Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Labour's Balls impaled on fence
Though the national Labour leadership are opposed to strike action (even if they leave one foot in the pro-strike camp, I noticed that plenty of their local troops are all for it. I am on the bus heading back home from Gateshead where I have been taking photos of the union rally in the Civic Centre car park. I spotted a number of Labour councillors enthusiastically joining in the procession. One at least works in the private sector so has taken the decision to ignore her leadership's "opposition" to the strike.
Don't get me wrong - I don't support the strikes, I believe the Government is offering a sustainable deal that is fair to the nation generally. I was there simply to take photos. Yet I have a slight degree more respect for the Labour members who are making a stand for something they believe in (I think the motives of the union leaders are different but that is for another blog post) even if I fundamentally disagree with them.
The problem for Moribund is that he may try to make reasoned noises at the top but on the ground, Labour members have reverted to their old beliefs and comfort zones and have no intention of returning to the real world.
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Sunday, November 27, 2011
Labour actually believe they left a golden legacy
The mover of Labour's motion was Councillor Martin Gannon. Martin has an interesting and colourful political history. Back in the 1980s, he was one of those who had pitched his tent on the left of the Labour Party, militantly holding to his socialism. In the 1990s, with Blair having given the Left an eviction notice to pack up their tents and go away, Martin reappeared in a flashy new suit, with flashy new views and a new Blairite outlook on the world that was so New Labour he squeaked when he walked! Alas, Martin's conversion to the Blairite Faith did not quite achieve the personal results he wanted. His attempt to be selected as Labour candidate for Blaydon didn't get far. David Anderson won the prize instead, on an anti-New Labour, posturing left wing platform though once elected to Parliament he instantly turned into a Blair babe, never once voting against the Labour government despite his claim he was not an "identikit" New Labour man. Martin's delayed consolation prize was to become deputy leader of Gateshead Council. Quite where he stands on the political spectrum now however is as clear as mud. Everyone in the Labour Party now claims to have been against Blair from the start. Quite what they are for is a debatable point and that goes for Martin as well.
Anyway, Newly-Old Labour Martin delivered his speech with an incredible claim that Labour left a golden legacy when they left office. Not even the Labour Dictionary of New Speak has come up with a definition of "golden legacy" to mean an appalling mess of record debt, poverty, crisis and unemployment, though by the looks of it, the Labour Dictionary is about to be rewritten. Martin then went on to claim that the Government was unelected. Perhaps Martin may not be aware that there was an election in 2010 and the combined vote for the two parties now in office was 61%, unlike the last Labour government which got 36%, less than the Tories got last year. What gave Labour their majority was the gerrymandered voting system and boundaries.
The seconder of the motion was Cllr Gary Haley. He opened by saying he had had only 2 hours notice that he was going to second the motion. He then spent a few minutes demonstrating the accuracy of what he had just said. Preparation time had clearly been lacking and so he rested his case too on this amazing claim that Labour had left a golden legacy. Cllr Haley however seemed a bit of an odd choice to speak. I remember his failed attempts in the early years of the last decade to unseat my in my ward. He posed as someone Tories could vote for, claiming that Conservative voters were swinging to him in large numbers to unseat me (they weren't!) I reminded him in my response that his campaign against me was based in part on opposition to the 50p income tax rate the Lib Dems supported. Mr Haley was all for protecting the rich against tax increases nasty leftwingers like me wanted to impose!
The classic moment during my speech however was seeing the expressions on the faces of Labour councillors when I referred to the real legacy they left us. Some were incredulous with rage when I pointed out the increased level of unemployment, debt and poverty they left us. It seems that many in Labour believe unemployment, poverty and the economic crisis only started in May 2010 when they were removed from power by an illegal coup of unelected Tories and Lib Dems who are occupying Downing St and the corridors of power. Their tortured expressions when they were reminded that they left office with 2.5 million unemployed, up nearly one million from 1997, shows they have a huge difficulty dealing with the painful truth about their own record. To cope with it they have descended into an incredible state of denial. As far as they are concerned, the world was wonderful when they left office. Their claims that they left a golden legacy of a booming economy that was growing strongly just show how out of touch with reality they are.
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Saturday, November 26, 2011
A day off from campaigning and gardening
Anyway, the bus is about to arrive in Gateshead so I will give details about today's activities later.
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Friday, November 25, 2011
£50,000 - the typical household income, according to Labour
Labour claims that the typical couple would "save £450" by this temporary tax cut. So let's examine this claim. Firstly, there is no definition of "temporary". It is completely unclear how long their proposed cut to 17.5% would last and despite being asked by us yesterday, the councillors refused to give any details. I suspect they are completely clueless. They don't know because Labour have not worked that bit out. Presumably there was no room on the back of their fag packet for such details.
A 2.5% cut would cost £12.5 billion. There was no mention at all as to how a Labour government would make up the loss of the revenue. This amount will of course be higher if Labour's definition of "temporary" lasts longer than a year. Presumably this whopping amount of cash will simply be borrowed. At a time when western economies are facing a debt crisis, Labour comes forward with a plan to make a bad situation worse. Nor would a cut in VAT necessarily help the economy. It may, or may not, give a short term and rather small boost to retail sales (the experience of 2008-9 when there was another temporary VAT cut suggests there would be no such boost). Were such a boost to happen, the chances are that Britain would simply end up importing more.
The most brain dead of Labour's claims about VAT is that a typical family would save £450. What they fail to say however is that the typical family would have to spend £18,000 (£1500 a month) on goods that are fully VAT rated. Whilst there are families around that do spend that amount of money, they are a small minority and are in no way representative of the typical family. The majority of people's outgoings are on zero or lower rated goods and services such as water, gas, electricity, mortgage, pension contributions, rent, kids' clothes, half the food they eat, bus fares, newspapers and so on. That would mean Labour's typical family spending £18,000 on VAT rated goods would have an overall expenditure of around £40,000 or a gross income in excess of £50,000!
This crass ignorance of how real people live further ignores the fact that in Gateshead, income levels are lower than most of the rest of the country. Quite what the residents of Gateshead will think of Labour when they are told that Labour thinks they are raking in the money is yet to be seen.
And one final point, how would Labour square their plans to cut VAT with their plan to raise VAT from 17.5% to 19% had they won the last election? Perhaps the anonymous Labour readers of this blog, especially that really stupid one (we all know who we mean) would like to elaborate.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Labour's magic tax yield
In their motion, Labour claimed their proposal for a bank bonus tax would raise £2 billion. This is a debatable point but let's suppose for a moment that they did manage to gather that sum. Labour suggest the money would create 100,000 jobs for unemployed young people who would then build 25,000 affordable homes. The trouble is, the £2 billion from the bank bonus tax would be more than swallowed up employing 100,000 people. £2 billion divided between 100,000 workers means £20,000 per job. Out of that sum employers' national insurance would have to be paid as well as pension contributions. It means that the pay will be about £16,000 at best, not exactly the high paid jobs Labour keep claiming they want.
These costs however mean the £2 billion is all spent before a single brick can be laid. A rough estimate of the cost of the materials for building one, small, affordable house is about £40,000, or £1 billion for the full programme. Then of course there is the cost of the land, which could be billions for the 25,000 houses to be built(typically it is the largest single cost involved in building a new house).
In addition to all of this, Labour state that all the jobs will be for young unemployed people. That's a laudable aim but it comes with a significant problem. Building houses needs a skilled workforce. 100,000 unemployed young people would need to be trained. That will take time and money. So yet again, this £2 billion programme will require even further money to be spent on it.
One Labour councillor shouted at me that the houses built would be sold. Personally, I would have thought it better to build affordable housing for rent but quite how they would have any houses to sell when all the money had been spent before a brick could be laid is not explained.
Basically, Labour's scheme is a back-of-an-envelope policy that will cost vastly more than the £2 billion allocated to it. Far from being a bonus tax, it is a magic tax - £2 billion to be collected and it can magically be spent many times over, instantly creating an army of skilled workers and thousands of new homes. The Coalition Government has Project Merlin. It seems Labour has Merlin the Magician writing their policies.
Whickham Xmas lights switch-on
Heading for a museum
The meetings don't end there. I have to come back to Gateshead for a full council meeting in which Labour are proposing a motion which claims they left a golden legacy for the Coalition on the economy! I'm moving an amendment which attempts to bring Labour back down to planet Earth.
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Sunday, November 20, 2011
A weekend of surveys
Just down the road, the council is looking at allowing 800 houses to be built on land in the greenbelt. Though loss of greenbelt and open countryside is an issue in Sunniside, it is an even bigger one in Whickham, Dunston Hill and Lobley Hill. The concern is that the loss of this land will come very close to joining up the three settlements into one large conurbation which itself would be an extension of the Gateshead urban area. Dunston Hill and Lobley Hill are also the bottleneck for the A692 before it joins the A1. More traffic there would be a nightmare if vehicles have to use existing roads.
So, we have been carrying out a survey of residents of Sunniside/Streetgate, Whickham and Dunston Hill to find out people's views. Over the weekend we delivered 1650 surveys to every house in Sunniside and Streetgate. We also delivered 400 to houses nearest the site in Whickham. Last week we delivered 750 surveys to houses in Dunston Hill.
I have a large pile of replies, over 400 so far, with plenty still coming in. I'll start working my way through the replies shortly. Watch this space.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Labour divisions on Tyneside hit the boundary
Some MPs are coming up with interesting tactics to keep their constituencies. David Anderson in Blaydon argues the new boundaries cannot go ahead as the Angel of the North would end up in a Sunderland constituency. I hear of another MP whose partner turned up to speak as an "ordinary member of the public" without mentioning the rather close relationship to the MP whose constituency this member of the public was attempting to retain. Meanwhile, former minister Nick Brown has created a set of proposals which, the Chronicle claims, "would prevent the long standing MP having to bid for reselection against a different constituency party not necessarily loyal to Mr Brown."
Some in Labour warned before the last general election that a Tory win would mean the return of blood sports. Perhaps they were right, but not quite as they meant it!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Labour MP dumped - shock as no one notices!
Alas, Mr Anderson's shadow ministerial career has proved to be shortlived. Ed Moribund sent him packing last month and replaced him. No one appears to have noticed that Mr Anderson has been dumped, perhaps because it is a debatable point as to whether many noticed he had been appointed in the first place. I only noticed he had gone because Mr Anderson has started spending more time with his early day motions. (Mr Anderson has a history of signing vast numbers of EDMs - for example I found in one day he had signed over 70).
As for his "convincing alternative", his regular bemoaning of the closure of coalmines and his desire to see us burn more coal didn't get much support when he spoke at a recent meeting I attended in the constituency. His anti-capitalism rant at what was a social event did not go down well. A group of retired ladies sitting near me proverbially shredded him and told him he needed to move on and stop living in the past. At that point I decided to say nothing myself. I didn't need to!
Monday, November 14, 2011
Remembrance Day Parade photos
Here are some of our photos of the parade and ceremony.
Photos from "Occupy" St Paul's
Okay, so last week, whilst I was in London, I was in the vacinity of St Paul's because I was doing a walking tour of little known historic sites around the City. It was therefore difficult to avoid the protesters and their holiday camp, so I took some photos, which is what this post is all about.
I have argued all along that those engaging in this "occupy" protest activity are self-appointed, unrepresentative, overwhelmingly from prosperous backgrounds who come from families who generally speaking have done rather well over the past couple of decades. Now that the boom has gone from Britain (and the western world generally) suddenly they are against the system. Quite what they are for is much more difficult to work out.
As the above photo shows, this makeshift noticeboard (outside M&S) appealed for people to support just about every other protest and Parliamentary lobbying demonstration going. Whether this notice succeeded to creating a rent-a-demo worked or not, I don't know. I certainly didn't see any of the protests feature in the news.
So, this is what democracy looks like? I don't think so! A campsite of self-appointed, wealth-enjoying anti-capitalists does not speak for the vast majority of people. They speak for themelves. The campers have a very strange notion of democracy. Votes in the open air, in full view of others. So the secret ballot has gone. Anyone can turn up. Meetings can be packed out with your mates. I prefer the ballot box (and the secret ballot).
"Grow the real economy with love and empathy"! I prefer my own version - grow the economy by being realistic.
The above banner is, to me, confusing. It appears to be complaining that the government is borrowing money. Most of the other protesters seem to think the government should be borrowing more money.
An example of a tent that has done the rounds. This one was at the Climate Camp in Edinburgh 2010. Is the "Occupy" St Paul's movement adding global climate change to its catalogue of campaigns. Or is this just part of the problem the "Occupy London" movement has - that it has no coherent message.
Meanwhile, the message from this tent was all about saving the music department of the University of East Anglia. But the protestors weren't singing from the same hymn sheet.
Meanwhile, the Greens wanted to turn the camp into an anti-nuclear power protest.
So, lots of mixed messages, lots of issues people were campaigning against. But where were their solutions? There were very few.
Don't get me wrong. I fully support the right of people to protest though I think these camps go too far and cause needless disruption for others. There were even some points they raised I could support. Nor am I a supporter of big business capitalism. I want to see a system in which people have a direct stake in their work and their communities. I prefer small to big business. I want people freed to enjoy the benefits of their own work and productivity. If we were all put on a spectrum according to outlook and lifestyle, with hippy individualist at one end and capitalist big business people at the other, I would be much closer to the hippy end. After all, I gave up the job in London and the salaried job to grow my own food, live a sustainable lifestyle and create and run a small business. But I also believe that politics is about realism and the art of the possible. It's about putting forward solutions that work. And whilst I have some sympathy with some of the views expressed by some protesters that the system is not working, I differ very strongly from them in believing that it cannot be solved by simply pitching your tent in the grounds of a tourist attraction and making a nuisance of yourself.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Tomorrow I will be in Whickham for the Remembrance Day parade. And I'll have a week's correspondence waiting for me to sort.
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Thursday, November 10, 2011
Photos of the student protesters
Photos from the Tim Farron dinner
My first visit to the Lib Dems' new HQ
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Wednesday, November 09, 2011
We are under siege!
Alas, all great plans hit a brick wall, or in this instance, a cordoned off route along which an extremely large number of police were to direct a pathetically small number of protesters. Our plan was to visit 40 minor historic sites, take photos and have lunch at the Viaduct Tavern, London's original gin palace. We got to see the first 11 before we realised we had to negotiate with the police to cross the road to get to the Viaduct.
Having achieved that, we found that once inside the pub and tucking into lunch, the doors were locked. No one could come in. That included the tv crew filming us through the window and wanting to enter to interview under siege tourists. And as the "protesters" approached, suddenly the bar stopped serving (I used my best persuasive powers to be the last person to be served before the taps to the beer barrels were turned off.)
And then the "protesters" arrived. The first banner was totally confusing. It was in German and was from the "New German Youth". Then the bulk of the procession passed us. It was populated by a mixed bag of differing messages. There were those demanding an end to Trident, an end to tuition fees, an end to world poverty, an end to capitalism, an end to Nick Clegg and, one demanding, "Eat the rich." How this latter one went down with the Vegetarians-for-World-Peace is not yet clear. There was also a modest sprinkling of "Socialist Workers" demanding a general strike and lots of money for any spending project going, except bankers' bonuses which they are all against.
And within a very short space of time, the "protesters" were gone. Small in number, incoherent, mixed and contrary messages with no clear message but blessedly free of megaphones. Clearly the ones who love the sound of their own voices must have had better things to do.
The doors to the pub have now opened again, the bar is serving again, but we won't get through the other 30 locations to visit on our history tour. We'll finish it tomorrow.
And watch out shortly for the photos I took of the procession from the pub.
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Putting away my chef's hat
Alas, this morning I received an email telling me that I had not been successful. Time to put my chef's hat away. Still, it was nice to be invited and useful to know that my channel has been noticed by the people running YouTube.
If anyone wants to view any of my videos, go to www.youtube.com/jonathanwallace.
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Monday, November 07, 2011
2 million Youtube viewings
The channel can be viewed at www.youtube.com/jonathanwallace.
The difference between local and national trade union leaders
A couple of days later, the Government made an offer to the unions over public sector pension reform. I was struck by the significant differences between Brendan Barber's posturing and the approach taken by the local trade union leaders we met. Barber was highly dismissive, and loving the limelight whilst parading around as the union boss to whom everyone had better listen, or else. Yet those union leaders who have to work at the chalk face seem to have a better grasp on reality than the barons based in London who probably think a reality check is something paid into the bank account of someone who appears on a so-called reality show.
And whilst I disagree with some of the views of the local trade union leaders, at least they don't seem to think they are the thrusting alternative leadership of the Labour "movement" filling the gap at the top which Ed Moribund is failing to occupy.
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Sunday, November 06, 2011
Double deckers and fireworks
Saturday, November 05, 2011
Having my cake and eating it
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Energy from waste - looking at the future for rubbish
On Monday I visited the Sita energy from waste plant on Teeside. We had a look at the line that deals with Northumberlands waste but in 2014, an almost identical plant will be opened next door which will be used to burn Gateshead's waste.
This is the video I shot inside the plant.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
The boundaries of agreement
Currently, Gateshead has two full constituencies - Blaydon and Gateshead - and a bit of Jarrow within the borough's boundaries. This was an improvement on 2005 when we had one full constituency and the bits of 3 others. Under the new proposals from the Commission, there will be a new Gateshead West constituency which will be the only one wholly within Gateshead. And in a back-to-the-future move, we go back to having bits of three other constituencies within the borough as well. Overall, the North East drops from 29 to 26 constituences, and to make the figures balance, it seems that Gateshead has been dismantled so that the spare bits can be grafted on to neighbouring areas.
For Labour in Gateshead, the Commission's proposals are a disaster. I hear on the grapevine of rumblings of Labour discontent for, if they are implemented, it will mean their two MPs, David Anderson and Ian Mearns, going head to head for the selection for Gateshead West. The loser will have to attempt to get selected for the Jarrow and Gsteshead East constituency, more of which is in South Tyneside and therefore, outside the current influence of Gateshead Labour. The talk in Labour is that Ian Mearns would win the Gateshead West nomination leaving DA to do a chicken run tour of Jarrow and anywhere else in North East Labour ready to give a hearing to his anti-capitalist rants. Personally, I think Ian would do a far better job of representing the area than David Anderson but such an endorsement from me may be the kiss of death for anyone in Labour so I therefore apologise to Ian!
Yesterday, a council advisory group was held to consider the Commission's proposals and various alternatives. Advisory groups are sometimes not well attended but this one was. I saw a whole string of councillors who work for MPs (especially David Anderson) as well as a number of councillors who are rather chummy with Mr Anderson. One office assistant for Mr Anderson turned up with laptop and maps.
The Council's favoured option was discussed. Officers put forward a proposal in which Gateshead consisted wholly of 2 constituencies. This would mean no Anderson-Mearns wrestling match as the two would be slotted in to the appropriate constituencies. But, as I pointed out, it is all very well for the Council to come up with a solution that solves all of Gateshead's boundary issues but the Electoral Commission has to look at the bigger picture. If all that happens is that Gateshead puts forward a proposal that simply exports the fragmentation elsewhere, the Commission will reject it.
Well, blow me dead! The advisory group appreciated the argument and accepted a back up. Whilst members accepted the Council's two-constituency solution as the favoured option, they also took a pragmatic view that a back up was needed. The one agreed still saw Gateshead with one whole and 3 part constituencies but saw a more sensible arrangement for the periphery. One of the part constituencies would be mainly in Gateshead though what South Tyneside will think of this is likely to be easy to judge. Jarrow Labour are likely to have something to say in opposition to such a move that would see their constituency as the junior partner of Gateshead East.
Gateshead Council's views will be reported to the Electoral Commission. And if they are rejected, start booking your places now at the local Labour club, fight-to-the-finish wrestling matches. (If you are squeamish and don't like blood, stay at home!)