Sunday, May 21, 2017

Delivering in Ryton again

Delivering Ryton May 17

After my stint at the BBC I headed to Ryton (via home where I got changed out of my suit). I had 3 patches to deliver with letters and leaflets. Job done by 4pm.

Election campaign day 34: BBC Politics Programme

BBC Politics Programme May 17 2

I was on the BBC Politics Programme (North East) edition today, along with Chi Onwurah (Labour MP for Newcastle Central), Kevin Hollinrake (Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton) and Philip Broughton (UKIP candidate for Hartlepool). Nothing spectacular happened. Discussions were had on jobs, education and access to the Single Market. UKIP Philip seems very confident but I suspect he won't make it to Parliament.

BBC Politics Programme May 17 1

Election campaign day 33: back to Birtley

Birtley street stall May 17 1

We were back in Birtley yesterday to run a street stall and deliver letters and leaflets to postal voters. What a coincidence: when we got to the spot outside Morrisons where we had the stall 3 weeks ago, we found the National Union of Teachers there as well. I introduced myself to them and found out in conversation that they weren't teachers but worked for the NUT. And they also let me know that Labour were turning up to run a street stall next to them. Given that the NUT is not supposed to be party political, I was rather surprised at what appeared to be a high level of knowledge of Labour's whereabouts and campaign plans. It was also interesting to note that NUT staff rather than members turned up to run the stall. They were, of course, not telling people to vote Labour, not when I was there at any rate.

Our street stall was also the meeting point for Lib Dem members to collect letters and leaflets for delivery. Among them was Craig Martin who won his seat from the Independents earlier this month in North Lodge ward, Co Durham.

Birtley street stall May 17 2

At 11am we packed up the street stall and headed off to deliver. The Barley Mow pub was the rendezvous for lunch at 1pm. I had the cajan chicken.

Barley Mow May 17

sheltering from rain May 17

We left the pub and suddenly, the skies opened and tipped it down with rain. We took refuge in Cllr John McClurey's land rover. I'd been hoping for rain for some time as my crops are parched but I was wanting it to appear through the night. The timing was brilliantly bad! But at least we shifted a large pile of letters and leaflets.

Unusual stories from the campaign trail: best foot forward

Goat kid May 17 1

Elections never come at the right time, especially for those of us who lead self-sufficient lifestyles - spring is a key season for planting and livestock births and hatchings. At the end of April, one of our goats gave birth to two babies, one of which was very weak. We have been raising him by hand and bottle feeding him (including at 4am each day). The kid has been named Whinnie by supporters of the Whinnies Community Garden where my animals reside. I'm pleased to report that after 3 weeks he has now started to walk. He is very wobbly and I doubt I'll be taking him out canvassing but he is improving. I'll be booking him into the vet for a check up this week, in between writing leaflets and doing all the other election things.

Goat kid May 17 2

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Election Campaign Day 32: letters in Dunston and Whickham

letters DHWE May 17

Yesterday (Friday) saw the start of a letter delivery in Blaydon constituency. We were hitting the streets of Whickham and Dunston from 10am. Alas, the rain, which has been absent for two weeks, made an appearance. At lunchtime I made a brief appearance at home to change into dry socks! I'm pleased to report that all the letters were delivered by late afternoon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Update from the Whinnies Community Garden

I keep my goats and poultry on land I rent from the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside. In return I use the animals to promote the garden which caters for people with physical and mental health issues to experience gardening and the great outdoors. This video is all about the goat babies, the quail and hen chicks and a bit at the end of me bottle feeding one of the kids.

The Whinnies Facebook page recently asked for suggestions for names for the two most recent kids. The names chosen are Whinnie and Sunny.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Video - Chase Park update

Gateshead Council's cabinet have agreed to declare part of Chase Park in Whickham as surplus to requirement. They have included in that the main entrance to the park. We have been fighting this plan and there is the potential for a legal challenge if the sale goes through from Lib Dem councillors. In this video, Cllr Peter Maughan and I discuss what the cabinet decision means for the park.

It is noteworthy that the person on the cabinet who leads the council's drive for building new houses is Liz Twist, my Labour opponent in Blaydon.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Our latest leaflet

Ryton Blaydon intro Focus with Chritine May 17-page-0

Over the past week, our latest leaflet has been hitting doormats in Ryton and Blaydon wards. My goats even get a mention!

Ryton Blaydon intro Focus with Chritine May 17-page-1

Some of the people I spoke to in Ryton yesterday told me they had received and read it - and recognised me from it!

Whickham Race Night

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (5)

Lighting Up Whickham held another race night last night, this time at the Glebe Sports Club. The event was to raise money for the Whickham Christmas tree and decorations. It was a packed and very enjoyable event, even if it did result in my losing on every race and emptying my wallet! My job on the night was to help serve the pies and peas.

I don't yet have the figures for how much was raised. I will find out at the next committee meeting.

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (3)

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (4)

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (6)

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (2)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Election Campaign Day 26: Ryton street stall

Ryton street stall May 17 (2)

We were in Ryton this morning, with a street stall on Main Road, outside the Coop. Lots of useful conversations were held with voters. Our most recent leaflet has just gone out in the ward and I was recognised by various people from it. My first conversation was with a UKIP voter who said that he was voting for me as he wants a good local MP and is fed up with Labour taking the area for granted. Then I had a chat to an elderly lady who decades ago was the secretary of the local Conservatives but has been voting Lib Dem for some years. I also had a useful chat with a young couple who have recently moved to Ryton and are normally Labour leaning but are voting for me because of Europe. The final discussion was with a Labour member but his views on his party are best not published!

It was great to see Ione and Noel Rippeth helping the campaign this morning. Both retired as Councillors in Gateshead in recent years but they were keen to give a hand.

In the Space Navy - my opponent's party political broadcast

The Space Navy Party, standing against me in Blaydon constituency, is an unknown quantity. A short search on Google has helped me find their party political broadcast. It's from the 1970s. Labour will therefore love it!

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Swalwell Community Centre Quiz

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (5)

A pie and pea supper tonight (I have another one tomorrow) at Swalwell Community Centre kicked off the fundraising quiz evening. My team - me, David, Cllr Sonya Hawkins and my brother Andrew - known as the Goat Doctors, have a record to defend. We won the quiz when it was last held in the autumn. Alas, we slipped up tonight and came in second.

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (2)

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (3)

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (4)

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (1)

Another hospice visit

As Leader of the Opposition in Gateshead, it is my duty to second the vote of thanks to the outgoing mayor and deputy mayor at the annual council meeting which was held today. I spent part of the morning pulling together notes for the speech as well as sorting a few loose ends regarding the Lib Dem group's representation on committees. I was due in the Civic Centre at 1pm for a naming ceremony for one of the meeting rooms followed by council at 2.30pm. At 12.15, however, I got the call to go immediately to St Bede's Hospice at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Dad was close to passing away. I called Ron Beadle, the group's deputy leader to ask him to stand in for me at council and then headed over the the QE.

The family gathered in Dad's room for about four hours. He had stabilised by the late afternoon. It was clear that he is with us a bit longer. I returned home as I had an engagement to attend this evening.

Space invaders sail into Blaydon

Statement of persons Nominated and Notice-of-poll-Blaydon-page-0

The number of candidates in Blaydon has hit a record 7. Nominations closed yesterday. We have candidates from the three main parties (Lib Dem, Labour and Conservatives), from a minor party (Greens) and three from the fringe (Libertarian, UKIP and "We want the future now"). This latter party is actually registered under the name of "Space Navies Party". What is on the nomination paper is actually another of its registered names. The candidate is "Lisabela Zxywhiddm Marschild". I have no idea what the Space Navies Party stands for. It could be pie in the sky for all I know. Maybe we should put a rocket under them. May the farce be with them in their trek........

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Election campaign day 24: the official campaign launch

Gateshead South Tyneside Lib Dem election launch May 17

Thursday's big event was the official launch of the Lib Dem campaigns in Blaydon, Gateshead, Jarrow and South Shields. The respective candidates (me, Frank Hindle, Peter Maughan and Gita Gordon) were at the launch at Gateshead Civic Centre with guest speaker Lord John Shipley. Each candidate gave a short presentation about themselves and then answered questions from members. A good meeting, but I couldn't hang around at the end as David and I needed to go to St Bede's Hospice to see Dad. He was keen to have a report about the meeting.

Election campaign day 23: called to the Hospice

Wednesday's big job was to get the freepost leaflet into the hands of the printer (or rather into his inbox). The Royal Mail had already approved it and it was just a case of making the file into something that the printer can use. It was a job meant for the evening. Matters did not go to plan. I was called at 5.30pm by St Bede's Hospice where my Dad is. I was warned that it would be better for me to come to the hospice straight away. My younger brother Matthew was already there when David and I arrived a half hour later. We were quickly joined by Andrew, my elder brother, and by my sister Esther. We were there for three hours during which time Dad stabilised. David and I returned home at 9.30pm so that our livestock could be put away, the baby goat could be bottle fed, a meal could be consumed and the freepost file sorted. At 11.30pm I went back to St Bede's. Andrew was just leaving, Matthew and Esther had already gone home.

Dad was settled and sleeping so I sat in the seat next to his bed and fell asleep for an hour. When I woke, I was able to have a quick word with him. Despite his extreme frailty and his great difficulty in speaking, he thanked me for coming. I returned home.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Swalwell Focus

Swalwell A3 Focus Apr 17 Final-page-0

The Swalwell Focus was the last of the current round of Focuses planned before the general election was announced. The lead story is about the transfer of Whickham Library to the voluntary sector. I also had a bit in about being the candidate for Blaydon.

Swalwell A3 Focus Apr 17 Final-page-1

3 good reasons to vote for me as constituency MP for Blaydon

Jonathan Wallace freepost 1 May 17-page-1

Birtley eFocus

Our latest email newsletter for Birtley and Lamesley wards has just been published. Lead story was the council tax rise but we also included stories about the general election campaign. You can read it on this link.

Lighting Up Whickham meeting

Last night I attended the meeting of Lighting Up Whickham, the group of volunteers who raise money for the Village's Christmas tree. We are in the middle of drawing up plans for the next Whickham Community Festival. We have now settled on a date - Saturday 22nd July, 11am to 3pm. Local musicians and entertainers are being lined up. There will be lots of craft stalls. Someone not a million miles from here came up with pets and animals as the theme. I am therefore under instruction to bring along some of my goats, chickens and goats. Watch this space for more details.

Monday, May 08, 2017

At last, a Conservative candidate is announced

News from the Blaydon campaign - the Conservatives have a candidate! He's called Tom Smith and he's local - to Camden (450 km down the road from Blaydon). I'm thinking of sending him a welcome pack and a map along with the "How to Survive Up North" manual. Tom was candidate in neighbouring Gateshead constituency in 2015. I'm not sure whether Tom's attraction to the borough of Gateshead is as a result of genuine interest or is based on his name being drawn out of a hat in a room in Tory Central Office where the candidates for no hope seats (for the Tories) are given their Mission Impossible instructions.

So Tom, welcome to Blaydon. We're a friendly lot up here. We don't bite and if you need it, I can provide a translator for you to understand our local Geordie language!

Election campaign day 21: I am officially nominated

That rather irritating legal necessity to stand for election - my nomination paper - was handed in to Gateshead Council today. Alas, it was accepted. So, into battle I go. I'm really looking forward to being verbally beaten up by the good people of Blaydon. I'm especially excited about the long days and sleep deprivation. I have budgeted for at least one new pair of shoes during the election (I'm splashing out - £10 at Primark for a pair of casual shoes). My natty old suit has been dusted down and checked for embarrassing stains, ripped lining and shiny elbows. It's 9 years old but there's still life in the old thing yet. I've had it long enough for it to have been fashionable at least twice. My tie collection has been thoroughly checked for dinner stains, spilt beer and wrong party colours.

So the battle for Blaydon shifts up a gear.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Re-elected Group Leader

On Wednesday Gateshead Lib Dem Council Group held its annual meeting to elect officers and agree appointments to council committees. I'm pleased to report that I was re-elected unopposed as Group Leader, and therefore Leader of the Opposition (there are no Conservative, UKIP or Green Councillors in  Gateshead - it's either Labour or Lib Dem here.) Ron Beadle was re-elected as Deputy Leader.

I am however, no longer the wearer of the crown for leader of the 2nd largest Lib Dem group in the North East Combined Authority area. That title goes to Amanda Hopgood, leader of the Lib Dems on Durham County Council. The party picked up another 5 seats on Thursday with no losses, taking the total number of councillors to 14, 2 ahead of us in Gateshead. I will of course be aiming to win back the crown next May when Gateshead next goes to the polls for the local elections.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Gateshead Lib Dems' email newsletter

Gateshead Lib Dem members' email newsletter has now been sent to recipients. The lead story is the selection of myself for Blaydon, Frank Hindle for Gateshead and Peter Maughan for Jarrow. There are also articles about campaigning in Birtley and in Dunston Hill and Whickham East. You can read the newsletter on this link.

New kids on the block

New goat babies Apr 17 1

When I got back from delivering our Focus newsletter in Marley Hill on Sunday, I checked on my animals. I had one remaining pregnant goat, Spot, but when I got to the allotment, she was pregnant no more. She had given birth to two little billies. One was in good health but the other was very weak. I took the decision to take his home to nurse him. He would almost certainly have died if left with Spot. However, doing this has meant I have to be the kid's surrogate mother! He is being bottle fed every four hours, including at 4am. It's not the best of timings in the middle of a general election campaign, but needs must.

The billy kid is still weak on his legs but he is doing reasonably well. He is putting on weight and his coat is in good condition - good signs for a recovery - but he is not out of the woods yet.

New goat babies Apr 17 3

New goat babies Apr 17 4

In the meantime, the Whinnies Community Garden, where the goats live, have invited residents to come up with names for the 2 kids. Given the danger of being named Goaty McGoatface, the final decision will be left to me this weekend. Suggestions so far included Lib and Dem. Corbyn and Abbott have also been suggested but that could give them a complex!

Any suggestions can be posted in comments.

Election campaign days 12 and 13: leaflets

Sunniside Focus May 17-page-0

Saturday and Sunday campaigning was all about leaflets: writing and delivering them! Our 4th leaflet of the campaign was the Sunniside Focus. (See images above and below.) It had been planned well before the election was called but to make way for general election content, I had to drop 5 local news stories from it. They will appear in our next edition and in our forthcoming eFocus email newsletter. I delivered 500 Focuses in Sunniside and Marley Hill on Sunday. I was back home in time for a little surprise - but that's for my next post.

Sunniside Focus May 17-page-1

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Our recent Focus in Dunston Hill and Whickham East

GE 2017 May -a3 (1)-page-0

This is what we delivered in Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward in the past week, the next edition of Focus. The lead story was the planning application for up to 582 executive homes on former greenbelt land at Dunston Hill. My Labour opponent, Liz Twist, is the council cabinet member for building houses on the countryside. I wonder if she will care to touch on this matter if she visits the ward.

GE 2017 May -a3 (1)-page-1

The true blue cost of voting for the Blues

Nestle have announced 300 job losses and the moving of the production of Blue Riband from the UK to Poland. The Blue Conservatives, far from strengthening our hand in negotiations with Europe, are exporting our jobs there even before the Brexit negotiations have not begun. The decision to take the UK out of the Single Market was a calamitous mistake and the Tory chickens are coming home to roost with Nestle workers paying the price. Other jobs will follow their way to the EU as well if the decision to leave the Single Market stays in place. No wonder the Conservatives wanted to scrap the 2020 election. They knew that only a year after leaving the Single Market, holding an election in the middle of the uncertainties about the economic future of the nation would likely lead to the Conservatives' defeat.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Election campaign day 11: delivering Watergate

Dunston Hill Focuses Apr 17

BT were digging up my street this morning. They had 2 vehicles parked at the junction, on either sideof the road. No one could get in or out. I had a polite word with them about people needing to have access to the street. After a few minutes one of the vehicles was removed. I was able to drive down to the Watergate Estate in Whickham and deliver 370 focuses.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

On the other side of the camera

Lib Dem posters Gateshead Apr 17 (3)

I am going to have to get used to being on the other side of the camera. As a photographer, I am normally the person taking photos. Twice this week, I've had to give my camera to someone else as I needed to be in the picture myself. On Sunday photos were taken next to the Millennium Bridge. Tonight it was at the end of the Gateshead Local Party Executive. Fortunately I just happened to have a pile of corex posters to use as photo props.

Election campaign day 10: my opponent is appointed

Liz Twist Feb 16 cropped

After days of speculation (some of it quite wild) we now have an announcement on who is to be my Labour opponent. It is Liz Twist, Ryton Councillor and Gateshead Council Cabinet member with responsibility for building houses on land Labour took out of the greenbelt. The house-building plans are a key local issue and in one ward, Dunston Hill and Whickham East, a planning application has just been lodged with the council for up to 582 houses.

So let the battle commence.

Election campaign day 9: the election haircut

haircut Apr 17 1


haircut Apr 17 2


My one bit of luxury - my monthly haircut at Hogg and Osborne Hairdressers in Blaydon. From grey politician to brunette rinse in less than an hour!

Election campaign day 8: still no opposition candidate

Cabinet on Tuesday morning and some interesting conversations were had that threw some light on possible Labour candidates for Blaydon. The name of Mark Ferguson, former editor of Labour List, was mentioned. So were the names of a couple of Gateshead Labour councillors. And yet again, so was Tony Blair's name. The source for the person to whom I was talking was the BBC, not an internal Labour source. It just wasn't credible to think of Blair as a candidate.

A group member later sent me a link to a Huffington Post story about a Corbyn/Tom Watson/trade union carve up of the 12 seats vacated by Labour MPs. Mark Ferguson had been allocated to Blaydon, claimed the article. All this turned out to be guesswork and speculative forecasting. We ended up with a different result. More about that in a forthcoming post.

paper delivery Apr 17

Meanwhile, a quarter ton of paper arrived at Cllr John McClurey's shop. My land rover was requisitioned to move some of it to the Lib Dem office in Consett where it will be transformed into a huge number of Focus newsletters over the coming week.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Election campaign day 7: the ghost of Tony Blair

When I arrived at Lib Dem group meeting on Monday evening, I was told that the BBC had been interviewing people in Blaydon about what they thought about Tony Blair returning to Parliament as MP for the constituency! It seems Blair made a comment in which he expressed his worries about the state of the Labour Party and the moves towards Brexit. His despair at the current state of affairs led him to suggest he could be needed back in the world of politics. And so the rumours of a return began. Presumably the BBC had nothing better to do when they decided to interview people about something that will never happen.

Election campaign day 6: delivering in Dunston Hill

Frank Hindle Jonathan Wallace Peter Maughan Apr 17

On Sunday we headed to Dunston Hill to deliver a Focus and petition form. The lead article was about Labour's plans for hundreds of executive homes on land to the south of Whickham Highway. Though Labour had described the plans as a "myth", in 2015 they stripped the area of its greenbelt protection. Well, the planning application is now in. Labour originally allocated the site for 550 houses. The plans are for up to 582.

We got over 150 petition forms back, most signed by 2 or more people. We are still adding up the numbers and some are still coming in by post.

Once deliveries were done, I headed to Baltic Square in Gateshead for photos with Frank Hindle, our candidate for Gateshead, and Peter Maughan, who is standing for us in Jarrow (the constituency includes a couple of Gateshead wards, one of which is Pelaw which we won from Labour last year).

Gateshead Millennium Bridge Apr 17

Timing was spot on. The Millennium Bridge was raised when we were there.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Birtley Focus

Birtley Focus Apr 17-page-1

This is the Birtley Focus we delivered on Saturday. We led with the council tax rise but there are lots of news stories about what's happening in the town. We are planning to deliver some in Lamesley ward as well.

Birtley Focus Apr 17-page-2

Election campaign day 5: Birtley Action Day

Birtley action day Apr 17 4

Two months ago we planned an action day in Birtley for Saturday 22nd April. Arrangements were going well and then the announcement of the general election hit us. We decided to make Birtley the first action day and street stall of the general election campaign. We also had a Focus to deliver. I wrote it just before Easter and thankfully decided to leave printing until after the bank holidays. It meant that a small revision made this Focus into our first election leaflet.

Birtley action day Apr 17 6

Birtley action day Apr 17 2

12 members came to help on the day. The street stall was also our impromptu HQ for the morning. From it we sent the members to deliver the Focus. I had private hopes of getting about a quarter to a third of Birtley ward delivered. We actually achieved 90%.

Paul Elliott, one of our campaigners in Birtley, and I manned the street stall until midday. During that time I had a number of conversations with people, all positive and pleasant. I even had a chat with Eva, the wife of Dave Anderson, the MP for Blaydon who is retiring at the election. I wished them both all the best for the future and recommended a long holiday in the sun and warmth!

Barley Mow pub Apr 17 1

After packing up the street stall, Paul and I went off to deliver some Focuses and then met up with the rest of the team in the Barley Mow pub for lunch.  I recommend the chicken burger.

So a successful day and we certainly got noticed by local by residents.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Opening of Watergate Community Cafe

Watergate Cafe Apr 17 (3)

On the way to visiting Dad in hospital on Friday, I called into the new community cafe next to Watergate Park. It was its "trial day", opening for the first time to test the facilities. The official opening was on Saturday when I had to go to my action day in Birtley instead. A pleasant establishment. I recommend the cheese scones.