Friday, February 10, 2006

When suffering from political indigestion take a Rennie

Dunfermline was below the radar. Well below the radar until a message arrived from Party Chief Exec Chris Rennard a couple of days ago saying all hands on deck. And then yesterday (Thursday) in the afternoon, came the message putting us on standby for a shock result.

But I had to see it to believe it. A month ago we dared not turn on the tv or radio in the morning for fear of another Lib Dem revelation. A month is a long time in politics. Willie Rennie now an MP. After a month of political indigestion for the Lib Dems, take a Rennie! It's a great cure!

So have a moment (just a moment) of sympathy for Labour members. The world for them gets worse. On Thursday they kiss goodbye to Dunfermline. On Friday, they have to go to Blackpool. Life couldn't get much worse.

So to my Labour friends, a little message. In the famous words of Monty Python, Always look on the bright side of life. For the rest of us, Dunfermline brightened up our lives! Pass the champagne please!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hair today

The big day of the On the House tv interview. Serious preparation needed. Most important thing to get right - appearance!!!!!!!!! Topping the list of appearance concerns is hair. Never go on tv like you've been dragged through a hedge backwards! Solution: wash and blow dry and then dump load of hair gel on head and leave to set hard. (I cracked my head on a shelf in the office before heading off to Tyne Tees TV and nearly shattered my hair!)

Next appearance issue: get the tie right. The blue one, which strangely went with my blue shirt. Then put on posh suit, grab background papers from last night and head into central London.

A 25 minute train journey gave me the chance to read all the papers again - useful since I had forgotten so much of what I read last night.

And then, just to make sure I remembered it all, I read them all again in the office. Sorry boss, I know you read the blog. Misuse of work time. Stay behind tonight Jonathan and catch up!

Then off to the Millbank studios, a great trek of, well, just one minute's walk from the office. I was on the programme with Roberta Woods, Labour MP for Durham City, and hopefully the prospective former MP for the constituency given her rather slender majority over the Lib Dems.

So 15 minutes on ID cards. The programme includes a sketch from Yes Minister in which Jim Hacker was resisting (quite rightly!) the introduction of ID cards.

Alas, the programme goes out tonight at 11.30pm. No doubt the army of voters in the North East will definitely be staying up late to experience the delights of JW on tv (not)! Mind you, given the timing of this, people coming back from the pub will catch it. And after five pints and a vindaloo, no doubt even I could sound devastatingly interesting!

Meeting this afternoon with Transport 2000, the campaign group that has an uphill struggle against the current government to turn Labour rhetoric on public transport into reality. I again returned to the problem of the possible closure of Dunston and Blaydon railways stations. Then we got sidetracked into a discussion on Grand Central's plans to run trains from Sunderland to Kings Cross before being shunted into a further discussion about other rail services. Then we reached the terminus of the meeting......I think that's enough train puns for today!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pack em in like sardines!

The office I occupy in Lib Dem HQ, Cowley St, is next door to the "board room" - the big meeting room. So I was intrigued on Tuesday when I saw a large number of saville row suits walking into the room. Intrigued enough to go and investigate. The Liberty Network were having a meeting - or rather a Leadership hustings. If the Lib Dems have an exclusive club, this must be it (other than of course the tranquil surroundings of the plush National Liberal Club). Liberty Network has an entry fee of a grand. No I'm not a member! The meeting was a case of packing them in like sardines. Standing room only.

So in came the leadership candidates: Ming the Mercifully Nice, Chris "Dark Horse" Huhne and President Hughes. Now less than a month to go of meetings, hand shaking and repeating the hustings speeches. Mind you, the number of emails from supporters of the different candidates could seriously over fill your inbox. Still, I would rather have that than the flood of spam emails I've had today with offers of software to block, well spam email as it turns out.

Gerry Foley from Tyne Tees TV called me this morning. He wants me on their politics programme tomorrow to talk about ID cards. So I spent an afternoon pestering Victoria, the Lib Dem policy officer who deals with home affairs, to send me some background information. I think she got fed up with my asking. End result is a huge amountof info which I'll have to read tonight. Bang goes that idea I had of spending a few hours on that addictive pastime of attempting Su Doku puzzles (I got a book of them for a Christmas pressie).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Just another hectic weekend

The weekend was one of those hectic, manic episodes of whizzing around Blaydon constituency taking photos, producing leaflets and going to meetings. It started on Saturday morning with my taking photos for the Whickham North Councillors. Then I have to rush down to Ryton for the Blaydon constituency meeting, storming in 10 minutes late with 2 large plates of sandwiches for the buffet lunch.

Once the meeting had discussed the latest madcap decision of the Highways Agency to block a factory development on the Team Valley, we then got on to the issue of library closures. Gateshead Council want to close Lobley Hill and Ryton Libraries. I remember LH library from when I was a kid so I would be sorry to see the loss of it. The end result was that the meeting wants me to organise the campaign to save them.

So at the end of the meeting as everyone was eating the sandwiches I had brought, I spent my time explaining to the Ryton and Lobley Hill/Dunston Hill members how I would run the campaign. Fortunately the sandwiches hadn't run out so I took what was left home with me for an impromptu lunch.

I had two hours to put the Lobley Hill and Dunston Hill Focus leaflets together before heading down to Lobley Hill library to take photos with Allison Chatto and Yvonne McNicol, the Lib Dem councillors for Dunstion Hill and Whichkam East (which includes part of LH) and Susan Craig, our Focus Team leader in LH.

With the light beginning to fail, we whizzed round LH to get some more photos taken for our Focus newsletters. Once back home I was able to put the pics into the Focus files then head down to the office in Whickham to print the first batch of 300 for delivery the next day.

By the time I was back home and had had my dinner, it was 10.30pm. But I refused to forego my normal Saturday night relaxation - a long hot soak and the read of a good history book. I climbed out of the bath at 12.30am and rolled into bed.

Sunday was equally manic. I was in Rowlands Gill for a meeting with our council candidate at 11am, back to my house at midday for a meeting with our Winlaton and High Spen team and then down to Ryton at 2pm to take photos of the 3 cllrs outside the library. Back home, I put together the Ryton Focus newsletter, churned off a load of target mail and then went back to the office with Noel Rippeth , our group leader to print the Ryton Focuses.

I got to bed at 1am and then got up at 1.15am, having realised I had forgotten to back up a load of files I needed to take with me to London. Back to bed at 1.30am.

I sleep walked about the house on Monday morning trying to wake up. The train I was due to catch was at 8.30am. We would normally set off in the car to Newcastle half an hour before the train is due to leave. But not this time. The traffic builds up on the Sunniside to Lobley Hill road and congestion is the order of the day. We had to leave early to avoid it. Problem was, I ended up getting to the Central Station with half an hour to kill. Had I left leaving the house a few minutes, the chances are I would have missed the train!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

There is something mildly annoying about a train journey that should have taken 25 minutes actually taking an hour and a hour. My attempt last night to travel from central London to the suburbs did not endear the railways to me. So today, back in London, I had in my diary a meeting with Network Rail in Parliament with our Parliamentary Transport Team.

I decided however it was not the place to raise the problems of power failures on commuter trains, frustrating though the problem is. Instead we did have a useful discussion about the Tyne Valley line - there is a proposal to axe Blaydon and Dunston stations - and about the new rail service from Sunderland to London which will compete with GNER.

I'll be back to them with more comments about Blaydon and Dunston.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jonathan Wallace Posted by Picasa
Well, after umming and erring about it, I've set it up, my very own blog! I have, of course, just spent over an hour working out how to get the photo onto the site! I know the computer nerds find that sort of thing easy to do!

The fun of course will start tomorrow, Thursday 2nd Feb, when I start putting some real entries onto this site.