Friday, August 31, 2007

Why do new jeans have to have a worn look?

A friend went to a shop this evening and bought 2 pairs of jeans. Both come with the ready worn look. He gave one of the pairs to me. Thank you! But I don't quite understand the fashion requirement that new clothes have to look as if they've been worn 100 times before. Surely new clothes should appear as precisely that - new! If I wanted the worn look, I would dig out one of my old pairs which have already enjoyed years of hard work. If I wanted to buy a pair that already looked worn, I'd go to a jumble sale. And because all my clothes already look worn the last thing I would do is biuy the worn look!

Or am I just getting old!?

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another casework surge

I had another casework surge today from constituents. All by email. And all in the space of a few minutes. All the issues are different but I was reminded of when I first started to use email as a way of communicating with residents, back in 2000. The number of emails I had today was around what I would have got in the whole of the year. People then still used the traditional form of phone calls, letters or visits to the surgery.

Whilst people still use these to communicate with me, the number of emails I get has rocketted. It has been helped by our email newsletter eFocus. I first produced eFocus in 2003 when I had the email addresses of 50 constituents. We now have a 4 figure sum of emails. Each time I send out the email newsletter, I am communicating with 1000s, rather than 10s, of people. I also now produce video articles with links from eFocus. They are growing in popularity and as all this is still relatively new, I am learning what works and what doesn't. Now I have the problem of producing enough video material to ensure we have at least a couple of new videos on each eFocus.

But you can't get away from old technology for too long. I spent some time tonight phoning some of the helpers in my ward as the next focus is ready to be delivered (I printed it on Monday evening - a good bank holiday activity!) And of course, Focus remains the main form of communication with residents.
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Northern electoral 'permafrost' puts chill on Tories' hopes

There was an interesting insight last week in our regional newspaper, The Journal, into what the Conservatives really think of their hopes at the general election, whenever it is held.

An unnamed aid to David Cameron was quoted as saying, “We have to accept that at the moment the North is permafrost for the party. We don’t have to win seats in every Northern city to win an election but there is this permafrost which is difficult to overcome."

There were then all sorts of denials from other Conservatives that the Conservatives were doing badly in the North East. One of the most ridiculous of claims was the Tories' problems in the region are only in "pockets" such as Newcastle (a Tory free zone). The problem for the Tories in the region is that most of it is a huge pocket of dereliction. Attempts to spin the holding of a few seats in Sunderland, North Tyneside and Darlington councils as meaning unalloyed success across the region will not work, despite the Tories' best efforts at smoke and mirrors.

I use a different analogy to permafrost. The North East is a desert for them with a few oasis. Their one council controlled oasis is about to succumb to a Labour sandstorm when it is abolished as part of council reform over the next year or so.

And their North Tyneside oasis has reached its limit and has even shrunk a bit - such as when they lost their only elected mayor in the country in 2005.

There was a time when the Conservatives had a string of seats in the region. Tynemouth, Newcastle Central, Darlington, Stockton South, Langbaugh were all Conservative in recent memory. In Newcastle Central they are now a distant 3rd and they are no better off under the new boundaries.

The Conservatives need an electoral breakthrough in the North East if they are to stand any chance of winning an election nationally. And whether your analogy is with a baking desert or an ice age, either way the only way the Conservatives can succeed here in the North East is if there is a major change in the political climate that allows them to flourish again.

Frankly, there are no signs whatsoever of that happening.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Uses for bottles of coke

I spotted a news article a couple of days ago on News 24 about the impending problems that will occur when the cost of tourist visas for non EU citizens travelling to Lithuania rises from somewhere in the region of 7 Euros to ten times the price. The biggest impact will be on neighbouring Belorus, a country most people have not heard of, despite its being in Europe. (I once went into a map shop in Newcastle and asked for a map of the country. Back came the reply, "Belorus? Is that a country?" So if a map shop said that....)

The News 24 item explained that there is a growing tourism trade in Lithuania fuelled by Belorussians visiting to buy goods that are otherwise not available in their own, rather poorer and centrally state managed country, dubbed the last dictatorship in Europe. It was filmed at the border between Lithuania and Belorus. It reminded me of when I was crossing the same border back in 1999 when we were on a tour of Eastern Europe. Our tour guide handed out visa forms on the coach as we left Vilnius and warned us that we could get stuck for a few hours at the border unless a kindly borderguard on the Belorussian side could be persuaded to let us through. There was however the rigmarole of filling in the visa forms to go through. Since only the tour guide could speak Russian, he talked us through where to put our names, ages, hotels we were staying in and a whole load of other information about where we were born, purpose of the visit and so on. He also suggested we leave blank the bit asking us to declare which weapons, including guns and missile launchers, we were carrying. Fortunately I had decided not to buy that ground to air heat seeking anti aircraft missile I saw in that quaint tourist shop we had visited in Riga!

The guide then took all our completed forms and our passports and left the coach with a bottle of coke from the on board fridge, warning us he may be some time. 10 minutes later he returned with all the passports stamped but missing the coke. We were then waved through and were back on the road heading for Minsk.

Turns out the cost of the shortcut was the bottle of coke. All the completed visa forms were immediately filed in the wastepaper bin and we could have put any name on the visa form.

It's amazing what you can do with a bottle of coke!

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Jam today

A large part of our allotment is yet to be developed. At the moment it is covered in brambles which are however producing a good crop of blackberries. On Saturday, David wanted a handful to make a pudding so I went down to the allotment to pick some. I came back with a carrier bag full, far more than he needed. So yesterday I made blackberry jam. That means my work colleagues will be kept happy! They have come to expect home made jam every week in Cowley St. So in my expensive executive style reused carrier bag is a jar of blackberry jam and one of rhubarb and ginger I made earlier this year. I'm at Newcastle Central Station at the moment waiting for a train to London. But the jars will be in the Cowley St fridge this afternoon. Colleagues who read this blog will therefore have an unfair advantage over those who don't! I expect the jam to be gone by Wednesday!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Angelic upstart, icon or rip off? A return to the Angel of the North

The Angel of the North has been in place for 9 years. Some describe it as being like a crashed airplane whilst others describe it as an icon. I have however decided to write this post about it because a week ago a survey of visitors to tourist attractions rated the Angel as the 2nd most disappointing sight. It was beaten, oddly enough, by Stonehenge, for the slot of most disappointing location.

Back in the 1990s I was one of the leaders of the campaign against the Angel. I was reminded of this yesterday when a couple of friends of mine who are presenters on Tyne Tees TV came to our house in Sunniside for lunch. They also reminded me that next year will mark its 10th anniversary and I could end up being hauled in front of the cameras again to give me views of the statue 10 years on! That should be fun!

However, my views have not changed a great deal over the past decade. I think it is the product of a 2nd rate artist with a size fixation who has successfully made a mint out of gigantic statues often paid for by public funds. Their attraction is their size and scale, rather than the artistic merit. The Angel in particular was an industrial engineering project build in a factory to the designs of the artist. It is not the manufacture of his own hands.

That said, we simply live with it. It is of an enormous size, and dominates the landscape, but nevertheless, people have got used to it. Indeed, it is simply now just a major landscape feature. Some have grown to like it. Some regard it as an icon. It is sometimes used as a backdrop to photos about Tyneside or the North East generally. I still have memories of having to go to the Angel in 1999 because a local government magazine wanted a picture of me on its cover in front of the Angel. The issue had nothing to do with the Angel (it was about regional government) but the statue was regarded as a good backdrop for a photo about the North. (Interesting to note that many equivalent photos are now taken with the Gateshead Millennium Bridge as the background.) Fiona Hall, our Euro MP, last year opted for the Millennium Bridge as the backdrop to the main photo in her annual report to constituents. This year, Fiona has gone for the Angel!

I am not an opponent of public art. It has its role and frankly, if you were to put a monumental piece of art anywhere, the location of Angel is clearly the place to put it. It certainly gets seen! The issue we had back in the 1990s was not about whether we as politicians liked it (or disliked it!), Instead, I had difficulties with what I viewed as the minimalist approach to consultation and involving the people in the decision.

I personally think Gateshead Council learnt from the experiences of installing the Angel. The public involvement in the design and choice of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge on the Gateshead Quayside was a far cry from the You're-having-it-like-it-or-not approach adopted towards building the Angel.

One point I fundamentally disagree with when I hear the proponents of the Angel speak is the claim that somehow by having the statue here vast chests of development cash have been opened up for Gateshead and the Tyneside area. I think the claim is nonsense but I do hear it said that we would not have got the investment for the Baltic Gallery or the Gateshead Quays if we had refused to take the Angel. Indeed, listening to some supporters of the Angel, angelic powers appear to be the deciding factor in anything successful happening in the region. Get real people!

It is worth remembering that when NewcastleGateshead and Liverpool went head to head for the honour of being the 2008 City of Culture, Liverpool were the winners. They didn't have a Guardian Angel. They simply had a Liberal Democrat council!

And finally, is the Angel that original a design? I'm not so sure. A couple of years ago, when I visited Rio de Janiero, I went to the famous Statue of Christ overlooking this Brazilian city. I was struck by the similarlity of the Angel to this statue that is 70 years older. The photos included above will help you make up your own mind.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Labour MP sponsors motion praising herself

I stumbled across this whilst looking for something else but I feel I must share it! This line is from Commons Early Day Motion 1386 which attacks the customer complaints procedure of EasyJet.

The motion includes the gem "welcomes efforts by the hon. Member for Gateshead East and Washington West to ensure that the rights of online consumers are incorporated in the Consumer, Estate Agents and Redress Bill."

And who is the primary sponsor of this motion? A certain Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for, errr, Gateshead East and Washington West.

Ms Hodgson may not have much longer to write self congratulatory motions and engage is self-backslapping. She has been dumped by Labour after only 2 years in the job as candidate in Gateshead at the general election. She was beaten by Dave Clelland, who must be around 20-25 years her senior.

Rumour has it she is hoping to parachute into a Sunderland constituency, possibly jumping from an EasyJet plane!

Get JW on Facebook reaches 100

Well, the target has been reached. I promised I would go on to Facebook if 100 people signed up to the Get JW on Facebook Group, set up by Dave Hennigan from Rochdale, and my recent colleague on the Sedgefield campaign. With a bit of help from the New Stateman, the group's growth has rudely brought me back to the commitment I made. So some time during Friday I will have to set up a site. Unless of course, there are a few resignations from the group! Were all the Hennigan family members to leave, for example, I would be well short of the 100!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The final set of pics from Wales

The 2nd and final batch of pics from Wales I'm putting on the blog:

  1. Penmaenmawr quarry - looing more like a crater on the moon!
  2. Me on Penmaenmawr beach with Anglesey in the background.
  3. This seagull on Llandudno pier walked about like a cloaked Count Dracula!
  4. Me at Caernarfon Castle.
  5. A flying seagull which I managed to catch on the telescopic lens as it swooped past me in Caernarfon.

Some pics from that Wales trip

I visited North Wales a couple of weeks ago and here are some of the 360 photos I took. Thankfully I'm only putting up a handfull!

  1. I loved the contrast between new and old: the first pic was taken through the battlements of Caernarfon Castle of the big wheel in the neighbouring funfair.
  2. Penmaenmawr, the town where I stayed, from the top of the mountains.
  3. Some of the wild ponies living in the mountains to the south of Penmaenmawr. I snapped them during a hike in the hills.
  4. The inside of Caernarfon Castle.
  5. Me on the top of the mountain overlooking Penmaenmawr.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Historic buildings at risk

English Heritage recently published their updated register of historic buildings at risk. There are a number from my patch in Gateshead included on the register, including Ravensworth Castle.

There is a strong family connection to Ravensworth (as well as simply representing much of this country estate on Gateshead Council). My great grandfather Henry Wallace was agent to Lord Ravensworth in the later Victoria period. My grandfather John was born and raised on the estate. In the 1920s the castle was used as a boarding school for girls and my Dad's sister Margaret was a day pupil there, walking to the school each day from the family farm in Sunniside.

In the 1930s and again in the 1950s, much of the stately home was demolished but the old medieval towers and the courtyard remain. 2 years ago, we took Margaret, at the age of 92, to Ravensworth to see what she could remember of the old school. And this is the video I made of the visit.
I did an interview with Century Radio yesterday about historic buildings at risk. Naturally, Ravensworth got a number of mentions!

Squirrels at my courgettes!

Red squirrels are a rare site nowadays. I remember seeing some on the old Watergate pit site near the village of Sunniside where I live many years ago, before the site was reclaimed as a park. And in the Derwent Valley, efforts have been made to conserve them.

But at my home in London, we are plagued with the grey variety. There are some very large and mature trees in the back garden where these rats with fluffy tails live. This morning I stepped out of the front door to find they have made a feast of the courgettes we were growing.

Whilst I will do everything in my power to support the endangered red variety, I do wish the greedy grey variety would at least leave my vegetable patch in peace!

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Which Post Offices will be closed?

The Royal Mail is currently carrying out a government inspired demolition job on the Post Office network. Having closed 4000 branches since they came to power in 1997, they now want to close a further 2500. The bureaucratic wheels are now turning and decisions are being made now as to which branches are due to close. We should know soon which communities will suffer the loss of their branch.

I raise this now as one of the postmasters in my area phoned me last night and, as you would expect, it cropped up in the conversation.

It is the case that the income of Post Offices has fallen in recent years. Some of this is down to choice by customers who, for example, opt to get their pensions paid directly into a bank account (though frankly the government's crude armtwisting of pensioners to have pensions paid into bank accounts was a disgrace). Some of it has simply been government decisions to end activities carried out through post offices.

The main focus of the government and Royal Mail should now be to increase the business of branches in new areas. Despite the financial problems of the network, the branches across the country still constitute a large presence on town high streets. And some work has been done to capitalise on that presence. For instance, banks are interested in placing cash machines in some branches where they don't have a bank branch of their own. Putting a cash machine into a post office instead makes sense and as they rent the space from the branch, there is an immediate benefit to the branch itself.

In my village of Sunniside in Gateshead, an application was submitted for a cash machine and yet, bizarrely it was turned down by the planning committee on the grounds that increased customers could cause road problems (the branch is next to a pelican crossing). This is almost like saying the post office shouldn't be there in the first place as it is likely to attract customers and people to the area. As it is, there is a post box right outside the Post Office and right next to the pelican crossing. That doesn't cause any road problems now.

Both the postmaster and I spoke for this application at the planning committee in June when it was considered. I came away from that meeting stunned when they turned down the application. The argument we made was that this would help to secure the future of the branch through its own business activity. We both collected a petition of over 200 signatures in favour of the application. We wait to see whether or not the bank will appeal but given the large number of bank cash machines next to pedestrian crossings, my feeling is that this is an appeal that would win were it to go ahead.

It is unfortunate that the branch has been put in this position. At a time when the post office branch network is under threat, Labour councillors (and it was only Labour councillors who voted to reject the application) have put the boot in needlessly into one individual branch. And given it is their party ordering the closure of so many branches (they claimed in the local elections in May they were against closure of branches) their record on post offices is at best lamentable, certainly hypocritical and at worst downright damaging.

No doubt when the first wave of closures is announced, Labour members will scream about how terrible the closures are. And once they have finished posturing, their party will swing the axe.

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The wrong train

I got to Newcastle Central Station in good time to pick up the 8.30am train to London. I got on the train and got out the blackberry to check emails. It was only at 8.35am I checked my watch and began to wonder why we had not moved. Well, in all the years I have been doing the London run, this is the first time I have managed to get on the wrong train. I headed back across the bridge to the main concourse and the GNER information desk. They advised I speak to the guard on the 9am train to see if I could use the ticket on that train (which was the incorrect train I had initially boarded). So I sought out the guard. She was very helpful, listened to my confession of cock up and said that as I had sought her out and raised the problem with me before the journey began that she would allow the ticket to transfer to the 9am train. This generosity has saved me over 90 pounds!

Which brings me to my final point. When National Express takes over the East Coast franchise, I hope we don't lose the high level of service and customer care were have had from GNER.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Welcome Journal Blog Central

Our regional morning newspaper, The Journal, has set up Journal Blog Central which effectively goes live on Monday morning. My blog is one of a handful from across the North East which will be featured on Blog Central. There will be a feature article about the new site in the Journal on Monday morning so hopefully there will be a few additional hits on the blog. I am described on Blog Central as commenting on politics. Those who know me, know I comment on much more.

So if you are visiting this blog for the first time from Blog Central, welcome and here are a few details about who I am: 43 years old; Lib Dem Councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside in Gateshead (which I have represented for 20 years - making me one of the longest serving yet still one of the younger councillors in Gateshead!); work as a communications officer for the Lib Dems; photographer; video maker (you'll get plenty of these on the blog); allotment holder; jam maker; wild foods "chef"; historian; Dr Who and James Bond fan; small scale dabbler on the Stock Market (a dangerous area to be at the moment!); and I enjoy travel. My family reads this blog to find out where I am and what I'm doing!

So enjoy this blog and feel free to comment!

Skons Park Opencast Appeal Withdrawn

I shot this video on Saturday for constituents to bring them up to date about the latest regarding plans for a giant opencast site in my ward in Gateshead.

The site is next to the Gibside Estate, one of the most important landscapes within the ownership of the National Trust in the North East. I have been fighting against this proposal since the plans were first submitted to Gateshead Council 2 years ago. The petition I wrote and helped to organise was signed by over 16,000 people, the biggest ever submitted to Gateshead Council.

The application was rejected by Gateshead last year and the applicants, Halls of Durham, appealed. A public inquiry was due to be held later this year. But recently, the applicants withdrew the appeal.

But they are expected to submit a new application later this year.

The video explains all.

Penmaenmawr Beach, North Wales

This is the last of the videos I shot in North Wales when I was there earlier this month. I stayed in Penmaenmawr, the village frequented by Gladstone in the nineteenth century for his summer holidays. (A statue of him is in the village.) Pen has some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe and the area is definitely worth a visit.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Penmaenmawr Quarry, North Wales

Another of the videos I shot whilst in North Wales. This is the quarry at Penmaenmawr and looks very much like a crater on the moon.

In search of wild horses

This is the 2nd video I shot whilst in North Wales earlier this month. We went up the mountains above Penmaenmawr to look for the wild horses living there. Eventually we did catch them on camera.

Caernarfon Castle

This was one of the videos I shot on my recent visit to North Wales. Views from around Caernarfon Castle. Watch out for the Lloyd George statue.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rubber wheels on my train - I must be heading home

The more I think about the Redwood plan for rail, the more I think the Tories must be mad for ever letting this man anywhere near policy making. There used to be a time, admittedly probably well over 15 years ago, when the Conservatives at least had some media sense. Other parties were the victims of what used to be a well oiled Tory machine that would jump on any small gaffe such as rubber wheels for trains. But times have changed. The Tories, having completely flipped from the position they used to occupy, are now the mad, uncosted, lunatic fringe of politics, espousing cranky issues and coming up with incredibly minor but ridiculous solutions to sort out the major problems of the world. Which leads me on to Redwood's proposal for rubber wheels for trains, which, it is claimed, allows trains to stop quicker, and hence, so the Tory logic claims, you get more trains through each station. The people who know what they are talking about clearly have their doubts about this save-the-world-easily scheme.

Meanwhile, here I am sitting on a GNER train to Newcastle contemplating life under a Tory government in which the infamous John From-the-planet-Vulcan Redwood is a member of the Cabinet. Shortly I shall wake up from this nightmare.

One final question which has nothing to do with the Tories, why is the phone reception on the first few km out of Kings Cross so poor? I was in the middle of a phone conversation with Fiona Hall, our regional Euro MP, organising a bit of campaigning in my ward for tomorrow morning, but half the message was lost. She is coming to my house at 9am tomorrow. The rest of the message about what we are doing is whizzing about the ether somewhere.

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Rubber wheels - making the trains run on time

I couldn't resist the temptation to make a reference to rubber wheels on trains. This is the great plan by John Redwood to get the trains running on time and to slot more trains onto the network. Described as "technically illiterate" by the "Railway Gazette" (free anorak with this week's edition!), I can just imagine a GNER train on the now to be reprivatised Network Rail slamming on the brakes on the approach to Newcastle Central Station. Imagine the burning rubber! Imagine the skid marks! Imagine the train delays caused by hot rails melting the wheels! Wrong kind of sun on the tracks! (oh and don't forget Redwood in March this year was welcoming global warming as it would make UK tourism more popular).

I was going to say that John Redwood must be off the planet if he thinks we should take his rubbish seriously. Off the planet? Well, perhaps he's just reminding us of his Vulcan traditions (and his Vulcanised rubber train wheels).

Monday, August 13, 2007

Cowley Street scoffs the lot!

The plums I brought into HQ today from the allotment in Sunniside were gone within about an hour of being put in the kitchen. (Don't forget this is national allotment week!) The jam seems to be going more slowly. I brought in 2 jars of rhubard and ginger after kind hearted colleagues complained about the absence of jam for morning toast! I give it until Wednesday before it's all been eaten.

Tonight will be spent sorting through the replies we have had to our resident's survey on recycling in Gateshead. So far we have about 200 replies from about 1000 delivered. They are all bundled up in a parcel going with me to the flat.

Got a nice thank you call this evening from a constituent I have done some casework for recently.

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Cracking open the champagne

We did this last night - having brewed up 13 bottles of elderflower champagne earlier this year, Sunday was the first time we tried it. We were very happy with the results!

When I got to Newcastle on Friday evening (the train did eventually get me home an hour and a half late) David picked me up as usual. And as we were leaving the station, a moron bumped his car into the back of ours. I got out to check for damaged only to be shouted at by this scumbag to "Get out the way." He then sped off along the road. Fortunately there was no damaged but hopefully this macho little boy racer will meet with, well, shall we just say, an event that stops him repeating his arsehole style of driving.

I spent Saturday carrying out our survey on recycling with my constituents. 250 delivered in the morning and about 50 replies collected in the evening.

Sunday I split between picking plums on the allotment, visiting constituents and doing a piece of work about my email focus for the powers that be in the party. We have too many plums to eat ourselves so I am taking them to Cowley St. And it is to there that I am heading now. I'm on the train heading to London now, having just left Newcastle.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

And we're off!

At last at last! We are off. Train just pulled out of KX only one and a quarter hours late. Now let me get to the buffet car!

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Fire at Stevenage, stuck at Kings Cross

Fantastic. An open ticket. It meant I could get a train at a more civilised time. So I headed to Kings Cross to get the 8pm train to Newcastle tonight. I am on the train now. But we are still at KX and it is 8.35pm. No sign of any movement. The problem is there is a fire on a train at Stevenage and all the power lines have been switched off. The GNER train guard has been at pains to point out that the fire is on a Hull train, not a GNER.

Ironically, the first we knew of the delay was when I was shortly after I got on the train and was on the phone to Gateshead making arrangements for the delivery of a Focus and survey which is due to got through doors this weekend. I wrote them before leaving the office this evening. Not sure I'm going to get home to get deliveries sorted.

So whilst I waited for the announcement from the guard to tell us he had no news, I viewed the video I shot in north Wales last week. That filled 20 minutes. Now I shall read the book I brought with me, Anna Funder's 'Stasiland'. And when I'm through that, I'll get to work on some of the correspondence in my briefcase.

But I really could do with getting home tonight.

PS the train guard has just announced again that he has no news.
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Star of New Statesman

It just doesn't get better than this! I am in the New Statesman. No, not the 1990s comedy about Tory MP Alan B'Stard. (Isn't it time they brought him back as a New Labour MP in a new tv series?)

No, I'm on the New Statesman website in an article about Facebook and blogging. They have spotted my comments about going onto Facebook only when 100 people have signed up to the Get-Jonathan-Wallace-on-Facebook Group. I blame my colleague George Crozier for revealing to the world the target of 100.

Apparently there are now 62 on the site, down one. Someone must have had a change of mind!

Meanwhile, I'm off to lick my wounds after a rotten day on the stock market....Alan B'Stard would never have tolerated this!

A "healthy recovery" for the Conservatives?

I found these comments by Tory MP Peter Luff on his website defending David Cameron. He claimed:

The Labour Party has been all but obliterated in the South of England at local level, and is under severe pressure from the Tories in the rest of the country.


there is still much to be done. We still have no councillors in Liverpool or Newcastle, but the May elections were a good step towards a healthy recovery.

Quite what sort of “healthy recovery” the Conservatives are making in Liverpool and Newcastle is not clear. Just for the record, I thought I would point out the situation:

Number of seats on either council held by the Conservatives: 0
Number of seats winnable for the Conservatives in either council: 0
Activity by Conservatives on the ground in either city: 0
Conservative hopes of making a breakthrough in either city: 0

This is of course repeated elsewhere in many other areas where the Conservatives are extinct, such as my own borough of Gateshead.

So if this marks a “healthy recovery” for the Conservatives, let’s have more of it!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

56 people now on the Facebook group

I jokingly said to colleagues today that I will go onto Facebook when the 100th person joins the Get Jonathan Wallace onto Facebook group. I understand it now stands at 56. I discovered this whilst looking over the shoulder of my colleague George Crozier as he joined the group. I also noticed that a certain Dave Hennigan has been posting up my not so serious emails about forthcoming videos I am working on! However, there needs to be another 44 people joining the group before I go on.

I spent this evening alternating between writing focus leaflets and phoning constituents. It is sometimes the case that people phone up and leave a message asking me to call but forget to leave a name and number. One such lady phoned yesterday. David was able to get the number by dialing 1471, so I did a search on this on the database and came up with a name. But when I phoned, I found the name was completely different. Turns out I had the name of a near neighbour. I don't know quite how I had managed to have the number against the wrong name. And it took a few moment for us each to work out who the other was. She thought initially I was the window cleaner!

It's Dad's birthday today. 77 years old. I decided to give him a call, having failed in my duty as a son to buy a card. I called him as I left Cowley Street at 8.30 tonight and discovered most of the family, including David, sister Esther and soon to be brother in law Ian were there. Matthew and Jayne had already left. So here I was stuck down in London whilst the family was having a picnic in Dad's garden in the sun in Whickham! The larger than anticipated family gathering meant I was on the phone for as long as it took to walk from Cowley Street to Victoria Station. And it also meant I missed the train by half a minute!

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Leaving Wales

A trip down to the beach at Penmaenmawr completed the tick boxes for the trip to Wales this morning. More video and photos taken. In total on this trip, I have taken about 300 pictures. I'm on the train heading to Euston now, doing some work for constituents.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

A walk in the mountains

We headed into the mountains above Penmaenmawr this morning with the intention of getting some panoramic shots across the North Wales coast, catch some shots of the wild ponies here and photograph the granite quarry. 100 percent success. We even got to the druid circle as well. Photos will be posted on the blog shortly.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Cable car down

We came along to Llandudno this morning with the intention of going up the Great Orme on the cable car. The aim was to do some photography from the top. But when we got to the cable car station, we found it was closed down. We abandoned the Orme and went along the pier instead, got out the telescopic lens and took a series of panoramic shots. Not quite what I was after. However, I did one of my old tricks of taking a long series of shots of slightly overlapping photos through a turn of 180 degrees. I have a programme that joins up photos like this into a superwide panoramic picture. I'll give it a go when I get home. Meanwhile, unlike Caernarfon, eating establishments were more available, and more importantly, they actually served food as well! So lunch was easier to come by than it was yesterday.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Watching the moon rise

It is now midnight and I have just watched the moon rise above the mountains above Penmaenmawr in north Wales. At the same time, I have been watching the news about the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Surrey. I see the new PM is cancelling his holiday and returning to London. I guess the Labour party has learnt its lesson from previous crises in which Blair continued his holiday in Egypt. So the People's Commissar is returning from his dacha to take control.
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They don't do food in Caernarfon

We caught the bus from Penmaenmawr to Caernarfon this morning. I spent most of the journey writing emails to officers back in Gateshead about an application for an office license in Sunniside. It took about an hour to get here.

The first thing that struck us on arrival was that it was much colder than we expected. Since we were in shorts and short sleeve shirts, we were better dressed for a Mediterranean cruise rather than the good old British summer. A trip to a local shop which had a clothes sale was required. 6 pounds for a new jumper. Then off to Caernarfon Castle to photograph every nook and cranny of the building. The aim is to add these to a collection of British castle photos I am building up.

With the castle (and Royal Welch Fusilier Museum) done, all we had to do was get a meal. This turned out to be more challenging than we expected. All the pubs around the castle advertised their culinary delights. Step inside and ask for a menu and at each place get the same answer: "Oh, we don't do food today." And there was a shocking shortage of small cafes. This was amazing for an area that has tourism as one of its main industries.

We did find, eventually, a cafe that was open and serving. However, the tea didn't arrive with the toasted sandwiches, so we had to go in search of a waitress to find out what had happened to it. And then I asked where the toilet was, only to be told they didn't have any but I was welcome to use the public loo on the other side of the square outside (behind the Lloyd George statue). Can't say I was greatly impressed!

Anyway, I'm now on the bus waiting to leave Caernarfon.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bound for Wales

I'm off to north Wales to do some photography around one of my old stopping grounds. I'll be staying in a village called Penmaenmawr which is where I used to stay in the days over a decade ago when I worked as the organiser for Conwy constituency. So I have just lugged the cameras across rush hour London to Euston station, having called in at a camera shop to buy camcorder tapes. Unfortunately, I have just realised my small, back up video camera has been left behind, though not sure where. I don't think it's in the house at Sunniside so it will either be in the office or the flat. I have the new camera with me so it shouldn't be a problem.

Okay, so now for something completely different. I am getting a number of amusing messages from friends about our allotment. So here is the latest exclusive allotment news, just received by email from David. The main news tonight is that something is eating the leaves on the gooseberry bushes. Detailed analysis of this shocking situation reveals we have no idea what the culprit is. Other allotment headlines: slug pellets have been used for the first time. And finally, weeding of existing flower beds has been carried out today by David. More shocking allotment revelations to follow, once we have some!

Best wake me up when we get to Crewe!

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Cowley Street makeover

Cowley Street is getting a makeover, or rather, the main stairwell is. This is the view from the landing outside the office in which I am based. The carpets, which were getting rather well worn, are also being replaced.
More exclusive, where-the-action-is-taking-place photos will be posted over the next few weeks. These will include photos of paint drying and other such interesting views!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Get Jonathan Wallace on Facebook group and other things as well

I see a new group has been set up on Facebook: the Get Jonathan Wallace on Facebook group! (Creator David Hennigan of Team Sedgefield fame) Seems as though there is a burning desire amongst some for me to spread my wit and wisdom to this social networking site. As it is, I have been asked 4 times in the past week if I am going on Facebook. Now there is a group of 20 people awaiting my arrival. I will inevitably not resist the pressure to get on board.

Talking of resisting pressure, I do wish some with a discontented, rent a quote disposition would resist the pressure to pose as the voice of the party by putting in the boot on Ming in the media. If a journalist phones you up, just say NO! I suggest some conference training for some on how to avoid self-indulgence and needless oppositionism. An additional module on how not to deflect attention from Tory Troubles would be especially useful for some.

I took my mind off the damage caused by needless attacks on the party leader tonight by doing what I like most - writing Focus leaflets. I suggest some members may wish to join me in this activity - ie, attacking our opponents, rather than attacking ourselves.

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