Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Quarter of a million YouTube viewings

At the end of last week, I hit a milestone on my YouTube channel - quarter of a million viewings of all my videos. It's odd to think that two years ago, I have hundreds of video clips shot all over the planet yet I had no audience for them. Very different now and I still have hundreds of clips to edit and post up, especially after my recent visit to East Africa and Madagascar.

Travel video viewings still outstrip my political ones but the number of viewers I have for the latter are growing. Anyway, here's my top ten with viewing figures:

1) 46,691 Inside a former secret Soviet Submarine Base, Balaklava, Ukraine - I filmed this in October 2006 and surprisingly, it has now grabbed the top slot. If you are in to submarines and nuclear fallout bunkers, this is the video for you!

2) 46,650 Copacabbana Beach - One of the best beaches on the planet, if a little busy with sunbathers and joggers. If you are ever in Rio de Janiero, find time to visit. I made this video in December 2005.

3) 23,297 A Trip on the London Eye - Filmed this in September 2005. If you suffer from vertigo, this is definitely for you!

4) 12,666 Cuba's 2nd city: Santiago de Cuba - Rather surprised this one has such a following. The Havana video I shot on the same trip to Cuba in June 2006 has had less than 1000 viewings.

5) 8,968 Egypt: Pyramids and the Sphinx - I filmed this in November 2004. I was surprised how close the pyramids are to the centre of Cairo.

6) 7,271 Orang utans in Borneo Feeding time for a group of orphaned orang utans in a place called Sepilok, Borneo. I filmed it in November 2002 on a trip to the Far East.

7) 6,154 A view from the Petronas Towers - I think at the time I filmed this on the Sky Bridge on the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, in November 2002, it was the tallest building in the world. It has since been overtaken.

8) 3,206 Gauchos and horse riding, Argentina - This one is rising fast. I filmed it in December 2005 when on a ranch in Argentina about 100km from Buenos Aires.

9) 3,061 Port of Batumi, Georgia - another one that surprises me for being in the top 10. I visited Georgia on the Black Sea in October 2006. I suspect this one is popular with Georgian expats.

10) 2,805 Battle of Trimdon Green - my top political video and the one that probably put an end (for the time being) to the Robert Mugabe style of democracy Labour endorses in their strong areas. This was filmed in July 2007 in Sedgefield when a Labour mob invaded the meeting that was to launch the Lib Dem campaign for the by-election to replace Tony Blair. Labour tried to break up the meeting physically. But once this video appeared on YouTube, Tyne Tees Television and a large number of Lib Dem blogs, Labour dropped these tactics. Don't expect such renewed adherence to open democracy and free speech to last long. The narrow minded Mugabeites of Labour will be back.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Clegg visits Cowley St - more exclusive photos

Nick Clegg came to Cowley St yesterday to talk to staff. We were packed into the board room to meet him. Exclusive photos of the event......

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Photos from the Leadership Declaration

Another photo exclusive of sorts (ignoring the fact the room was full of other photographers!) but here are the photos I took at the declaration yesterday of the new Leader.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It was a shock to the system

Having arrived back from Kenya on Tuesday, I suffered 2 shocks to the system. Firstly, it was so damned cold! We looked in stunned amazement at frost on everything, having hours before been wandering around in shorts in temperatures of abour 40C.

Secondly we realised Christmas is coming up. That was probably more of a shock to the system. So last night we went down to the Metrocentre, that great cathedral to the gods of retail, though not quite as full of worshippers as I had feared. Still it was bad enough. And frankly, I didn't get any shopping done though I did do a good performance as a bag carrier for David. He will have to do my shopping for me through the week for, strangely, there is an event coming along this coming week that is likely to occupy a modest amount of my time.

And now for something completely different. This is me getting covered in snakes in Kenya: Snake Video

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cowley St Xmas Party - exclusive photos!

The Cowley St Xmas party was held last night and here are some of the exlusive photos I took before leaving to catch a train home to Tyneside.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shooting elephants (on camera and video)

National Express took over the franchise for the East Coast Line from GNER recently. Having been out of the country for 15 days, tonight is my first experience of their running the route. I am leaving Kings Cross heading home now.

I nearly didn't have my seat though that was not caused by National Express. Instead, I found my seat occupied by a bloke stuffing his face with a big mac and occupying the neighbouring seat with his bag. I politely told him he was in my seat. A significant amount of huffing and puffing followed by the angry packing up of his food took place. He then moved over to the seat behind me, which was also reserved. He then proceeded to have a loud conversation on his phone with someone to whom he was rude, demanding and foul-mouthed.

Anyway, for those interested, I have been in Africa and on the Indian Ocean for the past two weeks. Two weeks of taking photos of elephants and lions in Kenya, visiting a spice farm in Zanzibar, swimming with turtles in the Comoro Islands and paddling a kayak in Madagasgar. I will post up the entries from my diary over the next few days, along with some of the 1100 photos and 3 hours of video I shot. (This is actually 500 fewer photos than I took last year when I went on a cruise around the Black Sea).

I have also just left the Cowley St Xmas party. Photos to follow tomorrow.

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Back to delayed trains

Having just spent two weeks on the Indian Ocean, I have returned to find every train I wanted to catch is delayed. Last night it was the Gatwick to Victoria. Now it is the West Croydon to Victoria, delayed for an unknown reason. I have to catch a train to Newcastle tonight. Troubles come in threes!

I have avoided newspapers, internet and tv for 2 weeks and my blackberry was switched on only twice during the time I was away. So I have no idea about any news from the past fortnight. Has anything happened?
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Leaders neck and neck

As a member of staff I am not in a position to give a view on either of the leadership candidates. However, at the fayre we held yesterday in Crawcrook in Blaydon constituency, members had a good and informal discussion about the candidates. Views were pretty evenly balanced. Yet there was a complete absence of hostility by anyone towards the candidate they were not supporting. So the verdict from Blaydon is that it is neck and neck.

So going to our constituency fayre was the fun thing I did on my birthday yesterday. That and getting a haircut and sitting on the pc until 2.30am trying to clear a large backlog of work.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Labour MP and the Parliamentary logo

Readers may recall my blog post yesterday in which I explain that the Labour MP for Tyne Bridge, David Clelland, has had to abandon claims to the public purse for the cost of his website because he was using it to launch attacks on me, to slag off the Lib Dems and to post up childishly defaced copies of the Lib Dem logo.

Mr Clelland's spin machine must have got a bit constipated when it came up with the suggestion that this was somehow great news for him as he was now free from the constraints of the rules governing use of the Parliamentary Communications Allowance. A great victory for Mr Clelland as the herald of free speech, though this was only something he came up with after it was pointed out that he was not adhering to the rules about use of the Comms Allowance!

Mr Clelland is now shouting from the roof tops that his website is no long paid for by the taxpayer. Interesting.....But David, you still appear to be using the Parliamentary Portcullis logo. And on a party political site, which yours now is, I do believe that use of the logo is not allowed. You can find the rules relating to the use of the logo on page 32 of "The Communications Allowance and the use of House stationery" issued by the Commons Dept of Finance and Administration in April 2007.

Just thought I would helpfully point this out to you so that you can avoid the trouble the Conservatives had recently about using the logo on one of their websites.

By the way David, many thanks for responding so quickly on your website to my blog post from last night. I am delighted you take such an interest in my work.

And if anyone else would like to read Mr Clelland's raw nerve response to my pointing out he spoke only once in the Commons in the 1997 Parliament and his explanation for his silence, please do visit his site:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Labour MP no longer to misuse taxpayers’ money

Last week I posted a a story (link to Clelland allowance abuse story) about how a Labour MP (Dave Clelland, Tyne Bridge) was using his Parliamentary allowance to pay for a website that he was then using to attack me as a Lib Dem councillor and the Liberal Democrats generally. Mr Clelland also defaced the Lib Dem logo which he then included on his website.

I wrote that I was referring the matter to the Commons Finance Department to enquire into the appropriateness of taxpayers’ money being used this way.

Well, we have a result! Mr Clelland has rather hurriedly announced that his site is no longer to be paid for by the taxpayer. Visit his website for his convoluted and hilarious explanation as to how he wasn’t actually using taxpayers’ money.

Or simply let me summarise his argument. He hadn’t used taxpayers’ money to pay for what went on to his site in November as he hadn’t got round to billing Parliament for the period covering November!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He claims to be ever so grateful to me for bringing his attention to the restrictions that are placed on political comment by the Parliamentary Communications Allowance.

He has, he claims, opted for “free speech” and is no longer going to claim any taxpayers’ money for his website (presumably opting to speak freely before the Parliamentary authorities pay him a visit!)

Mr Clelland states, "If Councillor Wallace thought he could silence me he is mistaken." I have no interest in silencing Mr Clelland. I have to say however it is rather rich of him to refer to silence. In the 1997-2001 Parliament he spoke only once. And that was only 4 words.

I was the person who exposed this and I suspect Mr Clelland has not forgiven me for bringing the attention of Tyneside to his roar of silence.

He was, however, relieved of his governmental duties after the 2001 general election when he was freed to spend more time with his dictionary.

So, Mr Clelland is now to engage in free speech. And that means it will come free to the taxpayer as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Labour MP savaged by Daily Mail

Yesterday I blogged about the embarrassingly bad intervention from Blaydon Labour MP Dave Anderson in the Commons debate on Northern Rock on Monday. It seems as though the press were deeply unimpressed by his performance as well. Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail wrote:

"The low point of the day in the chamber came from David Anderson (Lab, Blaydon), a man whose sparse Parliamentary talents are in contrast to his wibbly-wobbly girth. Mr Anderson was displeased by LibDem and Conservative criticisms of the government’s hugely expensive rescue operation for Northern Rock. 'The parties oppositve have a track record of not caring about jobs in the North East,' he cried. Mr Anderson wheezed that for this reason alone Labour must ‘ensure’ that the opposition never again won power. It is at such times that you wonder if modern democracy is really worth the candle. If Blaydon is to send such a dim flame to Westminster, what hope is there for Parliament?"

Perhaps a bit over the top and a touch unkind. But I post it up here for the benefit of readers of this blog who can come to their own judgement on Mr Anderson.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Would you buy shares in this Labour MP?

Put £24 billion of public money into a bank to prop it up and it would be a dereliction of duty not to ask serious and searching questions about whether or not the money can be repaid and if so, how and when. Northern Rock has had more money put into it to save it from collapse that our schools have had over the past year. It outstrips all public spending in the North East put together. So any MP not asking some very searching questions about this money is not doing their job.

It seems that a good many Labour MPs in the North East are pushing the line that anyone who so much as blinks at the thought of handing over to a discredited management who have nearly bankrupted a medium size PLC more money than many government departments have to spend is somehow hostile to ensuring the company survives and is turned around. Labour argue that anyone who asks questions is out to destroy the North East, to take away jobs and, for good measure, eats babies as well.

Let me state my interest in this issue now. My partner and I are shareholders. We have in effect written off this investment. That's what you have to accept if you invest in the stock market. Fortunately the holding was only a tiny part of our portfolio but if you want to enjoy the benefits that go with the stock market, you have to accept the risks as well. That's how the system works.

I also have one close relative who works for Northern Rock. What happens with the company is therefore important to my family. And coming from the North East and refusing to give up on my region which is my home, the future of the company is clearly very important to me. But it does not stop us asking the questions about the financing of the company by the public that has happened.

I am not a fan of nationalisation. But there are times when it is necessary in strategic parts of the economy, such as the banking system, when things go horribly wrong and the private sector is unable to rescue the situation. Even the Conservatives know that - after all under them, the Bank of Credit, Commerce International, BCCI, was bought by the Bank of England.

So Vince Cable is right to argue that the extreme circumstances require a public takeover of Northern Rock, until such time as it is restored to health and can operate again as a going concern. The last thing that should be allowed is for another private operator to step in and buy somethign for less than its true value, leaving the public purse to pick up the difference. Such a huge subsidy to another bank, hedge fund or Richard Branson is completely unacceptable in a market economy. So if the private sector cannot come up with the right offer, the state should step in to protect its now huge interest as well as saving the business and the jobs.

David Anderson is the Labour MP for Blaydon - my home constituency (5000 majority over the Lib Dems, Conservative no chance here). Like other Labour colleagues in the debate yesterday, he trotted out the line that anyone so much as questioning the money that's gone in are akin to the dark forces of evil and need to be treated as such.

The most hopeless, crass and embarrassing intervention in the debate came from Mr Anderson. It was mercifully short which probably added to its potency as one of the worst interventions in a Parliamentary debate I have ever experienced. People’s jaws dropped at how cringingly bad was his performance. And then people just rolled about on the floor in laughter and merriment at such an atrociously poor performance. For entertainment value, it was a 5 star performance. For content and serious contribution to the debate, Mr Anderson is facing a debt almost as large as that of Northern Rock. Hopefully there will be no one willing to buy shares in Dave Anderson PLC. After yesterday’s exhibition, he cannot be regarded as a going concern (perhaps going nowhere concern would be better?) Best put him into liquidation.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Visiting Aunt Margaret

No politics today, other than reading the newspaper political commentaries this morning in the car. No campaigning either. David drove myself and Dad to Teesdale in southern Co Durham to visit his 94 year old sister Margaret. Dad is 17 years younger than Margaret. They first met only 4 years ago. My family has a rich and interesting history and at some point I will tell all about it! But that is for another day.

We met up at the home of my cousin Steven and his wife Stephanie. His brother Tim was there as well. Their mother Primrose is no longer with us. She would be 99 if she was still alive. Primrose married a Dutchman in 1935 and moved to Holland, surviving the Nazi occupation and moving back to the UK after the war. Tim's wife Kate, who was also there this afternoon, is herself the daughter of a German Jew who escaped to Britain in 1938 when the Sudetenland was handed over to Hitler from Czechoslovakia, after the Munich Crisis. (This was a subject I covered in detail in my PhD thesis.)

Margaret gave me a trunk made for Henry Wallace, my great grandfather. We think it was made in the 1870s. Henry was the first County Councillor for Whickham, back in the 1890s. I now represent the area on Gateshead Council.

David dropped me off at Darlington station afterwards so I could pick up the train to London. I am now at the flat. David headed home, with the trunk, which will take pride of place somewhere in our front room.

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More walkabouts

Yesterday saw our carrying out our next village walkabout, this time in Swalwell in the neigbhouring ward to mine. I went along to do the photos and video. These walkabouts are a good way of being seen and seeing what needs to be done. We invited residents to send us their suggestions as to what to look at. From this we produce a list of locations to visit. Last week we did Sunniside, the village where I live. Again, a successful exercise.

When I finished the walkabout yesterday, I went back to Sunniside. I had a long list of people to call on. One of them was aware of our email newsletter eFocus - she has relatives who receive it. She was keen to receive it herself - I have added her to the circulation list. The point is that the reach of eFocus is much wider than those on the recipient list. People forward it on to others and discuss the contents with family and friends. Over 500 households in my own ward now receive it, as well as many other houses in other wards as well. We even have people from outside the constituency asking to go on the circulation list.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Brian Paddick video

When I went to the launch of Brian Paddick's campaign to be Mayor of London to take the photos on Tuesday 13th November, I also shot this video.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Is it appropriate for a Labour MP to use taxpayers' money to attack the Lib Dems?

I have been attacked by another Labour MP in Gateshead. I think it was Dennis Healey who once described being attacked by Geoffrey Howe as like "being savaged by a dead sheep." I think this is one of those situations! David Clelland is the Labour MP for Tyne Bridge. He lacks the charisma of Geoffrey Howe and certainly doesn't have the ability to issue a quiet knock out blow, as the former Chancellor did with Labour's new friend, Margaret Thatcher.

Readers may recall however that a few weeks ago I took issue with Mr Clelland after he claimed that it was in the national interest that Labour should be in power (despite his constant whinging about how his beloved Labour government was letting down the North East). You can read my original post here: David Clelland and the national interest.

On Mr Clelland’s website, he defends the arrogant view that equates the national interest to the interest of the Labour party. It is frankly what you would expect from the likes of the Labour party in the North East.

Presumably, to take Mr Clelland’s argument to their logical conclusion, he should be arguing for a one party state with Labour being the only party allowed for, to have other parties in power would, under Mr Clelland’s somewhat disturbing analysis, be against the national interest.

You can read Mr Clelland’s attack on me on this link: Clelland website. People visiting it will be able to see the rather childish defacing of the Lib Dem logo.

However, perhaps readers could tell me whether launching a personalised attack on a councillor and attacking another party on a website funded through an MP's Parliamentary Allowance is an appropriate use of taxpayers' money.

I simply ask at this stage out of curiosity. So I took the liberty of looking up "The Communications Allowance and the use of House stationery" issued by the House of Commons Department of Finance and Administration in April 2007. In section 7 on page 27 it specifies that MP websites financed by the Communications Allowance cannot be used "to advance perspectives or arguments with the intention of promoting interests of any person, political party or organisation you support, or damaging the interests of any such person, party or organisation."

I was just wondering whether political attacks on opponents and the defacing of opposition logos fits the above requirements.

So just to be helpful to Mr Clelland, I have kindly raised the matter with the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration in the Commons, just so that Mr Clelland can rest assured that he is operating within the rules.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Exclusive photos from the Brian Paddick Mayor for London launch

I attended the launch today of Brian Paddick's campaign to become Mayor of London to take photos for various parts of the party. So this is an exclusive preview of some of them!