%, and falling behind Labour when Labour themselves are doing everything in their power to fall apart, does not matter much to them.

The outcome however matters to Labour. A resurgent Tory party in Blaydon constituency and across Gateshead is what they need to hold onto their seats. Splitting the anti-Labour vote could save their skins. By getting back into 2nd place in the ward, Labour have gained a tactical disadvantage. There is no longer a threat to the Lib Dems, even if it were previously just on paper, from the Conservatives here. Labour have just made life easier for us...and harder for themselves.

The photo is of Cllr Marilynn Ord, myself and newly elected Cllr John McClurey after the count on Thursday. The three of us represent Whickham South and Sunniside.

 

Polling Day - the movie!

I couldn't resist putting together this video. Polling day in the Whickham South and Sunniside by-election in Gateshead on Thursday 31st July. I started filming at 5am and finished after the declaration. In case you don't know the result, we held the seat, added nearly 5% to our total, took almost 3 out of every 4 votes cast and crushed the Tories back into 3rd place.

Here's the link: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=iHgixotOAC0

 

I was blocked for a day

My blog was silent yesterday for the odd reason that it was locked by the Blogger "robot" on the grounds that it had "exhibited characteristics of a spam blog". I had to request that is be unblocked, and once this was made, a real person at Blogger had to check it. Seems as though this has now been done. My blog about local Labour hypocrisy, rants about National Express and taking jam to Cowley St did not rate as spam. They may rate as something unspeakable in the minds of the readers with political affiliations different to my own, but I doubt they would call it spam.

So here I am, back into production, slightly irritated that I could not broadcast (other than on Facebook) about the wonderful, Tory crushing by-election victory that we achieved in Gateshead on Thursday. But more about that later.

In the meantime, a jam message to Cowley St colleagues. I have just made 18 jars of gooseberry and raspberry jam so some will be heading to HQ soon. Inevitably there will be a video to go with this but I've only finished filming it and it needs to be edited. And to save you the hassle, I'll be putting it on my allotment blow: www.self-sufficientinsuburbia.blogspot.com, rather than on this blog.

Anyway, coming up shortly, yet another video! This one about the byelection.

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