Thursday, March 31, 2016
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
A bit of a milestone today - we published the 100th edition of our email newsletter for the Whickham area of Gateshead. This edition covers bin collections, the new Front Street School, house-building at Dunston Hill and my selection as PPC candidate for Northumbria. You can read the newsletter on this link.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
I am just back from a special meeting of Gateshead Council Cabinet. This all-Labour body met today to decide whether or not to accept the devolution package that is on offer to the North East. It's a package that includes control over skills training, transport, planning and economic development. All areas that need regional direction and control. The price of the devolution package is the creation of an elected mayor.
I am no fan of elected mayors but they were a key commitment in the Conservatives' manifesto. And in case anyone missed this significant point, the Conservatives won the general election last year. Whether we like it or not, if we want devolution, we have to have elected mayors. Details of the devolution package can be negotiated, but the government has made absolutely clear that there will be no negotiations on elected mayors. We can have devolution AND elected mayors, or no change.
Meanwhile, the dinosaur wing of the North East Labour party has swung into action to fight the mayoral plan. They view any change to the current system as a challenge to the Labour Establishment. They have run everything in the North East for too long and exist now to continue controlling the Establishment rather than to do anything beneficial for the people and the region.
Indeed, one of the loudest complaints from the Labour Establishment about the devolution package was that it could challenge the North East as "a Labour region." Labour talk of wanting "democracy" but drill down through their statements and what Labour means by "democracy" is everything run by Labour.
Sadly, the reactionaries and the dinosaurs have won the day in the Labour party today. The cabinet unanimously threw out the devolution proposals. This was a totally and utterly mad decision. It's about internal Labour politics, posturing at other people's expenses. There are lots of bad for the people of Gateshead in this decision, but no benefits.
I've already been interviewed by the BBC. Here's my news release:
Anger as Gateshead Labour reject devolution
Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition in Gateshead, Cllr Jonathan Wallace, has described the Labour Council Cabinet’s decision to reject the proposed devolution package to the North East as “utterly mad.”
The Cabinet met today, 22nd March, for less than half an hour to discuss the package that had been negotiated by the 7 council leaders in the region with the government.
Despite months of negotiation by Gateshead Council Leader Mick Henry, his own Deputy, Martin Gannon, moved that the plans be rejected as he opposed the creation of elected mayors.
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Cllr Wallace said, “This decision is completely the wrong one. We have on offer from the government control over skills training, economic development, transport and planning. There is even the possibility of taking on some health powers.
“This has all been sacrificed by those in the Labour party who view elected mayors as a threat to their own establishment and control of the region. Labour have now put party interests before the people’s interests.
“Labour have not even put Gateshead into the Slow Lane. Instead they have put us in the No Lane – no extra powers, no extra investment, no hope.
“There were many smug grins on the faces of Labour cabinet members this morning after the meeting. But smug grins won’t held fill the skills gap, develop the economy or sort out our transport. Labour have set back Gateshead and the North East. It is difficult to see how the region can recover from this wholly unnecessary, Labour-inflicted wound.”
Monday, March 21, 2016
Monday, March 14, 2016
Sunday, March 13, 2016
I was really pleased that Tim banged the drum for community politics in his Leader's speech today. A great speech generally and some strong points especially about the refugee crisis. I now have a full set of photos of the conference on my Flickr site. Click on the picture above and enjoy.
Barbican, where conference is being held.
Lots of reminders that there is a referendum coming up.
Debate under way on regulating cannabis.
The best attended fringe meetings are those offering food!
Lib Dem mugs
Our newest members are cuddly and cute.
Me and my handiwork.
Put out to grass (not a reference to the cannabis debate).
Every gay man's hero, Lynne Featherstone, the person who delivered gay marriage.
Glee club (I chose to go back to my hotel!)
Friday, March 11, 2016
I've just arrived at York and got to my tiny guesthouse (Gregory's Hotel) about 45 minutes ago. I never see the point of staying in conference hotels as they charge silly prices. I spent the journey on the Cross Country train crammed into a small space reading the latest copy of the Smallholder magazine. And I spent a nearly fruitless half hour after getting to the Gregory trying to connect to the internet. My laptop is now speaking to the system so I'm back on line!
Time now to head to the conference centre, the Barbican.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
On Monday I did another PCC meeting with party members, this time in Cramlington, in Blyth Valley Constituency. There are no local elections to the unitary Northumberland Council this year (unlike in Tyne and Wear) so the contest there is purely about the PCC. We had quite a good chat about local campaigning, the dinosaur nature of the Labour Party and the need to scrap PCCs and use the money on front line policing.
Pictured above, me with some of the members who came to the meeting.
Saturday, March 05, 2016
Today it was the turn of Pelaw and Heworth ward to host an action day. The aim was to get the next Focus delivered across most of the ward. In the end, we managed to cover the whole ward, though a couple of patches were taken by a member to be delivered through the week. I was given a patch to do near Heworth Grange Comprehensive with a warning there are usually lots of big people-eating dogs. Sadly for the dogs, I encountered none and therefore continue to be alive and kicking rather than being Pedigree Chum substitute.
Back at HQ, Pelaw and Heworth now has the most points from me for best action day lunch - sausage casserole. Alas, I wasn't able to hang around for too long to enjoy it. Once lunch was consumed, I was sent off to Bill Quay with another bundle of Focuses to deliver.
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Our second action day over the weekend was in 2 different wards: Dunston and Teams, then Lobley Hill and Bensham. We had focuses for each area to deliver. The Staiths area was delivered first and then we split into two teams, one heading to Dunston, the other (with me) to Lobley Hill.
The two wards are strongly Labour but before the Coalition years, we came close to winning Lobley Hill and Bensham. Our aim now is to build up our strength in the two wards. This is a gradual process which will take time, but it is how we won in other wards in Gateshead.