Thursday, February 14, 2019

On BBC Look North

I was on BBC Look North this evening, talking about community asset transfers, especially as they affect bowling greens. I was interviewed at the green in Marley Hill. I've been helping the club with its community asset transfer. Marley Hill is at the forefront of transfers of bowling greens and the people running the club are very enthusiastic about it. The story starts 10.12 into the programme. If you blink, you will miss my bit but it's on this link.

The green has a nice privet hedge around it and the guys were happy for me to trim it. So 2 birds killed with one stone: BBC interview and food gathered for my goats!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Whickham delivery

Whickham North Focus Feb 19

Friday morning was cold and windy. Perfect weather for delivering Focuses on the Glebe in Whickham. 300 Focuses later and the cobwebs had definitely been blown away!

Friday, February 08, 2019

One rule for the many, different one for the few

car park empty Gateshead Oct 18 1

Gateshead Council rightly takes action against those who flout planning rules. If you don't have planning permission for a development that needs it and you go ahead with it regardless, planning officers will come knocking at your door. Continued failure to abide by planning rules can result in legal action taking place. Indeed, this is exactly what took place with a pub in Bensham, Whickham House, which has been hit by a £50,000 fine following failure to remove an advert on the side of the building which had been placed without planning permission.

Sadly for Labour-run Gateshead Council, while applying the rules to the many businesses and residents of the borough, they forgot to get planning permission on place before building a huge new car park at Quarryfield, near the Gateshead Quays. This vast car park was built in time for the Great North Exhibition last year. And then it was pointed out that no planning permission had been granted for the development. Two days before the £700,000 car park was due to open, Gateshead Council granted itself planning permission. To add insult to injury, the decision to spend this not insignificant sum of money on the car park was only officially agreed by the council cabinet three days before it opened.

This rather expensive incident does not put Labour Gateshead in a good light. Residents and businesses could be forgiven for thinking there is one rule for the many, a different one for the few.

And to add even more insult to injury, hardly anyone has used Quarryfield. There is a danger it will become a parking lot for white elephants, though it is unclear whether or not planning permission is required for this change of use!

Saved by the Faroe Islands

Torshavn Jun 09 (44)

The Department for International Trade has been hard at work recently and hooray, we have a trade deal that will save the UK from the abyss once we are into the brave new world of Brexit! That economic superpower, the Faroe Islands, has signed a trade agreement that allows fish and crabs to be imported into the UK. It looks like the great British fish and chips dinner has beaten back those hoards of beastly Eurocrats! This is real Brexit - making our own trade deals with the major economies around the planet!

Except that the trade deal is simply a rollover of the existing EU trade agreement with the Faroes. So, far from Brexit letting us negotiate our own trade agreements, instead, Britain is free to negotiate for what we already have. The only difference is that we now have to pay for our own Department of International Trade when previously the EU would have carried out international trade negotiations on our behalf. It would be interesting to see the price we pay to run this department. How much does photocopying other people's work cost these days?

(Photo of me in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, June 2009)

Government press release on this link.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

DLI at the History Society

Sunniside History Society Clive Bowery DLI Feb 19

On Tuesday, Sunniside History Society, we had our monthly society meeting, and the speaker was Clive Bowery who gave us a fascinating talk about the DLI (Durham Light Infantry) during the First World War. He focused on the discovery, identification and burial of three soldiers killed during the conflict whose remained were found in the past five years. 

The most intriguing was 2nd Lieut Arnold Septimus Barker from the Sunderland who served with the 7th Bn DLI, who somehow got to be buried in Singapore! Clive explained that Barker was invalided out of the army no fewer than THREE TIMES through injuries he sustained during the first two years of the conflict. Following his third invalidation, he accepted a role with an oil company based in Singapore, but unfortunately he was still suffering the effects of being gassed and died there in May 1917.

The next meeting is on Tuesday 5th March at 7.30pm at Sunniside Social Club where the speaker is Richard Pears talking about the photos of the Whickham area taken by Jack Medcalf.

More having Labour cake and eating it

During the 2016 referendum, the Brexit campaign offered an idyllic future in which we would have all the benefits of EU membership with none of the costs. We were told the EU needs us more than we need them. We were the giant forcing those little Europeans to the negotiating table where Britain would use its superpower status to beat up all those foreigners and make them accept a British dictated future deal. In other words, Britain would leave the club but continue to use the facilities without paying membership fees, and for good measure, wouldn't even have to abide by the club rules.

It all sounded too good to be true. Indeed, it was too good to be true. The past two years have demonstrated clearly that the UK is a middle ranking power having to seek a deal with an economic superpower from which we are removing ourselves. All the cards are stacked in the EU's favour simply because of economic and political reality.

Now it appears that Jeremy Corbyn is putting out feelers to Theresa May, outlining a number of demands that need to be met before Labour will back the Conservative government over Brexit. So let's take a look at their demands.

A permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union, including a say in future trade deals.

While some form of customs union is possible (after all the EU conceded a customs "arrangement" in the May deal, at least as a temporary measure), Labour are in cloud cuckoo land if they believe the UK can walk out of the EU and then continue to have a say over trade deals negotiated by the EU. If Labour's demand were agreed by the EU, it would mean the UK has been rewarded for leaving with even more say that we have at the moment over EU arrangements.

Close alignment with the single market, underpinned by “shared institutions”.

This is similar to the previous point. Labour seem to think Britain can create a "shared institution" in which we and the EU seem to be equal partners able to redirect the direction of the single market. So, yet again, the UK would be rewarded by the EU for leaving. The UK can be part of the single market as either a full EU member or under a Norway-style agreement in which the rules are accepted but the UK has no say over them.

Dynamic alignment on rights and protections, so that UK standards do not fall behind those of the EU.

If implemented, what is the point of leaving as this policy means the EU would decide our employment and environmental law with no say for the UK?

Clear commitments on future UK participation in EU agencies and funding programmes.

More cake and eating it. Brexit is supposed to mean we don't need the EU, but here we have the UK continuing to benefit from membership of a whole string of EU institutions. No doubt Labour will dream, just like the extreme Brexiteers, that the EU will give the UK free access to these institutions and an equal say with the EU over running them. Dream on.

Unambiguous agreements on future security arrangements, such as use of the European arrest warrant.

Even more cake and eating it.

So, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn inhabits the fantasy world of Superpower UK. The reality is that the EU is in a far stronger position than we are. And they are living in the same world as the hardline Brexiteers of the European Research Group.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Whickham eFocus 113

The latest edition of the Whickham area eFocus has just been published. Issues covered include:

  • Chase Park house-building proposals agreed in principle.
  • Fellside Road reopened.
  • Call for A1 air clean up.
  • Council Budget.
  • Sunniside table top sale.
  • Dunston Station extension.
  • Camera view of local roads.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Council and campaign video diary - January 2019



This is my video diary of my council and campaign activities in January, covering the meetings I attended, action days attended, site visits carried out and occasional views on issues such as Gateshead Council's budget.

That Labour sinking feeling

In 2015 and 2016, Labour's starry eyed members voted overwhelmingly for Jeremy Corbyn as their leader. The 2017 general election rather disguised the problem Jeremy Corbyn is for Labour. What appeared to be a good election result (it looked good only because the assumptions about the outcome were so bad for Labour), turned out to be a much less generous picture for Labour. While there had been a significant increase in share of the vote, Labour failed to turn most of that into a significant increase in the number of seats they hold.

Two years ago, Labour behaved as if they had won the general election. I heard lots of Labour councillors in Gateshead drooling about the forthcoming socialist revolution. All they needed was another general election and they will sweep to power to implement the red revolution (which amounted to forcing Britain to relive the 1970s) and a fantasy Brexit that would give the UK all the benefits of EU membership without the costs.

Nowadays, I hear nothing from Labour councillors about Corbyn walking on water. They can barely bring themselves to mention his name. That's hardly surprising. His fence-sitting on Brexit and his total failure to hit the Tories hardly inspires Labour members (or anyone else). The guy is a waste of space who has significantly helped to reduce Labour's poll ratings to be 6% below what they achieved at the 2017 election. That's quite an achievement for an opposition party that is facing a governing party that is tearing itself apart.

So, as I said last year in this blog, Labour need to be careful what they wish for. Their answer to every policy vacuum is "Hold an election." The danger now is that they could get exactly what they ask for!

Withering on the Brexit vine

It looks likely that in the next few days, Nissan will announced that it will not go ahead with a planned investment at its plant in Sunderland. The Government promised Nissan in 2016 after the referendum something, though what is not clear. Why Nissan executives at the time accepted assurances that ministers were not in a position to deliver is one of the many unknowns of Brexit. I suspect however that Nissan's pending announcement will be the model for Brexit. Major international companies have significant investments in the UK. They won't abandon them overnight, once Brexit happens. But they will be left to be run down over the coming years. Plants in Europe will get investment, plants here will be maintained on an on-going basis until such time as patching up and cannibalising aging equipment is no longer viable. Factories will wither on the Brexit vine.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Pelaw and Heworth eFocus no 3

The Lib Dem Focus Team in Pelaw and Heworth ward of Gateshead have just published their next eFocus. This is their 3rd edition and features:
  • Dealing with anti-social behaviour
  • Potholes fixed
  • Good news for Bill Quay farm
  • St Mary's Church clock repaired
  • Update on the Council's Budget
  • Helping the Focus Team
You can read eFocus on this link.