Thursday, May 31, 2007

By-election in BNP target seat

Last week, Maureen Clelland passed away. She was the much respected Labour Councillor for Dunston and Teams in Gateshead. The funeral was on Tuesday and Labour have already called the by election, for 5th July. Rather hasty I think.

The ward has been, and presumably continues to be, the top target for the BNP in the North East. However, their performance has been sagging recently. A by-election was held in the ward in September last year. Though it is usually comfortably Labour, much of the Labour vote has stayed at home in recent years. This was clearly the case in the by-election. In September, we were defending a modest 2nd place which we regularly take on the back of minimal election campaigns.

Despite the huge campaign mounted by the BNP in September, they failed to take 2nd position from us (and they clearly harboured hopes of taking the seat). Their setback did not deter them from targetting the ward again in May this year.

The focus of our campaigning in May was in the neighbouring wards, both of which are marginal, one defended by us, the other by Labour. Despite this, the BNP's position simply stood still in Dunston and Teams. We comfortably held our 2nd position, marginally increasing our vote and widening the gap over the BNP. We also partially clawed back some of Labour's majority.

I suspect Labour no longer fears the BNP in the ward. They are a busted flush there. I reckon instead Labour have been taking a long hard look at what we have done in the neighbouring ward of Lobley Hill and Bensham. This was once rock solid Labour territory. In 2004, Labour had a majority there of 900. This year, their majority was only 50.

And in the other neighbouring ward of Dunston Hill, we have turned a once safe Labour area into one with a growing Lib Dem majority.

With the BNP sinking fast, the Lib Dems pose a serious challenge. Labour are afraid, they are very afraid.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Did you stay up for the debate?

The Newsnight debate last night was a bit like builder's bottom - not very pleasant but you just can't help but look! So I stayed up for the debate, or rather I switched from a channel with the inevitable programme filmed from the back of a police car as cops go chasing crooks, to watch this drivel. So here are my impressions of Labour's democracy in action (ie the surrogate for the important election that Labour members were denied).

John "Who the Hell is He" Cruddas, a former Downing St spin doctor, standing on a platform of, errrr, getting rid of the spin doctors. Fortunately for him, he's no turkey voting for Xmas as he's not been spinning for Tony for 6 years. He's going for the left wing vote. (You shouldn't have voted for the Iraq war then John!) As Tony abolished the left wing of the Labour party, he doesn't stand any hope of getting elected. Watch what happens to his 2nd preferences.

Peter "He's No Liberal" Hain. A former socialist, he wants to be against everything he has voted for over the past 10 years so that he can win the backing of the person voting for John Cruddas. He's a self confessed opponent of the Iraq war who happily backed it 4 years ago after reading the Observer Book of Weapons of Mass Destruction. He wants the situation "internationalised" (ie hasn't a clue what to do and you have to be joking if you think other countries are going to bail out the US and UK now).

Harriet "Looks and Sounds Like a Tory" Harman, a former fan of the war in Iraq who now understands the appalling consequences of the decision to invade (such as making it very difficult to get elected as Labour deputy leader - fortunately for her all the other candidates voted for the war as well!)

Hazel Blair-Apologist Blears. Hazel was given special permission by her mum to stay up so late to be on this programme. She is unbelievably working class, a point she never, ever, ever, at all, not in any way mentions during this election as she thinks it will count against her in a party dominated by millionaires.

Alan "Postman Pat" Johnson. Alan used to deliver the post to Dorney Wood, a grace a favour house that all the candidates are hoping to move into. He is well known for liberalising the mail delivery sector whilst failing to liberalise the ownership of Royal Mail. Presumably he's hoping to put the latter out of business and see all his former colleagues retire early.

And finally.....

Hilary Zzzzzzzzzzzz Benn. If you're suffering from insomnia, he's the deputy leader for you! His campaign technique is to bore people into voting for him. This is working rather well and the bookies have him down as the favourite.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The weekend mini ice age

What did you do over the weekend? I tried to do the garden (we were in London over the weekend rather than Gateshead) but after potting up 40 tomato plants, I decided I was fed up with being soaked through and went indoors to watch the icebergs and woolly mammoths drift past as we experienced what felt like a mini-ice age.

Yesterday we went into central London and got rained on and blown about. After visiting the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery, we abandoned our other sight seeing plans and eventually headed back to the flat to huddle around a warm radiator.

Of course, this morning, it had to be sunny. I looked out of the window to see a fat grey squirrel sitting on our window sill munching its way throguh all our bird food. Tips for dealing with these peskie rodents would be appreciated.

My first video to reach 10,000 viewings

A minor milestone in my quest to conquer to world with my videos has now been reached. One of my videos has now had 10,000 viewings. It's not quite the best of political knockabout stuff though. In fact, there are no politics in it whatsoever. No, my most viewed video continues to be the one I shot on Copacabbana beach in December 2005. If you are really interested you can view it here: Copacabbana Beach

The video I shot in a former secret Soviet submarine base in the Ukraine in October last year has had a sudden surge of interest with over 2000 viewings this month. You can view it on this link: Crimea Submarine Base. At 5800 viewings however it still has some way to go to catch up with Copacabbana.

My most viewed political video is one I shot at Brighton conference last year of Michael Moore MP speaking to the LDEG meeting. It has been viewed 1570 times. I’m not sure if the similarity of the name with an American left wing film maker may have boosted the ratings! The link is: Michael Moore

The most viewed local news video I have produced is one about opencast mining proposals for my council ward in Gateshead, with 1100 viewings. These are much more likely to be constituents looking at this video so I am reasonably pleased with the total. The link is: Opencast

And of course, the video Labour tried to have banned (filmed at an election declaration in Gateshead in a ward where their candidate clocked up a very poor result) is still there to be viewed: election result

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A wild life in London

I walked out of my house in London a few minutes ago and watched as three ducks waddled down the road. It makes a change to seeing a fox wandering about the place, or squirrels munching their way through my garden! I feel like we are living in a nature reserve!

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Labour's next attempt to silence me

Regular readers of this blog will know about the failed attempt by Labour to force me to take down from my blog the video of the declaration of the Dunston Hill and Whickham East election result I filmed at the end of the count earlier this month.

The ward was Labour's top target in the local elections on Gateshead and they threw everything at it to try to win it back. The result was a near doubling of the Lib Dem majority.

Having failed to get the Council to order me to remove the video, you would have thought the Labour party would have given some serious thought to giving up their attempt to censor what is, after all, just the declaration of an election result. Why they don't want people to see the working of the democratic process is beyond me!

So I shouldn't have been surprised when I was phoned by a council officer on Monday with a second request from the Labour party that the video be taken down. I did feel obliged to point out that the fact the Labour party objects to the video is nothing to with the council. I did say that if anyone from the Labour party wants to speak to me about the video and to put to me their request to remove it, I would be happy to hear from them (though it would not result in the removal of the video!) I am still waiting for the call......

One of the interesting spin offs from this saga is that Labour have created for us a story where one previously did not exist. If they had been sensible and ignored the video, it would now be history. Instead, I now have a story of attempted censorship by Labour. And if Labour want to make the story run and run, who am I to stop them?

You can see the video on : Dunston Hill and Whickham East declaration

On a completely different matter, on Friday I saw the Labour candidate for my ward for the first time this year. He was unable to make the count on 4th May but fortunately for him, he was able to get to the mayor's reception on Friday evening where he was able to partake of the wine and food.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I'm not going to be censored by Labour

I had a rather amusing set of incidents yesterday regarding the video I shot of the declaration of the result of the election earlier this month for the Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward in Gateshead. The video went up onto YouTube and I also included a link to it in an email bulletin to over 1500 constituents as well.

Yesterday lunchtime I was in Gateshead Civic Centre to meet managers of Go Ahead Bus Company to discuss bus services. My colleague Peter Maughan, who represents Dunston Hill and Whickham East (though he was not up for election this year) arrived late, having been delayed by an encounter with a Labour activist whilst coming into the Civic Centre.

To save the blushes of the Labour activist concerned, I won't name him! However, according to Peter, he claimed with great glee that I was "in big trouble" because of my video, and that major complaints had been submitted to the Council demanding I be ordered to take down the video from my blog! He alleged I was not allowed to film the video in the first place.

It seems that the activist was not aware that I had asked for permission from one of the most senior officers of the council to video the declaration. The permission had been granted before the camera was brought out. This rather cut the ground from underneath the complaint which itself has now been binned!

This entire saga caused a great degree of amusement at the end of the meeting when I told everyone about it!

But it doesn't end there. At the mayor's reception last night, the same Labour activist came right over to me with a great urge to tell me I was "in trouble" because of my video. Oh dear, he wasn't aware that his complaint had collapsed! I was able to wipe the smile off his face by helpfully explaining to him that I had permission to shoot the video and that it was staying up on my blog!

He walked off muttering something about my "pushing my luck".

So if you haven't seen the video yet, here it is: Dunston Hill and Whickham East declaration. The ward itself was a top target for Labour. They threw everything and the kitchen sink into the contest and saw the Lib Dem majority nearly double.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Out with the new, in with the old

I have just sat through the annual council meeting in Gateshead. We have just appointed the new mayor and deputy. Contrary to my blog entry last nigh, Gateshead Labour group have gone against tradition and appointed as mayor a member who has been around for quite some time, rather than having only recently been elected. And what's more, the new mayor, David Lynn, was mayor only 2 years ago.

And sticking with the theme of putting the boot in on tradition, the new deputy mayor, Malcolm Brain, is the existing deputy mayor!

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Labour's defeated candidates' jamboree

Tomorrow is the annual meeting of Gateshead Council. For that reason I am on a train now heading to Newcastle. It will be followed in the evening by the Mayor's Reception. Mayors in Gateshead have always been Labour, and if recent practice is anything to go by, the Mayor is a Labour Councillor who has only been on the council for a short time.

We play a game at the Mayor's reception. It's called "Spot the defeated Labour candidate". 20 years ago, this was quite a challenging game, but as Labour have lost more seats over the years, it has become less of a challenge to spot Labour losers. Just why so many failed Labour candidates in the past got an invite to this event to be wined and dined is, well how could I put it - perhaps it's best to say that the reason so many are there each year is beyond me!

Perhaps a defeated Labour member who is a regular reader of this blog would like to explain why he or she gets an invite to this event.

Talking of failed Labour candidates, it seems plenty of people have enjoyed the video I posted up of the declaration of the Dunston Hill and Whickham East election result. A most enjoyable minute of video extravaganza in which the Labour candidate crashed to a spectacular defeat. Well worth watching again....and again....and again!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lib Dems make more gains than the Conservatives

I finished an analysis of the local elections in the North East last night for the regional newsletter I edit for Lib Dems (called North East Democrat). We easily out-performed the Lib Dems in the rest of the country making net gains of 29 seats. The Conservatives had a net gain of 18 (but they had far less to lose!)

In terms of seats won, Lib Dems strengthened their position as the 2nd party in the region. On the 23 authorities where elections were held, the seats won by each party are:

Labour - 562 (-48)
Lib Dem - 253 (+29)
Conservatives - 171 (+18)
Others - 161 (+11)

There is only one council without Lib Dem representation - Teesdale (run by the Independents). However, there are 7 Conservative free zones where Cameron's party has no seats at all: Newcastle, Gateshead, Wansbeck, Wear Valley, Durham City, Derwentside and Easington.

Some useful highlights from the region include:

Lib Dems become largest party on Berwick

Conservatives fail to make any gains on top target of North Tyneside

Yet again, Labour in Newcastle are in search of a new Leader after their current one lost his seat to the Lib Dems

The Conservative leader on Tynedale lost his seat to the Lib Dems

Constituencies where we topped the poll include Berwick, Newcastle North, Newcastle East, Blaydon and Durham City.

Worn out and cringe-makingly embarrassing

I am currently watching PMQs. Blair is away in Washington sucking up to Bush so Prescott is the stand in. For the benefit of the nation, thank goodness Prescott is retiring. An appalling performance from a worn out politician. His attempts to pepper all his replies with jokes was cringe-making. They fell flat everytime. And the worn out over spun messages convinced no one. Prescott used to have entertainment value. He now doesn't even have that.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another Labour defection to Lib Dems

We appear to have picked up another councillor from Labour. Bessie Griffin in St Helens has joined the Lib Dems and has at a stroke ended Labour's reign as the largest party (though without a majority). Labour and Lib Dems now both have 21 councillors on Sh Helens.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Alan Milburn MP - not sweet enough

Former socialist and now ultra new Labour MP for Darlington Alan Milburn has landed himself a sweet new job as salesman for junk food and sugar consuming international giant Pepsi.

Whilst no one in their right mind would normally want to follow the career of this sugary socialist, I am prepared to make an exception on this occasion to take a look at what Mr Milburn has said about sugar and junk food in the past.

Blair buddy Mr Milburn was Health Secretary before leaving government to spend more time with his family. In 2003 he warned, "Worldwide, mass-marketing of foods and drink high in calories, fat and sugar is replacing traditional diets rich in fruit and vegetables.

"I hope Ministers will take swift action to remove fast food, soft drink and confectionery machines from all schools."

In 2002, he told the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in London: "Healthy eating could reduce by one-fifth deaths from cancer, stroke and heart disease."

Quite how all this sits alongside his new role as a sugary drink salesman is not clear but just for information, a 500 ml bottle of Pepsi contains 55g of sugar.

Perhaps a spoon full of sugar helps the consultancies go down!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Just when constituents thought it was safe to go out...

The elections are over, leaflets have been written, printed and delivered, polling day is not for another year. Just when constituents thought it was safe to go out.....

So what have I done this lunchtime? - written a couple of street letters for delivery tomorrow! And there are more to follow this weekend.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dunston Hill and Whickham East declaration May 2007

This is too good not to show. The declaration for the Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward in Gateshead. A Lib Dem hold with an increased majority - Labour threw everything at it to win. The Labour campaign was based on ridiculous claims no one believed and that were in direct conflict with what the Labour party was doing on the council. No tears have been shed over Labour's defeat here.

Dunston Hill and Whickham East declaration May 2007

I couldn't resist the temptation to put this video on YouTube. It is the declaration of the election result for Dunston Hill and Whickham East in Gateshead, one of 2 wards heavily targeted by the Labour party. I was not the only person to be massively delighted that the Labour candidate here went down to a crushing defeat.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Socialist Dave bankrolled by capitalism

Speaking as a supporter of a liberalised market economy and as a capitalist myself (though in only a small way!) I have no problem with Labour receiving donations from businesses. Provided it's publicly declared, it is for the owners of a business itself to decide who benefits from the profits (though of course, there should be a cap on donations to prevent wealthy individuals or well endowed organisations buying influence in the corridors of power.)

That said, please read on for another thrilling installment of the Parliamentary Story of Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon constituency (where I live in Gateshead!).

Our regional newspaper, The Evenign Chronicle, carried an article a few weeks ago about a group of law firms that had made over £250 million out of the taxpayer by dealing with miners' compensation claims. That didn't really attract my attention. After all, they were doing their legitimate work and were rightly paid to take on the cases of miners for whom they successfully won compensation for the diseases and injuries caused by working in the mining industry. One firm alone, Thompsons, made £100 million.

What did attract my attention was the attack on the firms made by Kevan Jones, Labour MP for Durham North, next door to Blaydon. Mr Jones described the money made in fees by the firms as a "feeding frenzy by lawyers."

But hold on a moment, didn't Thompsons advertise in Dave Anderson's literature, just before the general election? I went off to check my collection of leaflets and sure enough, a large advert was included in a glossy colour Labour leaflet encouraging miners to claim compensation through Thompsons.

And a quick check on the Electoral Commission website found Thompsons had made a donation for printing to Blaydon Labour Party in March 2005 of nearly £5000.

Mr Anderson loves to posture as the working class socialist defending the downtrodden workers against the capitalist oppressors. But it's also interesting to learn that he is ready to have his election campaign at least partly bankrolled by a successful capitalist concern! A case of having your capitalist cake and eating it!

As for Mr Jones and his comments, perhaps he should have checked with Mr Anderson before he opened his mouth.
Photo: the advert that helped to bankroll Labour's general election campaign in Blaydon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

20 years ago today I was first elected

Today is the 20th anniversary of my election to Gateshead Council. By most accounts that means I must be one of the fixtures or fittings of the council. The more bizarre point is that whilst I am now one of the longest serving councillors in Gateshead, at 43 I am still amongst the youngest!

Back to the grind

After 10 days at home running election campaigns and then doing things that have no political connections whatsoever, I am heading down to London, no doubt waiting to be met by an inbox bursting with emails that will take me most of the week to sort. Our office also has a meeting this afternoon with the big boss.

One thing I forgot to mention in previous blog entries is that we outpolled Labour in Blaydon constituency. I don't have the figures on me at the moment but I'll post them up soon.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

A day trip to Rotherham

Things just can't get better than this! A day trip to Rotherham! Actually a trip to the new home of David's sister Jill and her husband Colin who moved from Cambridge on Friday to this gritty Yorkshire town! Colin's job has just changed, hence the move. David and I drove down today to visit them. It's only a couple of hours in the car.

Anyone who read my recent blog posting on making nettle soup will know I am expanding my interest in wild food cookery. The flan pictured here is one of 3 made yesterday using nettles and wild garlic. It will be inflicted on Cowley St tomorrow. Colleagues will act as the guinea pigs for such experiments.

The other pic is of David's mother, me relaxing and Jill at the new house this afternoon.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

And now for something completely different

I am suffering from election withdrawal symptoms. I feel the urge to sit at the pc and write focuses or election leaflets. And if not writing them, I feel I should be out delivering them. But with the election over, this weekend is an election free zone. Nothing political was done. So we did something completely different. My colleagues in Cowley St know me as a jam maker. I collect wild fruit and make it into something people spread on their toast in the Cowley St kitchen.

Today I turned my hand to making a different product from wild foods: nettle and wild garlic soup. This was an experiment and I had to follow the recipe from memory - my wild food cook book is at the flat in London but we are at home in Gateshead. The result of this culinary operation was actually quite pleasant. However, we picked so many nettles and wild garlic that we have a mountain of ingredients left over. We'll be making a stash of the soup tomorrow to go into the freezer for later in the year.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Labour leader defeated in Newcastle

I noticed people are listing defeated leaders of other parties on various Lib Dem blogs. Here's another. Labour Leader on Newcastle John O'Shea went down to defeat in Newburn where the Lib Dems stormed to victory. He was only leader as the previous Labour leader and deputy lost their seats in the 2004 Lib Dem landslide that ended 30 years of Labour rule.

Tales from the campaign trail no 7: It's a one horse race

The riders are under starter's orders......and they're off. But Conservatives and Labour in my ward of Whickham South and Sunniside forgot that there was an election. The result was a bit of a one horse race. No literature from the Conservatives and only one from Labour, and that went out 2 weeks ago.

Size matters so for all of you who like to get your teeth into something big, here goes: I have the biggest vote, biggest share of the vote, biggest majority and biggest percentage majority in Gateshead. My majority of 1500 is bigger than all but 2 actual vote totals for individual councillors.

The neighbouring ward of Dunston Hill and Whickham East was a Lib Dem marginal into which Labour poured a huge amount of effort to try to take back the seat. Unison pumped a wad of cash into Labour campaigning there. The result was a doubling of the Lib Dem majority to 600. Frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Labour get trashed by the voters there. And for good reason. Labour here made some ridiculous and absurd claims about Labour being opposed to decisions Labour had taken. It then became very easy for us to point out the difference between what Labour were saying and what they were doing.

The Labour campaign there also provided me with much material for my blog series of "Tales from the Campaign Trail", especially their monumental own goal over their spinning a story the local school was to be rebuilt, a claim based on the fact the kitchen's were being refurbished and some mobile classrooms replaced.

The disappointment of the day however was Lobley Hill and Bensham. Last year we cut Labour's majority from 900 to 92. This time we cut the lead from 92 to 53. Both parties added substantially to the total number of votes each had. But Labour threw everything at the campaign and they won, though only just.

I know what we need to do to give us the lead but I ain't saying what it is. After all, Labour love to read this blog.

I am re-elected

I am back in. Got 2043. Labour on 570 and Cons on 327.
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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tales from the campaign trail no 6: beware BNP masquerading as "Christians"

The BNP are hoping to pick up a seat in Gateshead in the local elections. Their top target is Dunston and Teams ward. On Saturday, I was handed a leaflet delivered apparently commercially with some takeaway restaurant flyers to houses in the ward, which purported to come from "The Christian Taxpayer's Revolt" based in Welshpool.

The leaflet uses BNP artwork (the now familiar Libby logo made up of condoms and needles) and repeats allegations against some named Lib Dems which have been well used by the BNP in leaflets throughout the country.

It then goes on to make wild allegations about the Lib Dems. It concludes with a claim that the leaflet was distributed by "Christian neighbours".

Having tried to disguise their activities as those of "Christians", the BNP were then seen delivering the leaflet across the border in Lobley Hill and Bensham ward (our top target), which sort of undermines the pretense that it was produced by a group independent of any political party.

No doubt someone will check the BNP election expenses returns to ensure the costs are declared.