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.

Sent via BlackBerry

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.

Sent via BlackBerry

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.

Sent via BlackBerry

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!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The cold has arrived

I first felt the cold yesterday morning when I did the Remembrance Day Parade in Whickham. Afterwards I went down to the allotment and felt the cold there. The weather forecast showed the North East was going to be frozen overnight - with London enjoying a milder 5 degrees C. So I got up 10 min earlier this morning, expecting to have to scrape the ice off the car. Not a crystal in sight! Despite that, it was very cold. Our cat stuck her head out the door then turned around and headed for the nearest radiator! Winter is coming fast. Nevertheless, I got to Newcastle Central Station with plenty of time to spare.

I am of course weighed down with bags! I was asked if I would donate a set of my more unusual jams as a prize for the raffle at the Lib Dem ball being held a bit later this month. I don't suppose it will compete with the holiday or whatever it is that is first prize. However, it goes head to head with the jams of Gordon and Linda Seekings. Gordon is my opponent in the Cowley Street jam war! I will be most displeased if their curds are made a higher prize than my rosehip jelly!

Sent via BlackBerry

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day Parade Whickham November 2007

I laid a wreath in at the War Memorial today during the Remembrance Day service. This is the video of the procession and service.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A village walkabout

On Saturday morning I am doing a walkabout with residents and my two ward colleagues Councillors Alan and Marilynn Ord, around my village of Sunniside. I invited people to send us their ideas of what we should visit in our email newsletter and the most recent village focus. We have had quite a few replies so I have drawn up a list and route and hopefully some residents will join us in the morning.

I put a reminder in the eFocus which I emailed out tonight. As each month goes buy the circulation of our email newsletter grows. In my own ward I now have over 500 homes receiving eFocus. We also have a growing number of businesses on our circulation list as well. Avid readers of it include the Labour party, just as they are avid readers of this blog. But more about that on another day!

Sent via BlackBerry

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I know nothing about racing drivers

I was hoping to break our losing streak at the pub quiz in the pub near my London housee. When I was last here for the quiz, 2 weeks ago, we came last. This time, we have got as far as the first round - the picture round. I know nothing about racing drivers and we have to name 10 of them. Looks as though the losing streak will continue. And to think, I stopped work on my next email newsletter to come here.
Sent via BlackBerry

Monday, November 05, 2007

How depressing: dark mornings and evenings

I got up at 6.40am and it was dark outside. So even with the clocks going back, I was greeted by darkness in the morning. It is daylight now as I stand here on the platform of Newcastle station waiting for my delayed train to London but it doesn't let us escape from the fact winter is approaching fast.

Last night when I was out collecting survey replies, at least I had people's private firework displays to keep me company, as I did on Saturday evening when I was in Dunston, one of our key wards. The survey we are doing is about recycling. As of last night, all 3800 houses in my ward have been surveyed and neighbouring wards are all plodding away with it.

The rest of the weekend had its usual array of fayres, site visits, focus deliveries, photo sessions and a meeting with the scout groups from Whickham about next year's fayres. Also three trips into the Team Valley area to help with some local campaigning.

And finally, I gathered in the last wild crop of the year - rosehips. I also found a wild apple tree still covered in fruit so I picked them. Last night I used them to make rosehip jelly. They will end up in a Lib Dem xmas fayre soon!

Sent via BlackBerry