Saturday, August 29, 2009

Off to Cambridge

Having spent most of the week I am now heading up to Cambridge. This required a journey across London this morning. This was a human obstacle course par excellence. It started on arrival at Victoria Station where the queues for ticket machines put wartime Britain in the shade.

That would not have been relevant for me if I did not have to recharge my oyster card. So I joined a queue, took ages to get to the machine and had to have 2 goes at operating it as it was being temperamental. With my card recharged I headed off through a packed tube system to Kings Cross where I was met by a wall of people. Kings Cross must have been celebrating human sardines in a tin day. I am on the Cambridge train now which itself is doing the sardines in a tin impersonation. I should be there in 20 minutes.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Adding insult to our transport injury

The announcement yesterday by Network Rail that they support the creation of a high speed rail link through the Midlands and North West to Scotland is good for those regions. But what about the North East and Yorkshire? Our region subsidises the rest of the rail network - the East Coast Line is the only route where rail companies pay the government to use the line rather than the government pay them. Our region is not on the motorway network either.

So this announcement is something of an insult to injury for the North East.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oh for some real bread

As I am down in London this week, I am relearning to survive on commercially produced food from supermarkets and restaurants. Some of it is absurdly artificially overflavoured. Some is completely tasteless. I bought bread at a Tesco Express this morning. Frankly tissue paper has more flavour and body to it. We make our own bread back home. You can't beat it!

I have been to Cowley St today for meetings about the photo ops at conference. Comments from people suggested the good life is Gateshead is clearly working for me! Meanwhile I restocked the jam supply for my former colleagues. The cupboard had been bare there for a few weeks.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spending a penny just got more expensive

It seems as though deflation is yet to catch up with that time honoured activity of spending a penny. The last time I used the toilets in Victoria Station was years ago and cost me 20p. Having just needed to spend a penny in Victoria it now cost me 30p. Whilst Gordon Brown may have let the economy go down the pan, spending a penny seems to be a bit of a money earner for Victoria Station. I suppose I feel a bit pissed off about it!
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Braindead Big Brother bites the dust

I was in a minority when Big Brother was launched earlier this decade. Whilst many avidly watched this programme and its bewildering array of idiotic attention seekers who played up their absurb personal characteristics, I simply fumed about the braindead quality of this broadcasting initiative. Quite what people saw in this voyeuristic claptrap was beyond me.

So the news that Channel 4 is to drop this rubbish is welcomed by me. Viewing figures have collapsed so its got to go. Quite right too. Let's hope no one else buys the rights to broadcast it.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Labour to abandon Trident?

This is the speculation in the Independent this morning. The suggestion is that Brown has been under pressure from Chancellor Darling to change the tone on public spending or risk letting the Tories win the argument on how much the government should spend.

One of the suggestions, and it reads more as an Indie rather than government one, is that the new Trident subs will either be delayed or cancelled altogether. The cancellation of the upgrade is now Lib Dem policy. A couple of years ago we kept the option of new subs open though opposed taking the final decision on replacement until around 2014 when the international situation would be clearer. Nick swept that policy away a few weeks ago, saying that building the new subs was no longer an option. Frankly, the cost of having the symbols of a superpower without the economy of a superpower was no longer a credible option.

Whether the Indie is right on delaying or cancelling Trident is yet to be seen. My feeling is that Brown will not want to reopen the issue. The thing that most scares the Labour leadership is Labour's past. Revisiting something that was so divisive is hardly appealing to Brown and his master Mandelson.

Mind you, what are the crusty old left Labour "socialist" brethren on the backbenches to make of this? After all, a great many of them quietly trooped through the government lobby 2 years ago to vote for Trident replacement. Having swallowed their pride back then, are any of them likely to want to regurgitate it now? Not a pretty thought but perhaps they won't want to be reminded of their anti-nuclear views that still saw them vote for Trident.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Heading down to London

Well, it's groundhog day! It's Monday and I am on a train heading to London. At least it's not first thing in the morning. I certainly don't miss those early morning trains to London. I was however up at a reasonably early hour this morning. Our candidate Neil Bradbury called to have some photos done in Sunniside before he went to work. So we were out on the Front St to catch the rush hour.

At least it meant I had a good start on a piece of literature I need to produce. I was able to finish it before leaving to catch the bus to Newcastle.

An editorial board meeting of Parliamentary Campaigner, which I edit, is the reason for the trip. I'm staying down for a few days so I can sort out the flat and garden there as well. And I need to get some photos around London. So it's not going to be an action packed week.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Frank Fields and the Lady Harriet

Hardly a month goes by without a call from Labour maverick Frank Fields on Gordon Brown to resign. The latest call is a bit different. It includes high praise for the Lady Harriet. It seems that Fields believes Harman will help Labour avoid a crushing election defeat.

As a Lib Dem who has no desire to see the "socialist" brethren continue in office where they operate a reverse midas touch (they seem to be able to convert gold into lead), I back the idea of a Lady Harriet Labour leadership. She really would scare the horses! Her voice sounds like someone dragging fingernails down a blackboard. And whilst Labour would undoubtedly play the anti-privilege card against Cameron, with Lady Harriet at the helm, they would simply come over as an even bigger bunch of hypocrites than they are now.

So, all power to Frank Fields call. The only problem is that in Labour, his support is seen as the kiss of death. Perhaps we should persuade him to come out against the Lady instead!
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Photo ops at conference

Those who attend Lib Dem conference and have taken part in the photo ops I have run at past events may be interested to know that we will definitely be holding more events at the forthcoming Bournemouth gathering. Not all arrangements have been sorted yet and not all MPs invited to take part have yet responded.

However, those who have agreed to participate are Tim Farron (theme of fair treatment for farmers); Lynne Featherstone (equalities issues); Norman Baker (transport, possibly rail fares) and Simon Hughes (environment).

North East reps will also have a number of photo ops to attend and information will be circulated in due course.

Anyone holding a fringe event or wanting photos taken in addition to the photo ops should email me at jonathanwallace at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Photo editing experiment - here's the result

I created this image of the Swing and High Level Bridges between Gateshead and Newcastle by editing together 5 separate images. The version I came up with has a far higher resolution that the above version but click on it to get a better view. The sloping right hand end of the High Level Bridge is caused by my having to rotate through a wide angle to capture the individual shots. Perhaps I should have used my tripod.
This was just the result of my playing about but I was sufficiently impressed with the software I used to share the final, reduced resolution version.

Bromley shows true colours of Tories

So, there we have it, true-blue Tory Bromley is going to subsidise private schools with council taxpayers' money. It is somewhat unfortunate that my London home falls (just) within the boundaries of Bromley and therefore I have to endure, when I am there (not so often these days) a Tory dominated council which now looks set to take from the majority to give to a fortunate minority.

Bromley is also the provider of schools for that part of London. Bromley Local Education Authority are not exactly giving themselves a vote of confidence in their own ability to run schools if they are paying people to escape from them.

And this move hardly smacks of the compassionate Conservatism David Cameron would have us believe his party now supports.
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I picked a fine time to quit London

Today's retail price index is 1.4% in negative figures. Under rail ticket regulation, prices increase by RPI plus 1%. That means prices will come down next year! Typical. Just when I quit London, fares to get there have come down.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

History rather than politics tonight

I have just arrived at the Bridge, one of the historic pubs of Newcastle. It is at the north end of the High Level Bridge, one of the great railway bridges of the UK. I am here to meet up with some historian friends. An ideal venue for such a meeting. We are the first to arrive.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Flower bed petitions and digging potatoes

I walked down to Whickham this morning to print 500 petition forms in our office and then deliver them with Neil Bradbury, our candidate for Blaydon. The petition opposes the decision by Labour to remove some of the flower beds in the area. Labour in Gateshead are the party of cuts though if you listen to their sanctimonious drivel, you could be conned into thinking otherwise. I have just been out to collect the replies. 109 petition forms were returned to us. Not bad.

I spent the afternoon working on another bed of the flora variety - my potato bed. Time to pick the spuds, until the rain set in and we had to give up. I'll finish that job tomorrow.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Osborne as slayer of bonuses - and Hannan a fan of NHS

Are we really meant to believe that little pipsqueak George Osborne believes in banning bank bonuses? Was this not the same person who two years ago was arguing that we needed even less regulation of the City than even Labour's light touch approach gave us? He must be having a laugh. George Osborne as slayer of bank bonuses - next they'll be saying Daniel Hannan loves the NHS.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

It must be the silly season

I thought I would take a few minutes break from picking raspberries in Lotties Wood near my house in Sunniside and catch up on some political blogging. It is of course August and therefore we are well into the silly season (as well as the jam making season!)

The story that is getting the silly season treatment is the leadership "ambitions" of Peter Mandelson. There was a time when most Labour members hated Mandy so much that he was regarded as Public Enemy Number One. It seemed that people like me had a higher regard for him than the socialist brethren. Mandy was regarded by the his Neanderthal comrades as the person who dumped all their cherished beliefs in the socialist utopia, and in the process made them electable (but also devoid of political content). Now, it seems, the socialist dinosaurs love the guy. Labour's Atavistic Tendency is out in force and Mandy is their new pin up.

But this passing love affair is destined not to last. Nevertheless, the media have grasped hold of it by the short and curlies and have blown it into a story of Mandy for PM. The difficulties of dumping his peerage and getting back into the Commons would, you would think, have deterred the media from this daft story, even assuming the Labour party successfully prised Gordon's fingers off the keys to Downing St (and so far every attempt to do so has failed).

Yet, even the return to the Commons of Mandy has been plotted out by the media in the form of the retirement of Hilary Armstrong, the hereditary socialist MP for Durham North West. The former Blairite chief whip, who inherited her seat in the Commons from her father, has announced her retirement at the next general election. The speculation is that she will resign her seat in September to create a vacancy for Mandy's return. It reads more like the storyline of a Jeffrey Archer novel rather than a future reality. But it certainly makes for an interesting silly season!

Brown however has Mandy where he wants him: on side to deter the Blairites from challenging (other than the hamfisted attempted by the Blairite B Team of Blears and Purcell). He is also imprisoned in the House of Lords. You have to credit Brown with something (though not much). He may be an appalling communicator with a temperament totally unsuited to the role of PM, but he certainly has staying power within his own party. The people in the general election however may not care to continue with Brown as the boss. Don't however underestimate Brown. He will do anything required to stay at the top.

Meanwhile, a wild deer has just trotted past me and it's time to go back to picking raspberries (and to blow one at the whole Many as PM story!)
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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Delivering petitions

I have just finished delivering a petition in Whickham about Labour's cuts to flower beds in the village. Labour calls them "efficiency savings". They can't bring themselves to he straight with people about what they are doing. Anyway, I am now off to the recycling centre to take a pile of cardboard and then I'm off to the allotment to pick potatoes.
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Monday, August 03, 2009

Heading back home

After 4 days in North Wales I am now heading home. The train has just pulled into York. I'm not back til after 10pm and I'm already hungry! I'll get dinner when I get back. In the meantime, I am reading a book about the Cold War by Jeremy Isaacs and Taylor Downing. I am feeling old as a result. Some of the events mentioned from the 1970s I remember. And I certainly remember the autumn of 1989 when Soviet control of Eastern Europe collapsed. By then I was already a Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate (for Hexham). Yes, I am definitely getting old.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Enjoying North Wales

IWe arrived in North Wales on Thursday evening. Yesterday we went over to Llonagllen to walk over the Telford Aqueduct. Look out for the inevitable YouTube video next week! I've just been to Bangor and Anglesey to photograph the Menai Bridge. Watch out for material going onto Flickr soon.

This afternoon I will be at an 18th birthday. Oh joy.
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