Elaine Dobson is the Labour candidate for Lib Dem held Whickham North in Gateshead, the neighbouring ward to mine. She has stood a number of times before and has an impressive record of defeat at the polls, including in my own ward when she stood as Labour candidate in a by-election in 2008.
Back in the autumn of 2007, when the election-that-never-was was happening, Mrs Dobson edited a leaflet which was delivered in both Whickham North and my ward. I wrote about it at the time on my blog (12th October 2007). In summary, Labour claimed Lib Dem run Newcastle set up a recycling scheme, then immediately abandoned it, wasting millions in the process. The problem with the story was that it was a complete work of fiction. It was completely made up.
Though I wrote to Mrs Dobson at the time and asked her to withdraw the claims she had made, she didn’t even bother to acknowledge my letter.
It seems Mrs Dobson’s difficulties with actual events have made a reappearance over the past few months. So here’s a story about a tangled web of intrigue spun by Mrs Dobson.
Back in May, a planning application was submitted to install a very large phone mast on an estate in Whickham North. Mrs Dobson sent a letter to residents telling them about the application and advising them on how to make comments on the application. She avoided making any commitment either for or against.
Mrs Dobson was not exactly a quick starter. Her letter went out a month after our Focus Team (minus Cllr Chris Ord who is on the planning committee) had delivered letters and collected a large number of signatures on a petition opposing the application.
The application came before the planning committee in late June and was approved, on the casting vote of the chairman. I represented residents to speak against the application. I was joined by Focus Team member and local resident Sonya Hawkins. Mrs Dobson was not present, nor had she sent in any objections.
Later the same day we had delivered our Focus newsletters to the estate to tell residents the news.
Weeks went by and the mast was installed. To the horror of residents, it stands like a huge, green-coloured chimney only metres from people’s homes. And so another letter to residents is produced by Mrs Dobson.
In this letter, she states, “As you know, I opposed the application to install this mast at this location.” This came as news to everyone so we checked again and found that she had made NO objections to the application to planning officers.
There is also something remarkably arrogant about her dealings with residents. “As you know,” she began. Who on earth does she think she is to make the assumption that everyone knows both who she is and her opposition to the mast, especially as she had not informed people of her opposition. She must have a rather inflated view of herself.
Her letter then goes on to claim that “I have raised this [the appearance of the mast] with the Planning Department at Gateshead Council.” A colleague checked out this claim. He was informed that the Department had not received anything from her.
Mrs Dobson rounded off her letter with, “If you would like to speak to me about this in the meantime, please give me a call on the number above.”
That seems a reasonable way to finish a letter. Isn’t it nice that she is giving people the opportunity to speak to her? Except....the phone number was not above. Now was it below or even in between. There simply wasn’t a number on which she could be called. Nor did she include her home address or an email.
My guess is that residents had one of two responses to this: Mrs Dobson is either incompetent or is taking the piss.
I saw Mrs Dobson briefly on Remembrance Day. The procession was just beginning to assemble. Labour’s candidate for Dunston Hill and Whickham East was there as well and my attention was focused on him and Yvonne McNicol, Labour councillor for this latter ward. Mrs McNicol was giving the latter candidate a helping hand to gatecrash the councillors’ area of the procession. I pointed out to Mrs McNicol that as the councillors represent the mayor, turning a Remembrance Day parade into a party political stunt was completely inappropriate. She sent him packing after I said I would be taking this matter further.
At least Mrs Dobson had by then disappeared from my view. Nevertheless, she needs to explain why there is a significant mismatch between her claims and her actions (or lack of them). If she bothers to give an explanation, I’m happy to publish it.