Monday, November 11, 2019

Why I stood down as Blaydon candidate

Back in April we started the process of buying a smallholding near our village of Sunniside in Gateshead. It took six months for the purchase to go through, longer than we expected, and at the start of October, it became ours. In July I agreed to be the Lib Dem candidate for Blaydon in the event of a snap general election which was widely expected to be in held in August, September or October. It looked increasingly like I would get the election campaign over before the smallholding purchase could be completed.

And then....the election didn't happen, at least not in the timescale we first expected back in the summer. As October wore on, the talk was increasingly of an election in the new year. It was becoming increasingly difficult for me to remain as candidate while the smallholding was needing urgent work to bring it into use next year. So, in mid October, I told the party that I could no longer continue as candidate. It turned out to be fortuitous timing as had I delayed taking a decision until the start of November, I almost certainly would have continued as candidate in the snap election which wasn't quite snap enough to be held in the August to October timeline. I would have lost any possibility of getting onto the land this year in preparation for next year. The smallholding is quite a significant investment for us. Leaving it idle next year is not an option.

I was phoned by the Chronicle this afternoon about why I wasn't standing. I was on one of my allotments at that point so while I was doing the interview, there was a chorus of quacking ducks and clucking hens to add authenticity to the situation! In the resulting article, they republished bits from previous articles about my sustainable lifestyle. It's a good write up and you can read the article on this link.

The article also had extensive coverage of Vicky Anderson, our new candidate for Blaydon, and Peter Maughan, our candidate for Gateshead.

The video above was filmed on the smallholding on the day I decided to step down as candidate. In it I explain some of the ideas I have for the site. If anyone is interested and willing to give a hand, tomorrow I will be shipping quarter of a tonne of garden waste and manure from our livestock allotment to the smallholding. Come along and get your hands dirty!

Vicky selected for Blaydon

Vicky Anderson Oct 19 (25)

Another news release from Gateshead Lib Dems, this time about the selection of Vicky Anderson as candidate for Blaydon.

Vicky fights for victory in Blaydon

Liberal Democrats in Blaydon constituency have chosen Vicky Anderson as their candidate for the snap general election on 12th December.

Vicky is relishing the battle ahead as she takes on Labour in the constituency they have held since 1935. She has already tasted victory against Labour, having won her council seat from them in May.

“As a councillor in Blaydon constituency and a campaigner with first hand experience of beating Labour, I am taking the battle to the heart of their territory,” said Vicky.

“Labour takes our area for granted but it is time for a change. If elected I will be the voice of Blaydon residents in Parliament. I will be an MP who is in touch with the people of the area. I will demand better for the North East.”

Vicky was born and brought up in the North East and is a passionate advocate of the region which she feels has been let down by both Labour and Conservatives. She is also a strong advocate of equality issues and diversity.

“The North East has not gained from the near monolithic dominance by Labour. We are a diverse society and I am determined that the MPs of the region should also be from diverse backgrounds, both politically and socially. That’s why I am campaigning to put an end to Labour’s monopoly of North East Parliamentary representation.”

Vicky works in online events and has a background in customer service and technology.

Peter chosen as Lib Dem candidate for Gateshead

Peter Maughan Angel of North Nov 19

Peter Maughan has been selected as Lib Dem candidate for Gateshead. The following is the news release I've just sent out:

Peter chosen as Lib Dem candidate in Gateshead

Liberal Democrats in Gateshead constituency have chosen Peter Maughan as their candidate for the snap general election on 12th December.

Peter has considerable experience of representing residents of the borough where he has been a councillor for the past 25 years.

He is also a solicitor, giving him invaluable experience of helping people, a skill he wants to use to fight for a better deal for Gateshead and the North East.

“Labour believe they have an automatic right to rule here but I will be taking the fight right to Labour’s door,” said Peter.

“As a councillor in Gateshead for the past 25 years, I understand the needs, hopes and aspirations of local residents. I also know from talking to people on doorsteps that they are fed up with Labour and Jeremy Corbyn and are looking for a new political home.

“I am fighting hard to bring ex-Labour voters over to the Liberal Democrats.”

Outside of politics and work, Peter is a strong advocate of animal welfare. He is chairman of Newcastle upon Tyne and North Northumberland branch of the RSPCA. Many rescue animals have found a home at his house in Whickham.

Peter is also a board member of the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Remembrance Parades

Whickham Remembrance Service 10 Nov 19 (139)

There were four Remembrance parades and services in the Whickham area today. The largest was in Whickham village itself (see my colleagues above). Meanwhile Cllr Peter Maughan laid a wreath at Dunston, Cllr Sonya Hawkins at Swalwell and Cllr Marilynn Ord at Marley Hill (see photos below).

The bottom link takes you to the full set of photos we took today.

Peter Maughan at Dunston remembrance service 10 Nov 19

Sonya Hawkins at Swalwell remembrance service 10 Nov 19

Marilynn Ord at Marley Hill remembrance service 10 Nov 19

Whickham Remembrance Service 10 Nov 19

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Remembrance services and parades

There will be four Remembrance services in the Whickham area tomorrow. Details are as follows:


Groups and wreath layers who are taking part in the Whickham Remembrance Parade should assemble in The Square at 10:15 am. The parade will be formed up on Front Street from 10:20 am and will move off at 10:35 am, arriving at Whickham cenotaph at 10:45 am for a wreath-laying ceremony, followed by a Service in St Mary’s Church. 

Front Street from Rectory Lane to Fellside Road will be closed to accommodate the parade from around 10:15 am until approximately 10:45 am. Front Street between Rectory Lane and Broom Lane will be closed from approximately 10:30 am until 11:30 am. 


There will be a service at St Nicholas Church at 10am. Wreath laying takes place at 11am at the Dunston War Memorial.


There will be a service at Holy Trinity Church on Hexham Old Road at 9am followed by wreath laying service at 10am.

Marley Hill

Assemble at St Cuthbert's Church, Marley Hill, at 10.15am for an act of remembrance and wreath laying.

Breaching the Berlin Wall

Berlin Checkpoint Charlie Aug 13 2

30 years ago today, the Berlin Wall was breached. It was the beginning of the end of Soviet domination of eastern Europe. Socialism collapsed under the weight of it own unfairness, corruption, anti-liberalism, repression and inefficiency. Let's hope we never have to go back to any of that. Though some dream otherwise.

Above - me at Checkpoint Charlie, below me next to the Berlin Wall, both photos from 2013.

Berlin Wall Aug 13 6

Sunday, November 03, 2019

More Dunston deliveries

Dunsteon tabloid delivery Nov 19

I was back in Dunston again today. 210 tabloids delivered. I enjoyed it so much I volunteered to do another patch!

History meeting on Tuesday

Sunniside History Society Nov 19

The next meeting of Sunniside History Society will be on Tuesday 5th November. The speaker is John Sadler, who will be telling us about the rebellion by Northern earls against Queen Elizabeth in 1569. The meeting kicks off at 7pm at Sunniside Club. £1 on the door.

Cream scones at the Whinnies

Whinnies cream scones Nov 19

The Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside yesterday had a Halloween event in the afternoon. I popped in so I could part with cash for raffle tickets and for cream scones. Very naughty but nice.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Delivering Marley Hill

Delivering in Marley Hill Nov 19

Another day, another tabloid delivery. Today I was in Marley Hill and I'm pleased to report that the patches I normally deliver in my ward are now done. (I have some elsewhere still to do.) It will mean the selfies of me holding tabloids in local towns and villages will dry up, you will be pleased to know!

Lib Dem Pint

Station East Oct 19

We had our latest Lib Dem pint last night which I attended after doing my trick or treat style tabloid delivery. A good turnout but I had to leave early though I was only allowed out of the door once I agreed to take yet another tabloid delivery patch with me!

Lib Dem Pint Station East Oct 19 (3)

Lib Dem Pint Station East Oct 19 (1)

Trick or treat

Delivering in Sunniside Oct 19

I delivered more of our tabloids, this time in Sunniside, yesterday morning. I then spent the afternoon working on the small holding and returned home in the early evening to deliver yet more tabloids. It was, of course, 31st October. Halloween.

Halloween lanterns Oct 19

Perhaps I should have got dressed up for the occasion though plenty of people are used to seeing me dressed in scruffy old clothes looking like I've just crawled out of the dark latrine. Fashion and clothes buying aren't part of my sustainable lifestyle! Inevitably, at a number of doors I found myself surrounded by kids and parents doing trick or treat while I tried to hand over a copy of our tabloid. Fortunately those opening their doors to trick or treaters also recognised me! They insisted I take a bag of sweets!

Tangtastics Oct 19

My favourite was the bag of tangtastics!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

More Whickham deliveries

Delivering tabloid in Watergate Estate Oct 19

I was out this morning in Whickham East. 370 tabloids to deliver. Job done in under two hours.

What a difference a day makes!

Labour were apoplectic with rage last night when Lib Dems and SNP called for a general election on 9th December and proposed a route by which it could be achieved (through a short Parliamentary Bill). The real leader of Labour, John McDonnell, was spitting venom at the Lib Dems. He claimed, "Looks like the Lib Dem and Tory pact of 2010 is being re-established. They are back together, selling out the People's Vote campaign and the cross party campaign to prevent a no deal." Most people would be rather amused by the suggestion that somehow Labour are the guardians of the People's Vote, especially with Corbyn as Labour leader.

Move on one day and Labour are voting for a general election on 9th December. What a difference a day makes!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Delivering in Dunston

Lib Dem tabloid DH Oct 19

220 tabloids delivered by me this morning, this time in Dunston. We are making good progress with getting the tabloid through tens of thousands of doors in Gateshead.

Low Fell eFocus no. 45

There seems to be a bit of an informal competition between the Low Fell and Whickham Focus teams to see who can produce the most eFocuses!  While Whickham have 125 editions to their credit, Low Fell have 45. But, Low Fell are definitely closing the gap with the second edition in a week. The latest edition includes:
  • Low Fell's Remembrance Service 
  • 'Friends of Kells Lane Park'
  • Low Fell's Volunteer Gardeners win award!
  • Listening to Low Fell's businesses
Click on this link to read the contents of eFocus.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Video: Planting Up Whickham Church Green

This was the video I made today of the volunteers from Planting Up Whickham who planted up the flowerbeds on Church Green.

Video: Birtley Action Day

Gateshead Lib Dems had a successful action day in Birtley yesterday. Hundreds of tabloids were delivered and we called at over 300 houses. The video follows the team throughout the day.

Planting up Whickham

Planting Up Whickham Church Green Oct 19 (7)

I was in Whickham this morning to help Planting Up Whickham do exactly what their name says: plant up Whickham, in this instance, the flower beds on Church Green. I missed the maintenance session the group had last week when the old plants were stripped out as I was in London for the People's Vote rally. Today I got my hands dirty planting dozens of plants which in the spring will give us a great display of colour in the heart of the village.

Planting Up Whickham Church Green Oct 19 (6)

Planting Up Whickham Church Green Oct 19 (2)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Birtley Action Day

Birtley Lib Dem action day Oct 19 (1)

Gateshead Lib Dems had another action day today, this time in Birtley. We had a street stall outside Morrisons for an hour in the morning and then some members headed off to deliver some of our tabloids. The rest of us were door knocking to do a survey. We called at about 300 houses, though not everyone was in! On the whole, there was a positive response. A regular theme was lack of confidence by Labour voters in their own party. Jeremy Corbyn is a significant problem for many who normally vote Labour. They are looking for a new political home.

Birtley Lib Dem action day Oct 19 (2)

Birtley Lib Dem action day Oct 19 (3)

Birtley Lib Dem action day Oct 19 (4)

Whickham eFocus edition 125

The latest edition of eFocus for the Whickham area was published tonight. Key stories include:
  • Demolition of Dunston Hill greenhouses
  • Remembrance Day parades
  • Parking restrictions in Dunston
  • Call for tree planting in Gateshead
  • Planting up Church Green in Whickham - help needed
  • Sunniside and Whickham Christmas fairs
  • Historic Gibside Bridge damaged
You can read eFocus on this link.

Stuffing envelopes for Deckham

Deckham envelope preparation Oct 19 (2)

Envelope stuffing is best done as a group exercise! Being able to talk to friends relieves the boredom of a very repetitive task! So 6 of us in Gateshead got together to stuff thousands of envelopes for Deckham ward last night. All we have to do now is deliver them!

Deckham envelope preparation Oct 19 (3)

Deckham envelope preparation Oct 19 (4)

Deckham envelope preparation Oct 19 (1)

Friday, October 25, 2019

To vote or not to vote. That is the question.

No end in sight for the interminable talk of a snap election. Indeed, the term "snap" now seems very out of place. The snap election was possibly going to happen in September, then October, then November, then December, with a good measure of speculation now that it could be January (with a few saying it could even be May).

So, Jeremy Corbyn demands a general election as he thinks history will repeat itself and he will close the gap on the Tories during the campaign. Meanwhile, most of his MPs are in touch with the real world and fear an election while Brexit remains unresolved. So, Labour won't be voting for the election they say they really, really want. Meanwhile, the Tories demand an election because they are ahead in the polls (though their vote is down on 2017, but not by as much as Labour's deteriorating poll position). Lib Dems want an election as quite a few plum seats could fall our way but we want a People's Vote first. And the SNP feel the same though secretly they probably want Brexit to go ahead as it is likely to lead to the breakup of the UK.

What a strangle world we live in. The rest of the planet must be looking on the UK in a sense of incomprehension and disbelief.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Low Fell eFocus no. 44

The next edition of Low Fell eFocus was published this week. It includes:
  • Axe the Bus Tax!
  • Car vehicle crime in Low Fell update
  • Low Fell Business Survey launched
  • Boer War Memorial restored to former glory!
  • Crocuses planted by Volunteer Gardening Group

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

And today's delivery is in.....

Tabloid delivery Whickham Oct 19

Whickham. Specifically, the area around The Broadway. I delivered 450 tabloids. I also had a meeting with a constituent. Elsewhere, I hear reports of our tabloid being delivered in Pelaw earlier this week. There are still plenty to get through people's letter boxes.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

And now for the goodnews

Back to Northern Ireland again! This time some good news. Westminster legislation has now been enacted to put an end to the near-total ban on abortions and the outright ban on same sex marriage. Northern Ireland has now been brought into alignment with the rest of the UK and Ireland. It would have been better for the liberalisation of the laws to have come from the Northern Ireland assembly but there are times when basic rights have to be universally available. And since the Assembly hasn't functioned for over two years, Westminster had to step in to bring about the reforms.

We are witnessing however a bizarre situation in which the DUP, the party which looks to Westminster to ensure Northern Ireland is treated no differently from the rest of the UK, is attacking Westminster for not treating Northern Ireland as different to the rest of the UK. And Sinn Fein, no fans of Westminster and with elected MPs who refuse to take their seats in the Commons, are welcoming the new conformity of Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK (and Ireland).

What a strange world in which we live.

Video - People's Vote Rally

This is the video I filmed on Saturday of the People's Vote rally in London. A million people were on the march, including thousands of Lib Dem members.

A cracking deal that's cracking up

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay isn't exactly performing well while in the spotlight. He recently described the Brexit deal as "cracking" for Northern Ireland businesses as it would give unfettered, frictionless access to the Single Market while enjoying all the benefits of being in the UK customs area. This begs the question, why should the rest of the UK not benefit in the same way? But now we learn that Barclay didn't quite get it right when he said there would be no tariff barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. There will be such barriers in place. For a party that said such a situation would be unacceptable, in effect the Johnson government has surrendered. This is just one example of why railroading the Brexit Bill through Parliament is dangerous. Over 100 pages need to be scrutinised and that can't be done in 3 days.

So, a cracking deal for Northern Ireland? Or is the Brexit deal simply cracking up under what little scrutiny that has so far occurred.

Monday, October 21, 2019

People's Vote Rally

Peoples Vote Rally Lib Dems Oct 19 (22)

On Saturday I was in London for the People's Vote Rally. I was one of those tiny specks in a vast, one million strong, crowd of people that snaked its way from Hyde Park to the Houses of Parliament. I joined the Lib Dem contingent and, as usual, took along my cameras. You can see my full set of photos this link.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The shortest meeting on record?

After delivering 160 tabloids in Birtley (and returning home for a shower and a quick change of clothes, I headed to Gateshead Civic Centre for a special full council meeting. It must have been the shortest meeting I have ever attended. I think it was less than a minute! Only one item on the agenda: the new senior management structure. To ensure it goes ahead, it had to be agreed by full council. As the next full council meeting is not scheduled until late November, this extra meeting was called to deal with it. Given the fractious nature of the September council meeting, today was a significant improvement.

Delivering in Birtley

Delivering Birtley Oct 19

This morning I headed to Birtley to deliver 160 tabloids. A gloriously sunny morning, I was rather pleased I'd decided to wear a light jacket. Delivery was done in less than an hour.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Printing for Deckham

Deckham leaflet Oct 19 (1)

After cabinet yesterday morning I headed to the Lib Dem office in Consett to print our next leaflet for Deckham ward. It will be going into circulation shortly.

Deckham leaflet Oct 19 (2)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Gateshead East branch meeting

Gateshead East branch Lib Dem monthly meeting tonight and I attended as group leader. The longest section on the agenda was ward reports. There was much to report on. Central Gateshead wards reported on their Focuses, Low Fell and Pelaw and Heworth wards informed us of their eFocuses as well as their printed Focuses. Action days are planned including in the riverside area (the Staiths Cafe is always a popular meeting place!)

Meanwhile, Ron Beadle and I reported on recent developments on Gateshead Council. There was a great deal of interest in the bottled water motion we moved at the last meeting which Labour then destroyed. Some discussion also took place on possible motions for future meetings.

I took along 600 tabloids for delivery in one of the central Gateshead wards. I'm pleased to report that someone took all of them and will deliver them tomorrow!

Labour's "urgent meeting"

Back from the Civic Centre earlier today and I bring news that Labour in Lobley Hill and Bensham ward are selecting their candidate on 22nd October for the local elections next May. The expectation is that Labour Deputy Leader Catherine Donovan will be chosen again to fight the ward. So, in a spirit of good comradely relations, let me wish Catherine good luck.

But what's this? An email to Labour branch members calling them to an "urgent additional branch meeting to discuss the local election campaign." Lobley Hill and Bensham has been Labour for as long as anyone can remember. But Labour's vote came down with a bump in May this year. The Lib Dems jumped from 5th to 2nd place with a modestly healthy vote increase.

Are Labour getting so nervous in a heartland ward that they require an "urgent" meeting?

Meanwhile, our latest Lib Dem tabloid is going into circulation and lots of people are reading it in Lobley Hill!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Conference video

This is the video I shot at the North East Lib Dem regional conference on Saturday. It includes parts of Tim Farron MP's speech, regional awards and the Presidential hustings.

Delivering in Lobley Hill

Gateshead Lib Dem tabloid Oct 18 3

I was in Lobley Hill today armed with 250 of our Gateshead Lib Dem tabloids. All delivered in under an hour and a half. The tabloid is gradually hitting the streets across the borough. There are however still tens of thousands to deliver.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Customs confusion

The suggestion leaking out from the government over Northern Ireland customs arrangements is that the province will remain within the UK's customs territory but customs arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic will continue as if Northern Ireland is in the EU customs union. So, customs between the North and South will continue to be harmonised. Were the UK to achieve the unicorn dream of trade deals that results in some imports being free of duty or at least at a lower rate, people in Northern Ireland would be paying initially the EU customs rates but could then claim a rebate. This sounds like a horrendous bureaucracy and will also mean Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK are operating different systems. That's what brought down Theresa May's deal.

But, let's suppose the dual system is put into operation. What's to stop someone in Northern Ireland importing lots of goods from the UK's trading partners under the mythical unicorn trade agreements we are supposed to sign who then claims a customs rebate before quietly shipping all the goods over the border into the Republic. Since the border will be open, there will be no customs checks.

This would be a smugglers charter.

North East Lib Dem conference

HMS Trincomalee Hartlepool Oct 19 (1)

North East Lib Dem conference was held today at the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Hartlepool. A well attended event, I was in the interesting situation of most of those attending were strangers to me. The increase in membership of the Lib Dems and the growing number of party activists means that many new faces are around.

There were a number of debates. I spoke in the one about exploring tactical voting alliances to defeat the Brexit backing Conservatives. I pointed out that this would not work as Labour in the North East contains plenty of Brexit backers. While there are some Remain MPs whose re-election would not cause us difficulties, there were others we would not want to touch with a barge pole. The motion was defeated but it was a good-natured debate and there is always the scope for arrangements on the ground in specific constituencies.

North East Lib Dem regional conference Oct 19 (2)

In the awards section, Gateshead member Paul Gibson won the Frances Foote Wood award. This is for someone who has given exceptional service as a member who has not previously been elected as a councillor or MP. Paul is part of an amazing delivery machine and over the years he must have delivered hundreds of thousands of leaflets. He wasn't able to attend conference so Gateshead Chairman Dawn Welsh collected the award on his behalf.

Tim Farron MP was the guest speaker and there was also a hustings for the two candidates standing for the position of Party President: Christine Jardine and Mark Pack. I'm still undecided how to vote.

North East Lib Dem regional conference Oct 19 (6)

North East Lib Dem regional conference Oct 19 (5)

Lib Dem tabloid arrives

Gateshead Lib Dem tabloid Oct 19 (1)

Gateshead Lib Dems have been working on a big project recently. Our next tabloid has now been written and printed. It arrived three days early. That meant yesterday saw quite a bit of activity to move tens of thousands of tabloids from their drop off site to the ward teams. Delivery began this morning.

Gateshead Lib Dem tabloid Oct 19 (2)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Delivering again in central Gateshead

Focuses Oct 19

On my way to a meeting at Gateshead Civic Centre last night I had two bundles of Focuses to deliver in the town. Over 300 leaflets in total but fortunately I was given terraces to deliver. Job done in just over an hour. I even had time to listen to the Radio 4 news before going to the meeting.

Looking into the darkness

On Tuesday, I attended an advisory meeting at Gateshead Civic Centre about how the council is planning for Brexit. As I was the person who had repeatedly called for this meeting, it was hardly surprising that I was there with a long list of questions. The key point to come out of the meeting, unsurprisingly, was that the council are trying to plan while staring into the darkness. We can't say with any degree of certainty what is going to happen with Brexit and therefore planning for it is extremely difficult. The officers are clearly doing their best in the circumstances but there are so many unknowns that we simply have to expect the unexpected.

The good news is that prescription drug supplies and school meals are not expected to be disrupted. The police also have plans in place to deal with any troubles though some of our Northumbria officers may be moved around the country (but not at Northumbria's expense) to help deal with significant incidents (turning roads into immobile lorry parks in Kent springs to mind).

So, we have small nuggets of good news but otherwise the Brexit crystal ball is not telling us much.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

South Tyneside Labour bun fight

It seems a Labour Party bun fight is breaking out in South Tyneside, next door to us in Gateshead. Stephen Hepburn, Labour MP for Jarrow (which includes a small part of Gateshead) has been suspended because of allegations, dating back to 2005, of sexual harassment. If there is a snap general election, this could mean an early retirement for this MP.

Meanwhile, his neighbour in South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck, is facing being replaced as MP after members of her constituency backed a trigger ballot which opens up the selection contest to anyone interested in becoming a Labour MP.

For an aspiring Labour politician, South Shields would be a plum constituency. It's been Labour held for as long as anyone can remember and MPs there are returned with comfortable majorities. A recent holder of the constituency was David Miliband who resigned to spend less time with his family (little brother Ed had just become Labour leader). I am not aware of the reasons for the attempts to unseat Ms Lewell-Buck though her recent suggestion that she could contemplate a coalition with the Brexit Party may not have endeared her to her local members. Nevertheless, South Shields would be a prize catch for a Labour would-be MP. I wonder whether that is motivating some of her Labour opponents.

She does, however, have some choice descriptions she has applied to those trying to unseat her. According to the Chronicle, they are "bullies and tricksters", "evil" and "corrupt cadre".

She also revealed that problems within her constituency Labour party have been going on for years. 
Ms Lewell-Buck said, “I am not the first MP for South Shields to face this kind of continued abuse. Complaints about the behaviour of my CLP have been a constant for many years and it is a sad fact that the party nationally has failed repeatedly to deal decisively with the deep level of corruption that exists there.”

They're not a happy bunch in South Tyneside Labour! And the more they fight themselves, the less they can fight their opponents outside the Labour Party.

We live in interesting times

Saturday 19th October 2019 could be an eventful day in London. Assuming by then Extinction Rebellion are no longer blocking the streets, the People's Vote Rally will be winding its way from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square. At the same time, Johnson will be on his feet in Parliament explaining either his No Deal plans or his Brexit Deal plans, whichever is applicable. We live in interesting times!

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Brexit seminar this afternoon

My only council meeting today is this afternoon when we will be having a seminar about how Gateshead Council is preparing for Brexit. I was the one who insisted earlier this year that we have this seminar so obviously I will be there. The news coming out nationally however is looking like an agreement on Johnson's latest proposals is virtually impossible. I suspect the Conservatives always knew this. I reckon Johnson put forward proposals he knew would be rejected as he is a prisoner of the extreme Brexiteers who want a no deal departure. They call the tune in the Conservative Party.

A no deal departure will allow the building of a completely different model of economics on the wreckage of the British economy, an extreme free market, minimal state intervention, low regulation, low standards approach. Their vision is of Britain as Europe's offshore Singapore. Britain leaving with a deal means Britain continuing to conform, by agreement, with EU rules and regulation. The Brexiteers' alternative will require wholesale demolition of significant parts of the UK economy. Kiss goodbye to farming, car manufacturing and so on. That's their dream, for the rest of us a nightmare.

Monday, October 07, 2019

£620 on a meal for two

We discovered earlier this year that Gateshead Council sent two officers to a Local Government Chronicle awards ceremony at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. It's not exactly the best way to demonstrate that the Council is keeping costs and unnecessary spending under control. The cost of the meal for two was £620 with a further £330 on travel and accommodation. I can't imagine many residents of Gateshead splashing out £620 on a meal. Even a tenth of that would be beyond what many would be prepared to fork out.

The story was carried by the Chronicle and Journal on Saturday and Labour run Gateshead Council explained that "attendance at this national awards ceremony was funded by an income-generating service run by the Council and not from Council Tax payers. Money generated by this team goes back into providing local services for Gateshead residents."

But if you spend £950 from generated income on a meal and trip to London, that's £950 less to spend on services. And all money generated by Gateshead Council belongs to the council taxpayers of Gateshead anyway.

You can read the Chronicle coverage on this link.

Low Fell eFocus no. 43

The latest edition of eFocus for Low Fell was published last week. Contents include:

  • Supporting St Peter's Choir
  • Residents need right to park
  • New bus stop for Kells Lane
  • Concerned about crime? Come and meet the police
  • Supporting the Little Theatre
  • Dealing with flooding on Kells Lane
  • Labour Council causes Gateshead to lose say over money

You can read eFocus on this link.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Sunniside History Society meeting tonight

Sunniside History Society 1 Oct 19

It's the first Tuesday of the month and that means tonight Sunniside History Society is meeting. The speaker is David Goldwater, one of our own members but also one of the key archeologists working on Roman Vindolana. He will be giving up an update on the recent finds at the site.

Residents are welcome. The meeting starts at 7pm in Sunniside Club. £1 on the door.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Whinnies harvest festival

Whinnies harvest festival Sept 19 (1)

After our advice surgery yesterday I headed to the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside where a harvest festival was being held. Sadly the rain had kept many people away but it was still a great event with a cookery demonstration by Gwen Young of Riverford Organics, a keen advocate of eating more vegetables. The recipes she demonstrated used fresh veg and fruit picked that morning in the Whinnies Garden.

Whinnies harvest festival Sept 19 (2)

Whinnies harvest festival Sept 19 (3)

Emerging favourites

If a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson is to be held, there needs to be a credible candidate for PM who can unite the bulk of the opposition. Since Jeremy Corbyn can't even unite his own party, he should be ruled out as a serious proposition. Previous names proposed include Hilary Benn and Harriet Harman from Labour and Ken Clarke from the Conservatives. It seems Harriet Harman is now ruled out as I understand she is in the running to be Speaker. Now, a new name is in the fray who could potentially do the job and unite the different forces: Margaret Beckett. She has been prepared to take on the extremists in both Labour and the Conservatives recently. She certainly could be the one to be an interim PM.

Clearly, negotiations are underway and what is leaking out via the national media is interesting. But we wait to see what happens this week. It could be another rollercoaster ride.

Saturday surgery

Whickham Lib Dem councillors' surgery took place in Whickham Library yesterday morning. Two local police officers attended as well. This was especially useful to me as I had some casework with which I needed police assistance. Sometimes surgeries can be quiet, sometimes busy. Yesterday was towards the latter end. A steady flow of people came in. Plenty to do.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Whickham eFocus edition 124

We published our latest eFocus for the Whickham area last night. This edition is the first to be extended to Dunston and Teams ward. Issues covered include:
  • Tour of Britain race
  • Plans to tax buses could lead to more pollution
  • Greenhouses at the former Central Nursery to be demolished
  • £620 for a meal for two at a plush London hotel - at council taxpayers' expense
  • Back to the 1940s at the Tanfield Railway
You can read eFocus on this link.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The politics of scrap

lambs Aug 17 3

Land Rover Jul 14

Last week at Gateshead full council meeting, we had a debate about banning bottled water to help protect the environment and make the borough a bit more sustainable. Sadly, Labour destroyed the motion, committing themselves to doing nothing to save the planet.

One of the speakers was Labour Councillor John Eagle who attacked me for having a Land Rover Defender. Just for the record, I do have a Defender. It is 27 years old. I use it for my agricultural activities. (See the photos above taken inside the Defender, accompanied by 3 sheep! and being loaded up with timber to build a quail house.)

Among the three adults living in our household, we also have a 1.1 litre Polo, and I used that vehicle on Thursday to go to the Civic Centre for the meeting.

Moving bee hives, goats, animal feed and equipment is somewhat challenging in a small Polo, hence the reason we have the Defender. We restrict its use to less than 3000 miles  a year.

Cllr Eagle, and his revved up colleagues constantly interrupted me about my Defender during my speech. They shouted questions about the vehicle being taken off the road because of its age. Such a move would be highly counterproductive. The building of a vehicle takes up a huge amount of energy and resources. So does scrapping it. The shorter the life of a vehicle is, the more likely it is that more resources, especially energy, are used to build the vehicle than were used to drive it. 

Within the waste hierarchy, reuse is at the top of the pyramid (above refurbish/repair and recycle). Given that my Defender is 27 years old and has had 6 previous owners, far fewer resources have been used than if it were replaced every few years. That's the more sustainable way to behave - reuse first, well ahead of recycle.

Scrappage schemes for vehicles are, therefore, encouraging overuse of resources which are put to use in an inefficient manner.

Perhaps Cllr Eagle should think about this when he drives to council meetings - in his gas guzzling Jaguar!

I was somewhat amused however a few days ago when a large vehicle from Gateshead Council passed me on Gateshead Road in Sunniside. It was a 22 year old Defender, with the Gateshead Council emblem on the doors!

One rule for Labour, another for the rest of us......