Sunday, May 31, 2009

Printing on a Sunday evening

I am in the office in Whickham printing my next Focus newsletter for Sunniside. And I can see as I look from the window a beautiful red sunset over the Derwent Valley. A gloriously sunny weekend which has resulted in my back being slightly burnt - I took my shirt off for an hour yesterday whilst on the allotment. Bit of a mistake.

I am waiting for Neil Bradbury, our Blaydon candidate, to arrive at the office. He has just produced a Focus for one of the towns in the constituency so will need to use the printing machine after me.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

What's coming up this weekend

I am sitting on the train heading home at the moment with my blackberry buzzing every few minutes. People are responding to a message I posted up an hour or so ago on Facebook about myself. You have to be a Facebook friend to know what it is. I'm leaving the announcement on the blog for a short while but let's just say that it means quite a big change for me, I am looking forward to it and it is something I have been planning for years.

Anyway, with that tantalising glimpse into my future now done, let's look at what's coming up this weekend. Tomorrow morning I will be at the Sunniside Methodist Chapel Fayre. My trips there always result in considerable purchases of strawberry plants and cakes. I see no reason why tomorrow will be any different.

Then I'm writing and delivering more focuses as well as spending a bit of time on the allotment. I have an entire bed to dig over. I'm thinking of putting in our old Ford Escort under the scrappage scheme to get a new rotovator!

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Why does McDonalds pay this Labour MP £2500 a day for "advice"

We have just had a snippet of what is to come shortly when MPs are required to publish their earnings and time spent on second jobs. Labour were the keenest advocates of this requirement, possibly thinking that it was part time Tories who would provide the most interesting copy for the media.

Alas for the hardened socialist brethren, it appears that one of their own is amongst the first to have his other earnings dragged out of the closet. And horror of horrors, the MP is on the payroll of the great symbol of capitalism, McDonalds.

Little Doug Henderson, the largely unknown Labour MP for Newcastle North, earns £25,000 for ten days work a year "advising" McDonalds. In case you have eaten too many Big Macs and are feeling somewhat mentally incapacitated as a result, that's £2500 for each day worked. What a whopper! (Okay wrong company!) There was I thinking it was only failed bank executives who clocked up salaries on that scale.

Quite why McDonalds think Little Big MacHenderson has anything to offer in the way of "advice" is beyond me. He didn't exactly cover himself in glory when Northern Rock (based in his constituency) went belly up. His advice to the government was to ignore Vince Cable's call to nationalise the failed company.

Anyway, I hope McDonalds feel they get their money's worth. After all, they have to sell an awful lot of big macs to pay for his advice. As for the money, I bet he's loving it.

It's not the first time I have seen this giant of capitalism cuddling up to crusty old socialism. I've visited Yalta a couple of times in the last few years. (It's in the Crimea in the Ukraine.) The Lenin statues are all still in place but the city's McDonalds on the promenade sits right next door to a Lenin statue. I bet he's turning in his grave (or in his Moscow mausoleum)!
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Labour MP's tax claims collapse overnight

This may just be an unbelievable coincidence! Last night I blogged that the Labour MP for Durham City, Roberta Blackman-Woods, was claiming that households were saving an "average" of £200 a month due to the VAT cut. I calculated this would mean a family would need to spend £8,000 on VAT rated goods a month.

I made a return visit to her website where she made the claim this morning and found an overnight rewriting of the offending article. Alas, the fantastic claims for the VAT savings have collapsed as quickly as Labour's credibility. Now she is claiming a mere £200 a year saving.

Her press release however is well worth a read. It is a good lesson in how to write the most puerile drivel going:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This Labour MP thinks the average family spends over £8000 a month

Roberta Blackman-Woods is the barely known Labour MP for Durham City where she is defending a majority of around 3,000 over the Lib Dems. Hopefully, she will be one of those swept out at the general election when a bit of serious sweeping-out-of-the-contents-of-the-political-stable action by the electorate will reduce Labour's ranks to a rump.

She is a mega-super-loyalist backer of the Labour government, always voting for the whip. Her latest claim however is a real eyebrow raiser. According to her, the average family is benefitting to the tune of £200 a month from the VAT cut.

To achieve that sort of saving, the "average family" will have to spend in the region of £8,000 a month on VAT rated goods.

Not even MPs spending their full 2nd homes allowance will come close that that figure! This one really does take the biscuit (VAT zero rated of course!)

I'm sure Roberta Deadman-Walking's constituents will be interested to know how much she thinks they all have to spend.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekend round up

It is Tuesday but it is the start of the working week. Nevertheless, there is no "Monday (or Tuesday) Morning Blog" this week. It's half term, the political stories are all about expenses and that has been done to death on this blog (though I guess we will return to it at some point) and I used my main bit of material on Sunday for what would otherwise be the Monday blog post.

So, instead, here's my roundup of the last couple of day. On Sunday I got my hands dirty on the allotment battling with the fantastic crop of weeds that insists on growing the moment my back is turned. Removing them is a vast but delicate operation that results in a gigantic compost heap and sore knees. We also went on a foraging expedition - well, a walk to Sunniside Park, looking for beech and sloes to pick in the autumn. We found what we were looking for.

And yesterday, we went along to the Northumberland County Show. Photos for this will follow some time this week. Back at the house I uploaded the video that I have sold to a publisher to their ftp site. A 3 minute video, high resolution, took up nearly a gig of memory space even when zipped. Quite how my old, creaking home pc coped I'm not sure but it took over 4 hours to upload to the site!
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Monday, May 25, 2009

Off to the Northumberland County Show

This takes me back to the time nearly 20 years ago when I was candidate in Hexham. We are off to the Northumberland County show to look at tractors, sheep and chickens and generally have a good time. We are not looking to buy a duck house as a second home and we won't be buying horse manure (we use cattle manure on our allotment!) We are simply going there enjoy ourselves and get more ideas as we move towards self-sufficiency.

We left the car at home and are on the bus to Newcastle now. We then get the train out to the Tyne Valley. So in respect of getting up early to catch a train, it's just like any other Monday morning!

The first time we went to the show, it took us half an hour to get out of the car park. Since the show is next door to Corbridge train station, it would be madness (and more environmentally damaging) to drive. And our clapped out Ford Escort would have to complete with all those Range Rovers for a parking space. So let the train take the strain.
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Who said real politics is suspended?

Yesterday morning I headed down to Whickham village centre to help run a street stall with colleagues. We were collecting signatures on petitions opposing new parking charges plans for the village and proposals to take away some of our flower beds. In essence, it is the sort of thing that local politics is all about. But given the general climate about politicians at the moment, we gathered with a sense of trepidation. Just how were people going to respond to us?

Were people going to be angry, treat us with a "plague on all your houses" approach or be interested in what the petitions were about. As we started to gather signatures, I noticed we were all defensively making jokes to constituents about signing cheques for 2nd homes, clearing moats and buying manure and duck houses. People laughed and then talked about the issues on which we were collecting signatures. Very quickly, we discovered people were interested in local concerns and our battles for better facilities. And whilst people are hopping mad about some of the unforgivable expenses stories, for them, it was business as usual for local politics.

We now have 500 signatures on the petition opposing the new parking charges plan.

Afterwards, I went down to the village of Ryton where the Hirings (the annual fair) was on. I met up with more of my colleagues were doing a roaring trade in tombola tickets on the Lib Dem stall. Local politics, local campaigning, local fund raising, all still happening. Here in Gateshead at least, normal activities continue, despite the best efforts of Expensesgate to get in the way.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Visit Gateshead!

Another of my videos. This one is to encourage tourists to come to Gateshead. (I hope my appearance does not put people off!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

A patchy Conservative recovery

The most interesting point about the Chopwell and Rowlands Gill by-election in Gateshead last week was the big fall in the Conservative vote and share. It falls into a pattern of by-elections and to some extent local elections that has been in place for some time. The Conservative recovery in recent years has been patchy. It has been strong in some areas. In other areas it has simply not happened at all. The Labour heartlands used to have a strong Conservative vote. There were plenty of people who could be termed "working class Tories". And there have always been "middle class" areas within the Labour heartlands where in the past the Conservatives had significant traction. The Conservative appeal in so many Labour heartlands has now gone. The implosion of the Conservative organisation in the 80s and especially the 90s in Labour heartlands has, other than on occasioanly islands, been so extensive that there are no grassroots left to grown when the political sun shines for the Conservatives.

In by-election after by-election in wards in Labour heartlands, the Conservatives are more often than not coming behind the BNP in 4th place. In Chopwell and Rowlands Gill they were saved from humiliation of 4th place simply because there were only 3 parties standing. Nevertheless, the Conservative share was down 8%. It should be remembered that when Rowlands Gill was a ward in its own right 30 years ago, it returned Conservative councillors. It is a prosperous town which is exactly the sort of area where the Conservatives would normally be expected to do well. Last week they barely registered at all with the voters.

It was the same in my ward last year. Whickham South was Conservative until 1986. In the byelection in July, their vote was tiny. In a byelection in Salford yesterday, they came 4th. In a recent byelection in Hartlepool they came 5th. There is a clear pattern developing of the Conservatives being an irrelevant fringe party in some areas.

There are some exceptions. North Tyneside and Sunderland for example. But cross the border from those councils and the Conservatives are back in a desert.

Back in the 90s, Labour's then recovery was marked by the election of Labour councillors in areas where few had dreamed of Labour ever being elected. I always remember the shock people experienced when Labour councillors were elected in Isle of Wight. The equivalent Tory recovery is much more patchy. There are some in the Conservatives who think the general election is in the bag for them. They should not be so easy however with their confidence. They need to gain 130 seats to scrape in with a minimal majority. That is going to be a major challenge.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Alan Beith as speaker

Alan Beith has put his hat in the ring to be the new speaker. Alan is superbly qualified for the post, not the least because he is respected across the parties. So I wish him well and if he is successful, I know he will do a good job.

The small drawback is that the speaker goes from being a party politician to being above politics. The effect of that will be that we lose our only Lib Dem MP is the region.
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And the oscar nomination for the best video shot on an island few have heard of is.....

I got a message tonight as I was sitting in Cowley St working on a Focus. It was from a major publiching company. They want to buy one of my videos! The price on offer is not going to make me rich but it's not to be sniffed at! It was shot on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean 18 months ago. All about how the islanders make salt from sea water! The only drawback is that I need to edit a high resolution version. That shouldn't take too long. I'll do it this weekend in between delivering Focuses and planting cabbages!

So, to the senior Labour councillor in Gateshead (the mayor!) who was talking to me at the Whickham Fayre on Saturday, and who poked fun at my videos - in a nice way of course - I have only one thing to say: keep watching my videos!
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Monday, May 18, 2009

The Monday morning blog: equity release for MPs - all within the rules of course

I was late to bed on Saturday evening, and just before I decided to call it a day, I caught the news on Sky that Fraser Kemp and David Clelland were the next features of the Telegraph's rolling campaign to out the more interesting details of MP expenses.

Having suggested to colleagues for a few weeks that the expenses of one MP in particular would make interesting reading, I ended up receiving a string of phone calls on Sunday morning, some of them before I was fully awake and out of bed, congratulating me on my prediction and urging me to get a copy of the Sunday Telegraph. So off I went to Sunniside Chapel Stores, via the allotment to open the greenhouse window, and bought a copy of the Telegraph for the first time in my life. And for good measure, I bought a copy of our regional newspaper, the Sunday Sun, which was featuring David Clelland, MP for Tyne Bridge (which is mainly in Gateshead) on the front page.

I am not going into detail at this point about Mr Clelland's expenses other than to outline them. He bought out his then partner's share of their jointly owned flat in London, allowing her to realise a substantial capital gain. Mr Clelland paid for this gain by increasing the mortgage on the flat and then passing the increased costs on to the Fees Office. I presume that Brenda paid capital gains tax on the substantial gains she made on this investment in the "booming" London property market, as Mr Clelland described it. Shortly afterwards, Brenda became Mrs Clelland.

Well, what an interesting equity release scheme for MPs! And of course, it's on expenses. I hope Mrs Clelland invested the money wisely.

Meanwhile, Fraser Kemp must have been three sheets to the wind when he bought 16 sheets for his one bedroom flat in London, all on expenses. It is mind boggling to think of what he needed so many sheets for. The quantity outstripped the requirements of a modest bed and breakfast establishment or a hospital ward! No doubt he turned as white as a sheet when he was exposed.

And finally to mortgages. Having gone through the reverse of equity release last year by paying off a chunk of our mortgage on our house, it is definitely a day to remember! (For us it was made more memorable when our bank temporarily went AWOL with our cash.) MPs Chaytor and Morley must have been on interest only or endowment mortgages (the figures for interest payment claims were just too high for a repayment mortgage that was about to be paid off). To pay off an interest only or endowment mortgage, the mortgagee has to hand over the money for the outstanding loan. Interest of £800 a month (which was what was claimed by Morley) equated back then to a mortgage in the region of £150,000. I can't imagine any circumstances in which a person will forget about having written out a cheque or carrying out a bank transfer for such a huge sum of money. So I find their explanation that it was all a mistake and they hadn't been aware that they had paid off their mortgages a bit hard to swallow.

No doubt, I will be returning to MP mortgage arrangements and equity release in the not too distant future.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Things to do instead of watching Eurovision

1)write a Focus newsletter

2)have a nice long hot bath

3)catch up on the latest depressing news about MPs' expenses

4)All the above.

I'm opting for 4. I like multi-tasking.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Not a National Express rant

There is a possibility that National Express may have to give up the East Coast franchise. The idea has been doing the rounds for some weeks. It appears clear that, as the bid for the franchise was made during the Brown boom years, they have offered too much. Now that we are in the Brown bust years, the projections of revenue and passenger numbers are simply not enough to provide the income to pay the £1.4 billion they are required to pay over the next few years.. The franchise is going belly up.

The East Coast is the only profitable line on the rail network. Far from operating on a subsidy, it operates, or at least it did, at a profit. Companies bidding to operate the route, did so by offering a premium. On all other routes, train companies offered to run the trains on the least subsidy. The East Coast in effect was paying the subsidy for elsewhere on the rail network.

Now National Express is struggling. They have been caught out by the economy going belly up, having successfully bid for the route just as the credit crunch was kicking in. Just as Northern Rock was sinking into a sea of debt, National Express was sailing out onto the sea of train travel from its normal port of All-Things-Bus-And-Coach.

With future passenger figures evaporating, the talk is of their renegotiating or abandoning the franchise. Contrary to what you may think, I am not keen that National Express lose the franchise. I want them to run trains and a good rail service. I want them to stop cancelling the 7.40am on a Monday morning. But the idea that the trains will improve by yet another demoralising change in the franchise is not a view to which I subscribe. That said, I haven't a clue how to solve the problem on paying for and running the railways. State ownership saw the railways normally at the rear end of government investment plans. It meant having a rail system owned and operated by a body that was more interested in putting money into something else. Remember, Beeching was a government appointment and a government act of transport vandalism. So calling for nationalisation may get some people turned on and excited, but they have not yet demonstrated any evidence that the government's buying up of all railway operators will in any way benefit the rail system.

That said, the ownership of the infrastructure by the government is a sensible option. The collapse of Network Rail demonstrated that and there is an interesting comparison with the roads. Both are owned by the state but both are used by private operators.

Which still does not bring me to a solution to the East Coast franchise. Any ideas?

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New Blaydon Blogger

Neil Bradbury, our new candidate for Blaydon, has set up his own blog at So pay him a visit and, no doubt, some of you may even want to respond to what he writes!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chopwell and Rowlands Gill byelection result

Result just through in Chopwell and Rowlands Gill:

Lib Dem 898
Lab 1221
Con 177

Labour usually get in with a majority of 800-1000 so it is down heavily. If you look at my last post, it is in line with that.

The Tory vote however has been more than halved. Admittedly it was over two decades ago but the Tories used to be strong in Rowlands Gill. Now they barely register.
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A prediction for Chopwell and Rowlands Gill byelection

Chopwell and Rowlands Gill byelection in Gateshead today. This is normally a rock solid Labour ward. The Chopwell area has been represented by Labour since the First Eorld War. But Labour is going through a decidely bad patch and the question is, what effect will this have in CRG. The canvass has been encouraging but I like to believe these things when they happen. My feeling is that there will be a low turnout and Labour will hold on, though with a rather slimmed down majority compared to the supersized one they normally have. We will know in about 4 hours.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


No, not a comment on the latest revelations of MPs' expenses! It's my first crop from the allotment this year. A large quantity of rhubarb. That should make Cowley St happen. I use colleagues to market test my jam and they love rhubarb and ginger. Normally they can't get enough of the stuff. Well, supplies will soon be replenished!

Monday, May 11, 2009

More about the mad, mad world of Labour

I forgot to mention the following in my blog post this morning about Labour's mad attack on us in a safe seat they are defending in a byelection in Gateshead. A quick recap - Labour spent the weekend putting out leaflets attacking our candidate and foolishly (for Labour) focusing all their efforts on attempting to rebut our campaign. The result is that the entire campaign is now being fought on our agenda which contains a whole string of negatives on Labour. It is a classic on how to boost an opponent and undermine your own candidate!

Anyway, the bit I forgot to include this morning was about one of the photos in one of our Focus newsletters. It was of our candidate outside a boarded up shop in the ward. We are campaigning for the area to be regenerated. Labour however claim the shop there has been open for business for the past two years. They allege that the photo therefore had to be taken over 2 years ago.

It was actually taken one month ago! This incredible Labour gaffe leaves me wondering how much the councillor, who made the attack., knows his ward.

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Labour hit the panic button in by-election

Chopwell and Rowlands Gill in Gateshead is arguably one of Labour's safest wards in the country. Chopwell itself has been represented by Labour since the end of the 1st World War without interruption. A by-election is taking place in the ward and the contest will be held on Thursday.

The other two Labour councillors in the ward are John Hamilton and Mick McNestry. These are two individuals for whom I normally have a bit of time, though given the letters they have put out over the weekend, I suspect the sand is running out in the hour glass on that one, unless I happen to want a bit of time spent on being entertained by political court jesters!.

Yes, we have a classic example of Labour hitting the panic button and suddenly they have made all our issues about their own party, their candidate and their MP into top election issues for their own campaign. It's one of those situations you pray for. You produce your own literature with all your key campaign messages, all of which are damaging to Labour and you think, wouldn't it be fantastic if Labour fought their campaign trying to defend their own negatives and fail to get onto their own positives. Welcome to the mad, mad world of Labour in Chopwell and Rowlands Gill!

The letters they circulated over the weekend defended their decision to select a candidate from outside the ward. They also admit what we have been saying - that their candidate is a "reject" from another ward, having failed in a previous election.

They also have a go at "local lad Ray" - repeating the positive description we have used on him in our own literature! (Our candidate is called Ray Callender and is the only candidate who lives in the ward.)

In the leaflet we put out two weekends ago, we pointed out that the Labour MP for the area, Dave Anderson, had voted with the government on the Gurkhas - backing the government policy to kick many of them out of Britain. "This is quite simply untrue," they claim. Really!? In which case there needs to be an urgent police investigation for the real Mr Anderson must be kidnapped and an imposter put in his place who voted against the Gurkhas!

Labour also defend Mr Anderson's record on Post Offices - maybe it was another imposter who voted to continue closing them! But thanks Labour for focusing attention on a Labour negative.

So Mick and John, many, many thanks for the letters you put out over the weekend. Copies are on their way now to our HQ as examples of counter-productive panic attacks by opponents. If you are needing help to get your letters delivered, give us a call. I'm sure we can give a hand to get them out! They should be worth quite a few votes - to the Lib Dems of course!

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The Monday Morning Blog: how many Tory MPs does it take to change 25 light bulbs?

To which the answer is none. They get someone in to do it for them and then charge it to the taxpayer.

And talking of tax, all those Labour demands that there should be a clampdown on tax avoidance by the rich seem rather hollow now. Leather clad Hilary Blears, dressed for the part of Meatloaf's Eddie in the Rocky Horror Picture Show yesterday may have oozed sympathy for the voters who :"hate" all this, but her posturing simply made matters worse. She made a profit on the sale of her London flat of £45,000, almost twice the average annual wage, and then paid no tax on it, having previously soaked the taxpayer for the cost of the place. I wonder what her struggling constituents made of that.

So, for good measure, here are my proposals for reforming the 2nd homes allowance:

1)No entitlement for London MPs.

2)The constituency home (or within reasonable distance of the constituency) should be regarded as the main home, so the London home is all that is accepted for the allowance.

3)Reduce the level of allowance from the current level of £24,000.

4)Taper the amount an MP can receive. The costs of owning a second home in London go down over time (I can speak from experience) so once the start up costs are met, there is no justification for the continued high payments.

5)No entitlement to 2nd homes allowance for anyone with grace and favour accommodation.

And finally:

6)No entitlement to claim for furniture and electricals. After all, what is to stop them leaching back to the main home? MPs can easily afford to furnish 2 homes on what they earn.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Give Margaret Moran MP enough rope to hang herself...and she'll claim it on expenses!

I didn't know whether to pity Labour MP Margaret Moran for her incredible stupidity in agreeing to be interviewed about her equally incredible expenses claims or to be angry that she has got away with such an incredible scam. She was certainly on the take today - she took the rope, lots of it, and well and truely hung herself on the BBC. We await the receipts to see if she charged the taxpayer for the rope.

Meanwhile, tourism minister Barbara Folly is hardly an advert for holidays in the UK. The streets are too unsafe for her to venture out of her ironclad, taxpayer funded fortress in Soho. For the cost of her security system we could have paid for half a police officer.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

New candidate for Blaydon

Just finished the selection meeting for Blaydon. We have chosen Neil Bradbury as our new candidate. He is currently one of our Euro candidates and is a councillor in Prudhoe in the neighbouring constituency.
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Friday, May 08, 2009

Hustings, allotment and video-making - it must be the weekend coming up

Sitting on the train to Newcastle, I've just had a look at my list of things to do this weekend. Tomorrow morning is the hustings meeting for the Blaydon selection. I've been canvassed by two of the candidates, missed a third who called when I was out, missed a 4th who phoned when I was out and have heard nothing from the fifth. Tomorrow morning we shall know. One of the two candidates who called in person came down to meet up on the allotment! That's dedication! However, I want to see how they perform tomorrow before I take a final decision.

None of the candidates however will be able to do anything other than agree to take large quantities of leaflets for delivery in the Chopwell and Rowlands Gill by-election. The leaflets will be handed out before the speeches. We anticipate getting lots and lots of them delivered this way!

I've also been lined up to do a few photos of historic buildings this weekend. And I have 2 videos to finish filming and editing. Weekends wouldn't be weekends however without work on the allotment. We have a load of courgettes and gherkins to plant and rhubarb to pick.

And finally, on Sunday evening, I have a meeting about a venture with which someone is hoping for our involvement. More about this another time if it gets off the ground.
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David Cameron and the non-election in Newcastle

Does anyone get those David Cameron emails? I do! And I was quietly amused by the one that arrived tonight.

It talks about the local elections and taking the local election message to various named places, including Newcastle. Alas, this reference to my Tyneside neighbours overlooks the fact that there are no local elections in Newcastle this year!

There are also no Conservative councillors in Newcastle and they have no winnable seats.

Not the best flying start to your election campaign, is it David.?
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Weapon of Woolas Destruction

Well, I've seen nothing like it before and it reads more like a plot for a tv drama rather than real life. But Joanna Lumley was not acting today when she confronted and flattened Phil Woolas.

Not even John Major's government got kicked about like that. I'm sure it was a sobering experience for Woolas.
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An amusing incident I must pass on

A colleague of mine in the Lib Dem group in Gateshead passed this on to me and I was rather amused by it. I will not mention names or locations but here goes.

My colleague was delivering some Focus leaflets recently, one of which went through the door of the Labour councllor for the ward where my colleague was delivering. Inside Focus was a story about a local issue we were taking up. Moments after the Focus went through the door, the Labour councillor was running after my colleague demanding to know why Focus didn't mention anything about what he, the Labour councillor, was doing about the issue in question! He seemed most upset that he wasn't mentioned. (We weren't aware he had done anything about the issue and it did appear to have been left unsolved for some time.)

So it's nice to know that Labour councillors actually want to be mentioned in Focuses and also appear not to have thought of putting a newsletter of their own out in that area to explain what they do.

However, I am pleased to inform readers that tonight I wrote another Focus leaflet which does mention a Labour member and goes into a few details about what he has done recently. Gordon does, after all, provide us with some good copy for inclusion in Focus.
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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Health campaigning MP turns chocoholic!

Sharon Hodgson, the Comedy World's very own infiltrator into the world of politics, has just performed her latest comedy turn. So what has this Labour MP for Gateshead East and Washington West been doing as her latest entry in the Political Comedy Awards? She is demanding lots and lots of chocolate be added to food served up in schools. The specific demand is for chocolate on flapjacks that are served up for kids. So, in questions to Schools Minister Jim Knight in the Commons last week, far from raising something important, Sharon Hodgson opts to be the Chocoholics' pin up with an absurb question to the minister about chocolate no longer being permitted on biscuits in school.

The chocolate topping has gone because standards of nutrition of food served in schools have been tightened. Recent attempts by the government to tackle the obesity timebomb however have themselves been backed by Chocolate-Adoring Sharon. So you would have thought she would have been all in favour of leaving off the chocolate. Maybe healthy eating was just a passing fad for her, something to be nibbled when she felt hungry for a bit of media coverage, but otherwise wasn't part of her normal political diet. She is, after all, the person who demanded cheap cola, popcorn and sweets for kids in an early day motion recently though she then went on to demand "healthy" school meals are served up for kids.

Consistency is not something to be associated easily with Ms Hodgson. She is as useful to politics and the people she represents as a chocolate fireguard is to a list of useful household appliances!
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The Tuesday morning blog: no, no, never, abolutely loyal, no way will I stand etc

The next stage of the Labour self-destruct process has begun. Or so it would seem. When Cabinet members have to tour tv studios on a bank holiday Monday to tell everyone they think the PM is wonderful, only person for the job, he walks on water, he is the only person who can lead Labour through difficult times, etc etc, then you know the rot has well and truely set in and the decline is terminal. Like a house suffering from dry rot, the structure is dangerous and costly to put right. Demolition is a better option.

I don't know whether to sympathise with the Lady Harriet or to laugh at her (possibly both). Her protestations that she doesn't want the leadership and will "never" want to be leader do not stand well beside what has clearly been a period of positioning by her. Nevertheless, she is almost certainly being completely honest when she says she does not want to be leader at the moment. After all, the chances of a heavy defeat for Labour are growing by the day, regardless of who leads them. Why grab the poison chalice now? Let Brown take the party to defeat then take on the role. It also avoids carrying the ignominy of being the PM with the shortest period in office.

So, Brown, as I have said on numerous occasions last year when Labour MPs messed about thinking they should dump him, is in post til the general election. After that, Labour will be reintroducing their very own style of bloodsport in which we are all spectators, assuming of course they are heavily defeated and go into opposition.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Even the ultra-loyalist Blears turns on Brown

Okay, so she is a Blairite, but Hazel Blears has a reputation for being a Labour loyalist come-what-may. She always had a chirpie, rather irritating, often reality-free response to every Labour setback. So if she is making critical comment, the rot in the Labour party must be so far advanced that it is almost impossible to reverse in time to save them from a poor general election result.

I still hold to the view that it will be difficult for the Conservatives to emerge after the general electio with a majority. Labour in self-destruct mode will however hasten their own demise.
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Friday, May 01, 2009

The Eagle has landed

Back from annual council meeting in Gateshead. The new mayor has been appointed. He is John Eagle, member for Bridges ward in central Gateshead. He was described as "one of the longest serving members of the council" by his proposer who pointed out he had been elected in 1998. Given that I was first elected in 1987, what does that make me? Part of the fixtures and fittings or a permanent feature of the Gateshead political landscape, like a granite mountain, gradually being eroded away over time!? Strangely, I am still one of the youngest members on the authority after 22 years.

Anyway John. Good luck in the year ahead.