Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tory Euro policy in tatters

Quite how the Tories are going to respond to the final implementation of the Lisbon Treaty will be interesting to see. The news in the Guardian this morning suggests Cameron will abandon the promise to hold a referendum once the Czechs have signed up, which is expected within a month. It means that the Tory Europhobic headbangers will go apeshit. Cameron very much has himself to blame. He made unsustainable promises to the anti-Europeans which means an embarrassing climbdown will have to be made. And it all suggests that were the Tories to win the election and form the government, Cameron will face continuing divisions on Europe and the anti-Europe obsessives grabbing the headlines all the time.

So nothing new there.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Hardly a surprise

So Tony Blair is not getting the backing of the socialist group in Europe for the Presidency of the European Council. Can we really be surprised at that? After all, Blair can hardly be described as a socialist. And being best mate of a failed, right wing US president is hardly a characteristic that will inspire support.

I wonder just how many of the "socialist" brethren of the Labour Party would be keen on a Blair presidency. At the rate they are going however, there are probably more than there are who want a Brown leadership of the Labour party.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brown associates himself with someone more popular

If you are deeply unpopular in the eyes of the public, as indeed Gordon Brown is, why not associate yourself with someone much more popular!? I remember the Spitting Images sketch from the 1980s which featured Neil Kinnock trying to fit in the words "lovely nurses" into everything he says in an attempt to boost his popularity.

So now Gordon Brown, the man who had a festering grudge against Tony Blair whilst the latter was Prime Minister, is now heading up the Tony-Blair-for-President campaign in an attempt to make him top dog in Europe.

It's almost like politicians cuddling up to bankers in an attempt to make themselves more popular in the eyes of the public.

Anyway, Brown says Blair would be "excellent" for the job of Euro President. Sounds llike the kiss of death to me!
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Growth in US and continued recession in UK

The failure of Labour on the economy and their absurd posturing that they "saved the world" and are "leading" the world out of recession have been exposed yet again today. The growth figures in the US just announced add that country to the list of countries out of recession. The list includes the Eurozone and Japan. China never went into recession. So all the leading economies are now out of recession, all except the UK.

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Dave the Chameleon Watch - no.2: the 10:10 campaign

Madagascar chameleon Dec 07 No 1

The 10:10 campaign is familiar to many. The following Early Day Motion in the Commons explains what it is all about:

This house welcomes the 10:10 campaign, which aims to unite every sector of British society behind the idea that, by working together, it is possible to achieve a 10 per cent. cut in the UK's carbon emissions in 2010; notes that the campaign provides an opportunity for people, businesses and schools to come together to make a meaningful difference by concentrating on immediate, effective and achieveable action; recognises that climate change is one of the most important challenges facing humanity, requiring urgent and radical action; urges individuals and organisations to sign up to the campaign and pledge to cut their emissions by 10 per cent. in 2010; and calls on the Government to match this commitment at the national level.

This EDM was proposed by Labour MP Lynne Jones on 12th October. Note the demand for action from the Government. Blaydon Labour MP David Anderson signed up to the EDM 3 days later.

However, less than a week after Mr Anderson called on the Government to back the 10:10 campaign, he was faced with the opportunity of voting for it. The following was the Opposition Day Motion from the Lib Dems on 21st October:

This House
•believes that it is vital that the UK demonstrates political leadership at all levels in response to the climate crisis, and that this is particularly important ahead of the United Nations Climate Change summit in Copenhagen if there is to be an international agreement which will avert the worst effects of catastrophic climate change;
•further believes that immediate practical responses to the crisis should include a massive expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency and a commitment for all homes in Britain to be warm homes within 10 years;
•acknowledges that action taken now to tackle the climate crisis will cost less than action taken in the future;
•notes the declared support of Labour and Conservative frontbenchers to the objective of the 10:10 campaign which calls for 10% greenhouse gas emission reductions by the end of 2010;
•agrees that the House will sign up to the 10:10 campaign;
•calls on Her Majesty's Government and all public sector bodies now to make it their policy to achieve a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2010; and
•further calls on the Government to bring a delivery plan before this House by the end of 2009 on how these objectives will be achieved.

Mr Anderson of course voted to kick this out and opted instead for a weak Labour motion that in effect said the 10:10 campaign is fine for others to follow, as long as the Government doesn’t have to sign up itself.

Yet again, Mr Anderson showing consistency by being inconsistent.

This is a union that is determined to strike regardless

The 2nd CWU strike has gone ahead. Why? It seems that the CWU has a negotiating team that is willing to do what its name on the wrapper suggests - to negotiate. But the moment they go back to the CWU executive, the negotiated solution is rejected and demands are increased. So the negotiating team goes back to Royal Mail with the CWU having moved the goalposts (or did they move the letterbox!?)

This is a dinosaur union that is determined to strike come what may. It behaves as if the 1970s had not ended. It is wrecking the business in which its members work. Their leadership has also raised 2 large fingers to Brendan Bracken and the TUC who tried to broker a deal. This is a badly led union that is on a suicide mission. The result of their behaviour will be even more job losses than the modernisation programme would otherwise cause.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Second mortgages and family on the payroll

The recently leaked Kelly proposals on 2nd mortgages and family members on the payroll is likely to be the latest cat amongst the MP expenses pigeons. Events have moved on since earlier this year when we all seemed to be putting forward proposals on how to tackle the crisis. My idea was to taper the support MPs get if they buy a 2nd home as the cost of mortgages in real terms goes down the further you are into it relative to a person's income. Meanwhile, they should get nothing for furniture etc. They are after all well paid.

Events have moved on and Kelly's new proposals must be regarded positively. I appreciate the plan to stop MPs employing spouses or other family members will cause some problems. And it can sometimes be that MPs and their spouses first met in their political roles with spouses therefore sometimes being an ideal candidate to work for an MP. However, some of these people are paid massively more than what the equivalent jobs elsewhere get. Sums of well in excess of £40k for a secretarial role are way beyond what many more important and demanding jobs would expect to fetch.

So whilst I recognise that many family members working for MPs do a great job, the minority of abusers have forced an "enough is enough" response.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Delivering Birtley

Sunday was a mix of the good, the bad and the downright careless. In the morning I went down to Dunston with the local councillors and our Blaydon candidate Neil Bradbury to do some photos outside the Fed Brewery which S&N want to close. Then I managed to wreck the video camera. Apparently it doesn't like being dropped on the ground. The night before I had managed to wreck an external hard drive which, also as it turns out, doesn't like being dropped on the floor. Fortunately I was planning to get a new video camera (widescreen, high resolution, shoulder mounted and Jonathan proof) so I have been wandering around Newcastle camera shops today looking at what's available.

Anyway, after the expedition to Dunston, we headed off to Birtley for a modest leafletting session. On one street there was a "Gordon Brown For Sale" sign. It was amusing enough to take a photo which I will post up at some point though Neil has already posted it on his blog. How unfortunate for this estate agency however that they share their name with the most unpopular PM on record!

The horrors of the day did not end with my camera trashing experience. When sorting my post in the evening I checked my mobile bill. Turns out my mobile provider was charging me 10p a text (and I do lots of them!) This wasn't quite what my contract stipulated. Unlimited texts are not supposed to cost 10p each. A phone call the next day to the company sorted it out. The money will be offset against future bills. How very kind of them.

Anyway, I am on the no 43 bus now heading back to Sunniside and a bit of Focus writing.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Freda RIP

I was amazed at how much interest there was over on my Facebook site about my cat Freda. She was nearly 21 years old when she died last week. She had a significant local following in our village of Sunniside with people regularly calling to see her. And when she died, I had loads of messages including a steady flow on Facebook. So thanks everyone.

Here's Freda's picture:

Freda June 2005

Meanwhile, our nephew Jay even managed to take some of our photos of Freda and produce this video:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Keeping Broon on Tyneside

Brown Ale Fed Brewery Oct 09

Newcastle Brown Ale is as much an icon of Tyneside as the Eiffel Tower is of Paris. So the idea that brewing Broon should be transferred by Scottish and Newcastle to Tadcaster in Yorkshire is not being universally welcomed on my home patch. So we are launching a petition to the company asking them to think again.

I met up with some of my colleagues this morning to launch the campaign outside the brewery in Dunston, Gateshead. I took the photos, including the one above. Neil Bradbury, our Blaydon candidate, is heading up the campaign.

One of the bottles in the picture will be used tonight in a casserole we are making. Waste not, want not!

In the photo above are Neil Bradbury and Councillors Yvonne McNicol, Allison Chatto and Peter Maughan.

Dave the Chameleon Watch no. 1

Madagascar chameleon Dec 07 No 1

Remember the Labour attack on David Cameron. They called him Dave the Chameleon because he changes what he says to suit his audience. A reasonably accurate description but there is another Dave-The-Chameleon on the block. It is none other than David Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon. Readers of this blog will recall that the interesting inconsistencies do often get raised by me. However, I have decided to put them onto a more formal basis. So today, I can exclusively reveal that I am launching "Dave the Chameleon Watch"!

Today we are featuring Mr Anderson's position on Equitable Life. Back in May 2009, Mr Anderson was so annoyed about his government's handling of the Equitable Life disaster that he put his made to an early day motion which read:

That this house notes the Parliamentary Ombudsman has taken the unusual step of using powers under the 1967 Act to present Parliament with a further and final report on Equitable Life;

also notes that the Public Administration Select Committee's second report on Equitable Life, Justice denied? concluded that the Government response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report was inadequate as a remedy for injustice;

recognises the vital role the Ombudsman plays in public life;

reaffirms the duty of Parliament to support the office of the Ombudsman;

believes the Government should accept the recommendations of the Ombudsman on compensating policyholders who have suffered loss;

welcomes the formation of the All-Party Group on Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders;

and notes with regret its necessary formation and the fact that over 30,000 people have already died waiting for a just resolution to this saga.

Move forward to 21st October and Mr Anderson actually had the opportunity to stand by his demand for action by voting for the very same motion in the Commons, proposed by Vince Cable. There was only one small difference. Vince's motion included the line "notes the outcome of the Judicial Review announced on 15 October extending the period for compensation claims back to 1991". This simply took into account a recent development but did not materially change the motion.

So, did Mr Anderson last week vote the way he demanded in May? Did he hold the government to account, the same government of which he was so critical earlier this year? Errrr, no, he didn't! Instead, he voted to kick out the motion and replace it with something that backed the government.

Not very consistent are you Mr Anderson?

(I took the photo in Madagascar in December 2007!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Doing last night's job tonight

I got off the train from London yesterday afternoon and went straight to Gateshead Civic Centre for meetings with my two ward colleagues Marilynn Ord and John McClurey and officers. Very useful and hopefully some progress will be made on the issues we raised.

When I got home however, my very elderly cat Freda (nearly 21 years old) was not looking too well. She had had breathing problems on Sunday evening but she seemed okay by the morning and whilst down in London I was getting messages from David to say she was okay. By yesterday afternoon however she was clearly unwell and so we took her up to the vets at Sheriff Hill. There she was diagnosed as having kidney failure.

Rather shaken by the potential loss of something that has been part of our lives for 20 years, we took her home. She died at 6.45am this morning. I buried her in her favourite part of the garden where she used to like to sunbathe.

It meant last night I didn't get the printing done I was planning. I am now in our Blaydon office running off 1600 Focuses. I also need to sort a few things out for our Blaydon constituency branch meeting tomorrow.

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Where does this leave Labour's claims to be leading the world?

Yet more dire economic news. Perhaps people thought there would be growth in the GDP figures produced today, reflecting the fact the Eurozone has climbed out of recession. Japan is out of recession too. But here in Britain, the figures are still in the negative.

The question is, will we continue to hear Gordon Brown claiming he is leading the world out of recession? The answer is probably yes. After all, Labour cannot do anything other than claim they lead on everything. In the real world, a place totally alien and unknown to Labour, the situation is very different.

Meanwhile, the pound is under pressure following the announcement of the GDP figures. Bloody typical. The pound slides just before I am about to go abroad.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Heading home

I had a hellish journey by Tube across London this morning. The Victoria line was congested. I had to wait with hundreds of others outside the entrance to the Tube station for ages before they let us in. Fortunately I still got to Kings Cross in time and my army of Labour readers in Gateshead will no doubt be delighted to know that I am now heading home ready to do battle with the "socialist" brethren.

Meanwhile, I have a meeting at 2pm in Gateshead Civic Centre about ward issues. Assuming the train does not get delayed, I should be on time for it.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A politically motivated strike

I watched and listened with amazement. It was like back to the future, 1984 all over again. I don't mean the great novel by George Orwell. Watching the CWU press conference was like watching Arthur Scargill misleading the miners into the disaster of the miners' strike.

That strike hastened the demise of the deep coal mining industry and of the National Union of Mineworkers. It was a politically motivated strike. And I can't help but feel that the CWU is heading down the same route.

Look at everything they said at the CWU's press conference and you will see a long political rant against the government. As readers are likely to know, I am no fan of this government. But I dislike even more the self-appointed spokespeople for the country who think they can wreck the economy, people's jobs and businesses in pursuit of their own political agenda.

Labour's rewritten history of the Northern Rock saga

It's happened again. Gordon Brown in Prime Minister's Questions today attacked the Tories for their failure to support nationalisation of Northern Rock. The Tories got it wrong - that's Labour's message. Actually they are right on that. The Tories repeatedly got it wrong on Northern Rock as they had a different policy on different days on what to do with the failing bank. Indeed, they often had different positions on the same day.

But Labour posturing on Northern Rock overlooks the fact that they ineptly let the bank drift through the crisis for four months before events forced their hand and they nationalised the company. Vince Cable was the first to call for nationalisation. The proposal was put forward by the Liberal Democrats in December 2007 in the Commons. This brought a hysterical response from some Labour MPs in the North East who came close to accusing Lib Dems of eating babies for breakfast because of our call to nationalise Northern Rock.

Blaydon Labour MP Dave Anderson said in the debate, "The Liberal Democrats have come forward with proposals that they think will grab a headline. We are used to that. The people of the north-east will see through what they are doing and will not forgive them for it."

Now Labour claims they led the fight to nationalise the bank in the teeth of opposition from the Conservatives. Such posturing overlooks the fact that Tories and Labour we dithering in bed together on this issue for 4 months before Labour abandoned their hostility to nationalisation, and a large number of Labour MPs had to eat their words, along with a large helping of humble pie.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lord Rennard is innocent!

As I start to sip my pint of heavily overpriced Fruili in the White Hart near by house in Crystal Palace, news comes through that Chris Rennard has been cleared of any wrong doings on expenses. He broke no rules. Rather puts the boot into all the stories of wrong doing that those on the right (possibly upset by his record of destroying the Tories in byelections) have spread. The right are wrong! Not for the first time.
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Even the Leader asks about the allotment!

It's often the first question people ask me: how is the allotment? I can add Nick Clegg to the list of people who have now asked! I was at the National Liberal Club tonight to do photos of Nick Clegg and candidates. Well, he did ask, so I told him! Allotment doing very well thank you. He wasn't the only one to ask.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Heading down to London

I have just boarded the train at Newcastle to London. I am heading down to do the photos at the Parliamentary Candidates Association reception tomorrow. It's also the chance to do a few other small tasks. It was touch and go this morning as to whether or not I would get everything done I needed to do. It was one of those days when if it could go wrong it did go wrong. I phoned council officers who weren't in. I had a printer that wouldn't work properly and a pc that was being very difficult. In the end however I got to the Central Station with 45 minutes to spare. Typical!

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Feeding tabloids and fingers to dogs

I went to a village in Blaydon constituency called Kibblesworth today with Neil Bradbury, our Parliamentary candidate. The aim was to deliver our latest tabloid in the village. We kept going until we ran out. There seemed to be an awful lot of dogs, all of which seemed to be located behind letter boxes and all of which seemed to be so hungry that they ate the leaflets as I put them through doors. Fortunately my fingers did not manage to get onto any doggie menus today.

I delivered tabloids in West Denton in Newcastle North on Thursday as well. There I encountered 2 enormous rottweilers in someone's front garden. No house could be left out of the delivery so into the garden I fearfully headed. Yet, rather than treat me as a fresh meal, they were instantly out of the gate and up the road. Fortunately the front door of the house was open and I was able to call to the people there that their pet meat eating machines had gone walkies. I saw the people a few minutes later walking their canines back home.

I have only once ever lost blood as a result of being bitten by a dog whilst out delivering. It was during the Langbaugh byelection in 1991. Big, loud dogs are better than the tiny little terriers specially breed to be silent and deadly with fingers. They lie in wait all day behind letter boxes ready to silently sink their serrations into human digits. Post, leaflets and newspapers are shredded by them as well. My memories of Langbaugh are of having to go to hospital for all sorts of injections. I don't know whether the dog survived the experience!

Anyway, I took this photo of Neil in Kibblesworth after today's delivery on my new fangled blackberry.

Neil Bradbury Kibblesworth

Vince Cable's speech to regional conference with video and photos

Vince Cable was our guest speaker at the North East Liberal Democrats' regional conference in Gateshead yesterday. You can see the video of his speech below:

As you would expect, I also took some photos which are now of Flickr. A few of them now follow:

North East Lib Dem conference Oct 09 no 36

Me and Vince after the photo op with candidates. Thanks to Greg Stone for taking charge of the camera at this point.

North East Lib Dem conference Oct 09 no 38

Carol Woods, candidate in Durham City briefs Vince on a few local issues.

North East Lib Dem conference Oct 09 no 13

Vince addresses the conference. My rough head count was 130 members present.

North East Lib Dem conference Oct 09 no 6

Food for thought at conference.

The full selection of photos can be seen at

Saturday, October 17, 2009

North East regional conference

I have just left Gateshead Civic Centre where the North East Lib Dem conference has now finished. We were in the council chamber, all feeling rather happy, with Vince Cable as the guest speaker.

Down the other end of the civic suite, in a smaller room, Labour were meeting. You could tell who were the Labour members. The "socialist" brethren were the glum looking ones!

Vince spoke well but don't just take my word for it, judge it for yourself. I have Vince's speech on video and will be posting it up on YouTube later today (hopefully). As you would expect, I did a load of photos so they will be posted up shortly.

That however will have to wait whilst I do something more important - get my hair cut and the grey removed. Amusingly, my hairdresser has moved to new premises in Blaydon. The former occupant of this building was the Blaydon Labour Party. The purpose of this building has now improved enormously. Pity I missed the official opening of the hairdresser shop. Apparently they got through 40 bottles of champagne. Not that they drink that in Labour offices any more!
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Friday, October 16, 2009

22 photos in this publication

I am currently working on the Northern Democrat, the email newsletter which is emailed to members in the North East but which also finds its way to members in Yorkshire and Cumbria. 7 pages now written and I will do the front page tomorrow evening after the regional conference in Gateshead.

I remember years (okay decades) ago when I first started editing publications - amongst my first lessons was that the photos are very important. And when I first wrote Focus leaflets, the often didn't have photos in them. Those days are well behind us but I wonder if I am doing photo overkill in the current edition of the Northern Democrat. 22 photos on 7 pages of A4 seems an awful lot.

Anyway, this publication will be put to bed tomorrow and hopefully members attending conference will be able to read about it (and see the photos) by the time they get home tomorrow evening and check their emails!

My old mate Dave Hodgson, now Mayor of Bedford

Congratulations to Dave Hodgson, announced today as the Lib Dem victor in the mayoral by-election in Bedford. The fact I have known Dave as far back as the mid 1980s does not appear to have damaged his political career!

I still have memories of going to Dave's parents' house in 1984 in Bedford for a party back in our Young Social Democrat days, which really does mean it was a long time ago! As for those house parties we went to in Liverpool and Washington........

More recently Dave and I were colleagues, both working for the party. We have both now left: Dave to run Bedford, me to run my allotment!

Well done Mayor Hodgson, I know you'll do a great job.

Vince Cable in Gateshead tomorrow

Regional conference in Gateshead tomorrow and the guest speaker is Vince Cable. The conference has already had record advance bookings. I will be there to do the photos and report on proceedings by video. Watch this space!

It is also an excuse to post up this photo:

Vince Cable Sept 09 no 3

It was taken at Bournemouth conference on my camera at the end of the photo op for campaigners with Vince Cable. I think it is only one of two photos of me at Conference.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Monday morning blog - on the bus to Kielder

Today's blog comes live from my local bus service! It makes a change to blogging from the train to London or from my bed before I get up in the morning. I am off to Kielder Reservoir, owned by Northumbrian Water, to look at the facilities of the biggest man made object in Europe and one of the few man made structures that can be seen from outer space. Okay, that's the interesting but otherwise unimportant facts over with. The bus is taking me to Gateshead Civic Centre where I pick up the coach to head to north Northumberland. I am going armed, as you would expect, with cameras.

To other things.

So, the government's fireside sale is starting. Seems a stupid time to sell off assets, at the bottom of the recessionary curve when prices are low. I don't object to the Tote and Student Loans Co being in the private sector but there is a duty of care on the government to ensure the assets of the taxpayer are giving us the best return.

And finally, the loss of Stephen Gately. I have to confess to still having somewhere my Boyzone poster from the 1990s. Stephen was always my favourite. You will be missed.

Bus is about to arrive at Gateshead. I'll blog more later.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is that an escape route I see before me?

I belong to the cock-up school of history, not the conspiracy one. I believe events are not pre-ordained. They happen by chance. Nothing is inevitable. But.....

The story of Gordon Brown's eye problem is leaving me with the feeling that the ground is being prepared and an escape route is being created. In the soap opera of politics, has the excuse for his departure been set?

The fightback at Labour conference would suggest otherwise. Or maybe the fightback was the final stand and if recovery did not follow, he would go without the palace coup that would otherwise be required.

The odds are he will still be there at the general election. But.....
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ward work

10am this morning I was with Cllr Peter Craig on Oakfield Rd in Whickham to do a street surgery. About 40 people came along. The issue that was attracting attention was the planning application for the shop on the road to extend its opening hours. This is one of those situations where the legitimate concerns of residents have to be balanced with the legitimate right of someone to carry on their business.

After this we went down to Chase Park to meet up with other Whickham councillors to take some photos for the forthcoming Focuses about the move to set up Friends of Chase Park.

Then off to Washingwell School to do an interview for our Video Focus with Peter Maughan about the local schools review. Once that was done I met up with Neil Bradbury, our Blaydon candidate, to sort a few activities for the coming couple of weeks.

Glad to say this afternoon I spent some time on one of my other favourite activities: foraging for wild foods and cooking. I picked a load of hawberries and made hawberry ketchup. Watch out for the forthcoming video on this!

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

For a limited period only, Compassionate Conservatism

On sale today from the new, improved Conservative Party - Born Again Compassionate Conservatism. This time limited offer has been brought to you by CP's chief salesman David Cameron.

Buy now whilst stocks last.

(Warning, may contain nuts. Seek advice before purchasing.)

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Why this union must stop its back-to-the-future approach

The Royal Mail monopoly on postal sorting and delivery ended over three years ago. Parcel delivery monopoly went even longer ago. Yet the Communications Workers Union seems to be reliving the bad old days of the 1970s in which monolithic state industries with a legal monopoly run a fair chunk of the UK economy. In the real world of 2009, Royal Mail no longer has a monopoly and is now open to the harsh winds of competition.

And the result of the strikes organized by the CWU? Royal Mail has just lost the contract for Amazon, its 2nd largest customer. This is not something that can be dismissed. The growth of internet retail sales could offset the huge fall in the number of letters sent. This is the area of growth Royal Mail must get into or otherwise see its business go down the pan. And the CWU needs to wake up to the real world or risk a suicidal course of action that could destroy the business in which its members work.
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

From voice of the army to Tory hack

Whilst I accept it was a bit of a coup (hopefully not a military one!) for the Tories to recruit former head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannatt as an "adviser", the guy has instantly undermined his position as a respected voice for the army and our troops. From now on he will be seen as the voice of the Conservatives.

The additional unfortunate point for him is that the Conservatives are not committed to backing his demands for additional troops for the war in Afghanistan. He's lost his independence and may well lose the argument.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What's up Doc? - MPs should check what's behind them in photos!

I was greatly amused by this. Check out the website of Dave Clelland, Labour MP for Tyne Bridge:

The 2nd photo down the page is really a lesson in why care needs to be taken with the camera! Check what's behind you. And then reject photos that make you look like you have sprouted Bugs Bunny ears!

And just in case Mr Clelland should have the offending photo removed, I've thoughtfully copied the page.....

Monday, October 05, 2009

Example of a Conference video diary

This is the conference video diary I made for Carol Woods, our candidate for the very winnable Labour held seat of Durham City. The aim was to have just a few minutes to cover the whole of her time at Conference.

A sign of things to come

As a YouTube partner, I find this very interesting. The forthcoming football game between England and the Ukraine will be shown live only on the internet. No terrestrial or satellite channel bid for it. Last week we had the announcement that in the UK, more is now spent on advertising on the internet than on tv. Meanwhile, channels such as ITV are struggling. Is view on demand overtaking traditional viewing habits? Is this a sign of things to come?

We won't be able to answer that for certain for some time but my feeling is that we are moving into view on demand as a major form of communication, possibly the most important individual form. In addition, people are increasingly turning to sites such as YouTube for information. I produce videos on how to preserve or cook wild foods or the produce of our allotment. I get a large number of viewings, far more than my political videos get. People are constantly searching using the term "how to". It's worth bearing that in mind if you are making local political videos.

Candidates absolutely must have an internet presence at the general election or risk losing significant profile. And any videos they do must be full of action and information. It's what people are after. Miss out the internet as part of local campaigning at your peril.
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The Monday morning blog: two different policies in one interview

Boris Johnson is experiencing the same problem as David Cameron. He is all over the place on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Watching Johnson on BBC News 24, I saw him first demand a referendum on Lisbon now (perhaps he overlooked the fact the Tories can't deliver that from opposition). Then it was put to him that the treaty will be ratified by the general election so an incoming Tory government would have missed the chance to have a referendum on the Treaty. Johnson then said he wanted a referendum on "specific bits" without saying which "bits" the question should be about. Moments later he was demanding a full referendum after the election on the whole Treaty.

All this detracts attention away from the Tories' policy of solving the unemployment crisis by cutting benefits to disabled people (perhaps the Tories believe they have been made "iller" by the NHS so they should be encouraged out of their "work shyness" by making them poorer). In a sense, the growing row over Europe could save the Tories from media scrutiny of their shallow, soundbite policies. There may therefore be, in Tory eyes, a silver lining to this cloud.

And finally, did anyone see Cameron's interview yesterday in which he called his party the "New Conservatives"? Now, what does that remind me of?

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Not quite what the Conservatives wanted

Scheduling the Irish referendum for the eve of the Conservative conference is the stuff of political soap opera. Having hoped for a showcase to display their back-of-an-envelope policies, suddenly the Conservatives' most divisive issue comes back to haunt them like a giant Euro chicken coming home to roost in Manchester.

All that talk of honesty and being straight with the British people comes to nothing if Cameron can't answer the question of whether or not there will be a referendum if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by all member countries before the general election. Twisting and turning is no answer. Watching Eric Pickles squirm when questioned about this has, of course, provided the entertainment for the evening.

Not quite how the Conservatives hoped to start their conference.

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Survey and tabloid in Blaydon

I was in Blackhall Mill this morning helping our Blaydon candidate Neil Bradbury deliver a survey in the village. There was some door knocking and chatting to residents and a useful call into the community centre where a coffee morning was being held. People were happy to talk.

From Blackhall Mill we headed to Rowlands Gill to deliver a couple of patches with our latest tabloid. 400 copies hit people's letterboxes and it was then back to my office to work on the next leaflet. Neil has now headed off to a meeting elsewhere, leaving me free to sort out the next Focus for my own ward and a street letter for the neighbouring ward. That, alas, means a trip to the constituency office this evening to do some printing. At least I was able to take a few minutes off this afternoon to watch Carry On Cleo, a classic of the British film industry.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Tanfield Railway Steam Gala Weekend

If you are interested in steam trains this video will be of interest to you. I filmed it at the recent Tanfield Railway steam gala weekend. The Tanfield Railway is the worlds oldest continuously running steam railway. It is also in my ward in Gateshead.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Up the mayoral creek without a paddle!

Actually, down the Tyne and on a ferry, hired for the evening for a charity fundraising event by the mayor of Gateshead. It's dark and cold outside but the disco is in full swing as we head to the mouth of the Tyne. Not that there's anyone on the dancefloor at the moment. I think everyone is waiting for the pie and pea supper, and possibly some music that is a bit more recent than the mid 60s! Not that I should complain - Elvis has just been played!

Wouldn't it be rather funny if we won the raffle prize of the bottle of House of Commons whisky donated by Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon who is sitting only a few tables away!? We've bought plenty of tickets - here's to hoping (and winning!)

PS DJ is onto the 70s now. Rod Stewart. Bring back the 60s!
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Photos available: Nick Clegg exhibition tour at conference

This is one of 57 photos I added to my Flickr site last night of Nick Clegg's tour of the exhibition area of Conference in Bournemouth last week. The photos can be used by Liberal Democrat members in Lib Dem literature.

The link to the photos is:

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Singing to keep up spirits

It is the end of Labour conference. I'm watching it now as the socialist brethren attempt to sing their way through the "Red Flag". After a decade under Blair in which the singing of this anthem of the left was likely to result in a knock on the hotel door in the early hours of the morning with delegates hauled off to visit the Labour Stasi, the result is obvious: very few of the "brothers and sisters" know the words. Mumbling from some, suspicious looks at the hymnsheet from others! It looks like a bad X Factor audition! I wonder whether they are singing just to keep up spirits.

I'm not sure whether or not putting up the Lady Harriet as the warm up to the singalong was meant to be a stroke of genius or sheer bad planning. I suppose it depends on your viewpoint. For me, I am in the former category. The more the Lady Harriet is seen by the voters, the less the voters will warm to Labour. Keep up the good word mi lady.

I did however fall off my seat laughing when she tried to make out Nick Clegg constantly changes his mind (no he doesn't) and then went on to claim that Britain was leading the world on bankers' bonuses. This from the party that at a European meeting just a few weeks ago was arguing against statutory controls on, you guessed it, bankers' bonuses.

Anyway, the "socialist" brethren have now ended their jamboree and next up is the Conservative bash. That should be entertaining.
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Scare-mongering or heros?

I couldn't let this go by without comment. Earlier this month I moved a motion at Gateshead Council about rail services. It was in response to a proposal by Network Rail that a high speed rail network be built that bypasses the North East. I say "moved" - the reality was that I was shouted down and constantly interrupted by Labour. And I was accused of "scare-mongering" for raising the issue. Quite why raising an issue of major importance is "scare-mongering" is beyond me. Are we supposed to remain silent each time something important happens? Perhaps that is Gateshead Labour's approach.

Anyway, what do we have at the Labour conference at this moment? - a debate about rail on the East Coast! Presumably that means in Gateshead Labour's eyes that Labour conference is "scare-mongering". Or is it just that Labour regards anything we do as "scare-mongering" yet when they raise the same issue, Labour regards themselves as "heros". (And everyone else regards them as hypocrites.)

Anyway, the Labour conference has now moved on to a speech by Defence Secretary Bill Ainsworth. He is a very worthy guy but his speaking style is deadly dull.

I'd better sort out remaining conference photos and video instead.
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