Friday, March 30, 2007

Beating the Tories 11 to 10

The Conservatives have been making, or attempting to make, a story out of 10 Lib Dem councillors defecting to them since Cameron took the helm of the Tory ship.

So I had a phone call from from Lib Dem Communications Director John Oates asking me for the figures of councillor defections going the other way. The answer I came up with was 11 going over to the Lib Dems since September 2005 when the Tory leadership contest started. One was a former councillor but nevertheless prominent in his area. Two defections cost the Conservatives control of the authority in question.

If you want the full details of who they are, you need to be on the daily bulletin circulation list. George Crozier added it to the round up today.

Sent via BlackBerry

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dr Who or Focus leaflets?

I had a wonderful opportunity to go to a special viewing tonight of the first 2 editions of the new Dr Who series. But I also have a large number of Focus leaflets to write for Gateshead. Focus writing has won, along with writing my next email newsletter to constituents, eFocus.

I'll just have to wait til Saturday to watch it. Boohoo.......

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pics from the inside of the stately home of the Lord Rennard

We had a bash at Chris Rennard's house in South London on Thursday so that Media, Communications and Policy staff could meet Jon Oates, the new Director of Communications. Inevitably I turned up with a camera. So here's the pick of the crop.
George Crozier and Greg Simpson went head to head to battle over whether it was the Carpenters or the Eagles that were played.
The Media Centre in particular is known for eating all available food in Cowley St. Their eating skills were applied to the food on offer which was polished off in record time, leaving Lord and Lady R to do the washing up.
And strangely, people decided I had to appear in a photo for once and snapped me with our PCU volunteers Matthew Lavender and James Cooper.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Are there 2 Dave Andersons representing Blaydon?

Does Blaydon constituency have two different MPs who just both happen to be called Dave Anderson?

The reason I ask is that Blaydon MP Mr Dave Anderson, on 15th March, demanded in the House of Commons that there should be an “urgent debate” on the failure of his own government to pay nurses the 2.5% pay rise they have been awarded in Scotland. Nurses, he said, were “incensed” by the lower pay award in England.

But then on 22nd March, Mr Anderson, in the House of Commons, proudly announces that “nurses are finally getting paid the money that they should be paid” despite the government not shifting at all on the below inflation pay rise.

I find it hard to believe that one person can come up with such differing views in the space of a week. Could both Mr Andersons therefore get together and come up with a more consistent approach to representing Blaydon?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Just done TTTV "On the House"

I've just got back from the Millbank Studios having done Tyne Tees TV's "On the House". I was on with Peter Atkinson, Conservative MP who beat me for Hexham back in 1992, and Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, who I haven't met before. As you would expect, we discussed the budget.

I had a very useful briefing on the budget from those very nice people in the Political Communications Unit of Cowley Street!

At the end, TTTV offered to send me a video of the programme. "Could I put it on YouTube?" I asked, explaining that I do an email newsletter to nearly 3000 constituents and I put links on to videos. "We've never been asked that before!" was the reply. They'll check it out and let me know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

10/10 for presentation but 0/10 for 10p tax rise

Pulling a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute was an impressive performance by Gordon Brown at the end of the budget speech. But then the reality sinks in. The 2p income tax cut turns out to be a 10p income tax rise for those on low and middle incomes. Only New Labour could be so dishonest.

So instead of pulling a rabbit out of the hat, what he's really done is dip his fingers into the pockets of low income people, nicked a load of cash and then offered it to better off people. How incredibly New Labour.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Me and Susan Kramer in Downing Street

Luke Croydon from the press office at Cowley St took this photo yesterday of me and Susan Kramer handing over the Poat Office petition to Downing Street. These were the petitions collected together at Harrogate conference from campaigners across the country. There are however plenty more petitions still out in the country and I have heard that a number of MPs are planning their own hand overs.

We have also put the same photo out on the PCU email list this morning so plenty others will have it as well.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sun up at 6.20am

I know spring is approaching. It's that time of the year when I get up at some uncivilised hour of the morning and it's daylight outside. It is of course still rather cold. Jack Frost had been out with his graffiti spray can during the night and had set to work on our car. Fortunately it didn't stop me from getting to Newcastle. I'm now on the train to London. And this afternoon I'm in Downing St to hand in a petition!

Sent via BlackBerry

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I'm knackered!

My plan today was to whiz down to the office, print a load of focus leaflets (along with the crime survey - if you haven't used it yet shame on you!) then deliver a couple of patches in our key defence ward of Dunston Hill and Whickham East.

But then, on 9.30am Yvonne McNicol, our councillor for the ward, sent through some changes to the Focus. So I redid the Focus (actually Focuses - we rarely do ward wide Focuses now, we do estate and village based ones instead), then dragged David down to the office to help print, fold and count them into patches. We were finished at about 1pm but by then the snow was falling.

Difficult decision - should we wait before heading off to the ward to deliver or should we go home and have a bacon buttie (the latter won). Fortunately, by the time I have finished consuming my grilled wafer thin strips of pig, the sun was shining. So, David and I headed out and delivered 800 leaflets between us, then dropped off the bundles at our leafletters as well.

Frankly I feel knackered though after getting home I then had to visit a constituent who lives, fortunately, one minute's walk from my house.

I still have a Focus to write tonight. (It may have to wait 24hrs).

Expect more local videos from me soon. I went to Newcastle yesterday to film a demo by Newcastle Lib Dem students about the cap being lifted on student fees. I decided not to appear in this one but gave it to Ron Beadle to front instead. He is a Gateshead Councillor but is candidate for Newcastle North, one of our top targets in the North East. Video done in one take! I'll put it up on YouTube soon.

Am I a magnet for smoke?

Last night before I left London to come home to Gateshead I met up for a meal with Richard. Why do people feel the urge to light up their cigarettes in the middle of a busy restaurant? And why is it that I always seem to be at the next table to them? Notice how they hold their arms out so that their cigarettes are not wafting smoke across themselves. So why is is that they have to hold their cigarretes in my direction? And then to cap it all, why does cigarette smoke always home in on me? Have I got some kind of cigarette smoke homing beacon on my head or am I just a magnet for smoke?

We ended up having to move table. I am so looking forward to when the liberalisation of clean air comes in and we don't have to put up with smoke polluted enclosed spaces.

Thankfully, GNER trains are now smoke free zones (except when people use the toilets as smoking rooms or when people travel in the vestibules on the old 125s with the windows wide open.) Coach A was always for smokers. Which meant coach B stank of smoke. Thankfully we can breath on the trains now.

Enough ranting for tonight. It's 12.46am and I'm off to bed!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Shock! Mr Anderson votes with the Government

Well, as I expected, Mr Anderson, former firebrand and posturing left winger and now shiny new Labour MP for Blaydon, slavishly voted for the government last night! Shock! Well, not at all. Given his performance since his election in 2005, I would expect nothing else.

So try this for your edification and amusement. Tribune, that trendy, ranting rubbish of the equally ranting left carried an interview about Anderson in February 2005, just 3 months before he was elected. Apart from shouting from the roof tops about how "working class" he was, this Durham University educated former President of Unison bleated on about how he couldn't stomach being in the same room as the other Labour candidates wanting to be selected for Blaydon.

Tribune wrote, "Anderson is acutely aware that he is different from most aspiring parliamentary candidates. During the Blaydon selection, he sat in a room with the other hopefuls and realised that he had nothing in common with them. He says that, while he waited to find out if he was to be long-listed for the seat, he went for a long walk to get away from them."

Tribune then went on to explain, "They seem to want identikit candidates. As Anderson describes it: 'You put the key in their backs and turn them on.'"

And with Anderson, it seems as though the new Labour spin doctors got just what they wanted - an identikit MP who votes slavishly for the government.

And as for not being able to be in the same room as some of these Labour people, now he is in the same lobby (the whips tell him to be in).

I don't have a problem with party loyalty. But Mr Anderson posed as the rebel who wasn't part of the mainstream new Labour project, who wasn't like the others. And as soon as he got to the Commons, the key went into his back to turn him on for Tony and Gordon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It will be interesting to see how Mr Anderson votes

Regular readers of this blog, including those in my local Labour party in Gateshead, will know my thoughts on the former left-winger-turned-instant-Blairite apologist Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon. He swept into the Labour nomination on a wave of left wing posturing and "socialist" drivel, posing as the guy who was against the Blair project. He did, of course, leave all that at the St Stephen's entrance to Parliament when he got elected. Now he is a loyal bag carrier for the Blair government, already climbing the greasy pole as a ministerial bag carrier.

So it will be interesting to see how he votes in the Trident debate tonight. I'm watching you Mr Anderson.......

It will be interesting to see how Mr Anderson votes

Regular readers of this blog, including those in my local Labour party in Gateshead, will know my thoughts on the former left-winger-turned-instant-Blairite apologist Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon. He swept into the Labour nomination on a wave of left wing posturing and "socialist" drivel, posing as the guy who was against the Blair project. He did, of course, leave all that at the St Stephen's entrance to Parliament when he got elected. Now he is a loyal bag carrier for the Blair government, already climbing the greasy pole as a ministerial bag carrier.

So it will be interesting to see how he votes in the Trident debate tonight. I'm watching you Mr Anderson.......

Monday, March 12, 2007

Damned if we do and damned if we don't

Dunston Hill and Whickham East is one of the marginal wards we hold in Gateshead. It should be Labour with a comfortable majority but we gained it when the boundaries were redrawn three years ago.

Labour have put out a claim that we do not consult people, bizarrely on decisions of the Labour run council. The claim is rubbish. We spend a great deal of time carrying out surveys in the ward.

So the letters column of The Journal, our regional morning paper, this morning made for interesting reading. Now we are being attacked by the Labour party for, errrr, well carrying out consultation.

Seems as though we are damned if we do and damned if we don't (even when the don't is a does!)

Alas, we are very familiar with antics of the Labour candidate in the ward. He spend three years trying to get elected in my ward. The end result of his activities was a collapse in his vote!

Sent via BlackBerry

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Come in Mr Wallace

I went canvassing this afternoon in Lobley Hill which is in the neighbouring ward to my own. Last year we reduced the Labour majority in the ward from 900 to 92. As you can imagine, it is the top target for us in Gateshead.

Not a bad canvass but I was a bit surprised at the first house I called at. A retired person's bungalow and the person who answered the door was, I presume, the occupant's daughter.

"Come in Mr Wallace," she said before I had had a chance to introduce myself. "You'll be here for the elections."

I don't actually know who she is but it was a bit surprising to be so instantly recognised when I wasn't even in my own ward!

After the canvassing I went up to the bulb show in Whickham, with our Euro MP Fiona Hall. "You must get recognised quite a bit," said a constituent to me. I immediately thought of the Lobley Hill resident I had canvassed!

I suppose that having been on Gateshead Council for nearly 20 years, I should be in a position where people recognise me!

I'm currently working on the Whickham North focuses. We rarely do ward wide Focuses - instead, most of the Focuses we do are village or estate based. The current round of Focuses for this ward was meant to see 2 editions, one for the Swalwell end, the other for the Whickham end. Swalwell is written, printed and delivered. Whickham is now written. But we have had such a glut of local issues that we are putting together additional estate letters, one for each of the three estates in the Whickham part. They will go out with the Focus.

Somehow, the news stories keep pouring in. Each month I write 18 pages of text for our email newsletters. So far the well of stories and articles has not dried up!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Those conference pics I promised

I'm back home in Gateshead and now have a chance to post up some of the pics from conference. By the way, the photos I took at the Susan Kramer and Nick Clegg photo ops have now all been emailed out to the people who turned up. Around 80 members or groups had their pics taken.

I've included the one of me handing on the Post Office petitions we collected in Gateshead to SK.

Other pics include running the gauntlet of leafletters at the entrance, the end of Ming's speech, Phil Willis moves the Trident amendment (the one that was defeated) and Nick Harvey moves the Trident motion.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Is is 80 or 100?

I left the office this evening just after the Commons had taken the votes to approve both 80 percent and 100 percent elected upper house. So which is it, 4 out of 5 members to be elected or all of them? I have heard, and it is so far unconfirmed, that the highest share approved is the one the government will accept. It that's the case, it means no appointments whatsoever. Now that could be very iinteresting!

The next question is, is the government prepared to put time aside to get the proposals through. Perhaps Brown will see this as business he needs to see completed. And again, only time will tell. And it waits to be seen whether the government will allow for a transition in which the appointed lords are allowed to wither on the vine or are swept away in either one move or stages. I suspect they will attempt to buy out some with a rather comfortable lump sum (I think it's called redundancy payment) and an offer to use the facilities (no doubt many will regard the building as the best club in town). Persoanlly speaking, I can understand why they would go for the transitional approach.

So is this unfinished business about to be finished? I am reminded of when I was writing my PhD thesis - the biography of Walter Runciman (who was a Cabinet minister under Asquith). I studied the Cabinet papers as part of the research and looked into the Lords crisis of 1910-12. Well, the Liberal government then had no settled view on reform and frankly no government since has been able to sort out the composition either. So I will believe this thorny issue is resolved when I see the final result.

Sent via BlackBerry

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Conference pics

I was just about to sort through the 700 photos I took at conference but have just realised it is 8.50pm and I really should be leaving Cowley St. So I'll post a few up tomorrow instead.

Just done my second email newsletter of the week so over 1000 households in Gateshead this week have had eFocus.

And on that note, I'm off back to the flat for a Sainsburys pizza.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Were the media at the same conference as me?

Having read the media coverage of of Ming's speech to conference yesterday, I am left wondering whether they were at the same conference as me. What was clearly a speech throwing down challenges for Brown in his first months as PM has somehow been retranslated by the media into the conditions for a coalition. The problem seems to lie with an unnamed official who frankly was suffering from a bout of foot in mouth. One careless remark and an uncomfortable amount of wrong headlines.
Sent via BlackBerry

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Sardine Express

Well, would you believe it!? Trains from Harrogate to York are cancelled. So we have to go back to London via Leeds (I'm not going home tonight but instead I'm heading for London). So the local train to Leeds - I'm on it now - is heaving. The Sardine Express. Made all the more exciting by being a short train.

Well, conference is now over and it was a good one. Ming spoke well and as usual I joined the rugby scrum of photographers around him at the end. Politically it was a good conference with the nonsense of the Trident amendment thrown out. The 2 photo ops I put on were successful and it is likely that we will repeat this format in the future.

It could have been so much different if the Trident amendment had been carried. Whilst the oppositionists would have had their pyhirric victory, we would have been torn to shreds by the media. Sanity fortunately, prevailed.
Sent via BlackBerry

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Trident amendment defeated

Just come out of Trident debate and I'm now sitting in the Lib Dem European Group fringe (LDEG asked me to video it) but the great news is that the amendment to the Trident motion was defeated. This is excellent news and gives us a good policy on the doorsteps.

Mind you it was very close. It went to a count. I was in the middle of the hall when the vote was held. I thought the amendment was carried when I looked around. And when the result of the count came, those in favour was announced first. And I thought that with over 400 votes it must surely have won. But no, those against was higher by about 40 - I can't recall the exact figures.

It was a good debate and there was a late intervention by Ming who spoke incredibly well. The most passion was on the side in favour of the amendment but in the end they were fatally handicapped. They argued a case for straightforward unilateralism yet that was not what was on offer. Instead they had submitted an amendment that was mortally wounded even before the political battle began. There were attempts to rewrite it by some from the podium and that again undermined their own case.

Some supporters of the amendment claimed that it meant we would have no policy on the timing of scrapping Trident but that was a great thing they claimed as we could all come back at a later date to sort that out. Yet they attacked the proposers of the motion for putting back a decision on policy.

Ultimately sufficient members accepted the motion and rejected the amendment. But the headlines woiuld have been so different if the amendment had been carried. They would have been appalling and would have undermined us in the run up to the May elections. Thankfully members decided jumping off the top of a cliff was not a sensible policy.

Sent via BlackBerry

A surreal conversation at Harrogate

I had a strange conversation with a guy yesterday who was handing out a flyer backing the amendment to the Trident motion. I asked him why he was backing a position that appears hostile to Trident but then keeps Trident at full strength for the next 20 years. He claimed the amendment had nothing to do with that and that it was a "disarm now" call.

So I pointed out what his amendment does and at that point he admitted he hadn't read the amendment, or indeed the motion. And he was rather shocked about what his amendment was proposing. You would have thought he should have known what he was supporting before he started to encourage others to do the same.

Sent via BlackBerry

Friday, March 02, 2007

Off to Harrogate

I suspect a large number of blog postings from Lib Dems will have the same title. We are on the 10am train out of Kings Cross. This train is packed. Every seat is booked. Unfortunately all the Communications Unit staff are travelling on open tickets so we grabbed what seats we could in the hope they would not be claimed. We've just been joined by Norman Lamb in the same predicament!

At this conference we are experimenting with photo opportunities for campaigners. We have set up 2. One for those who have done the Post Offices petition for pics with Susan Kramer and another for those doing the crime survey with Nick Clegg. The one with Nick is going to be especially daunting as we have been inundated with requests for slots. Nick has agreed to a bit extra time but we will have to run it with military precision!

Sent via BlackBerry