Thursday, December 24, 2009

Heading south

We are currently in the car at the moment heading to London and just passing the Nene Valley Steam Railway. We will be in London and Kent over Xmas. Andrew, my older brother is temporarily moving into our house in Sunniside over the Xmas break as it beats sleeping on Dad's floor whilst he is up visiting the rest of the family over Xmas.

I am also doing a bit of photography and video in London whilst I am down for candidates.

The car is packed full of home grown and wild foraged food. Our aim is to have as near self-sufficient Xmas dinner as we can get. More about that later.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas has hit my radar

Bahhhhh humbug and all that. Christmas has now hit my radar screen. I'm off to Newcastle now, on the bus, to do some Xmas shopping. Thank goodness for vouchers. They make much better presents than actually buying something for someone that they don't want.

I did however spend a hour on the allotment in the snow this morning. We are aiming to have a self-sufficient dinner on Xmas day. So I picked cabbages and sprouts, dug up ready frozen leaks, and harvested some plump parsnips of which I am, sadly, rather proud.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

On equal terms

Very good news - debates between all three party leaders will take place at the general election on tv. This immediately removes one of the disadvantages under which the Liberal Democrats operate. The three leaders appearing together should help alter that perception. We will be on an equal footing with the other two.

The agreement on the leaders' debates is also a last throw of the dice for Brown. With little else to lose, the debates could be the boost Brown needs, at least to salvage something from the election. The biggest threat is to Cameron. His vacuous statements and shallow policy pronouncements may not stand the scrutiny of the leader debates. Interesting times ahead, me thinks.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

A view inside Lib Dem conference centre 2012

Lib Dem conference is coming to the Sage, Gateshead, in March 2012. The building is one of the best music halls in the country and on Thursday it celebrated its 5th birthday. I filmed the following video at the celebration. For Lib Dems it will give a taste of the venue for conference though I did not film inside any of the performance halls.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Don't walk away, make it the start

Copenhagen's outcome is a huge disappointment. The stakes are high and the cost of failure is enormous. Ambitions before the conference were very high. But we must not stop now. We may not have got the binding treaty we need but we have the foundations for an agreement that cannot come too soon. So whilst Copenhagen is very disappointing in what it has produced, we can build on the agreements we have reached.

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Visiting the Gibside Farmers' Market

Gibside is a National Trust property in my ward in Gateshead. It is the former home and estate of the Bowes-Lyon family, of Queen Mother fame. Once a month a farmers' market is held here. It is on now and I am currently having a coffee in the cafe waiting for the final trader to arrive. Despite the snow the event is going ahead but the final trader is the one who sells the exotic gins (which we want to buy as presents for people as well as compare with our own homemade fruit gins.)

And from here I will be going to Rowlands Gill to deliver a few Xmas cards and Neil Bradbury annual reports. I say a few. I actually have 800. That's what happens when you volunteer to deliver!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Exclusive news on 2012 Lib Dem conference

I am at the Sage in Gateshead, the fantastic new music hall on the banks of the Tyne. And I can exclusively reveal that Lib Dem spring conference will be held here in March 2012. Fantastic news. Really pleased. I knew conference office were interested in coming here and when I was at Cowley St I was constantly plugging the location as ideal for conference. So come to Gateshead in 2012 and enjoy my home town!
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The Sage 5th birthday

The Sage is the concert hall on the Gateshead Quays. It was opened 5 years ago and is today celebrating its 5th birthday. Thanks to the short-sightedness of the then Labour run Newcastle Council, Gateshead got the Sage, rather than it going north of the Tyne. Nevertheless, we are all proud of it on Tyneside. I am on the bus heading to Gateshead now to go to the Sage birthday party.

I had thought I could get through this year without a cold or any other illness. Alas, as I sit here on the bus, I am experiencing a cold, my body defences having let me down at the 11th hour! And it's cold outside as well, though we are on lower ground than Sunniside and therefore the snow has not been lying.

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Voting to jump off a cliff

The demise of Flyglobespan yesterday should be a timely warning shot to cabin crew at British Airways. The airline industry is in a perilous state and companies such as British Airways can either get their costs under control or collapse. Given the former is the lesser of the two evils, the decision by BA cabin crew to strike over Christmas seems like little other than a vote to jump off the top of a cliff with no safety net to catch them.

I wonder of there is a growing trend of industrial and commercial irresponsibility and suicide on the go at the moment. The postal workers were on strike despite the devastating consequences to their own under-threat Royal Mail. BA cabin crew vote themselves a long Xmas break that could crash land their company. Management are just as wreckless. Bank bonuses on a massive scale have been paid when the banks themselves have been bailed out by the taxpayer and are still on a commercial life support machine.

It waits to be seen what impact this sort of suicidal behaviour has on the economy as a whole.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Xmas card stuffing party

Whilst Labour council cabinet members get an officer of Gateshead Council to send their Xmas greetings by email, Lib Dems in Blaydon had a Christmas card stuffing party in my dining room last week. Here's the proof:

Christmas cards Dec 09 no 2

The cards have now been delivered in a number of wards in the constituency (Labour will have to ask around as to where but most houses will eventually get a card) but more are still to go out. We have another stuffing party tomorrow evening.

By-election alert in BNP target seat

There is to be a by-election in the Primrose ward of South Tyneside following the death recently of Labour's Cllr Barrie Scorer. The ward is not one that necessarily appears on the radar screen of closely fought battles and therefore normally does not generate a level of interest in the way a marginal seat would do so. Except now is different. The result last time put the BNP on a third of the vote. The result in May 2008 was:

Labour 1005
BNP 681
Conservatives 382

Turnout was 33% which for local council election is (relatively speaking) not that bad. I can't imagine for a moment that the BNP are going to let the opportunity pass. The question is, are Labour going to remain asleep and let the BNP have a go at wresting this ward from them?

NewcastleGateshead in World Cup bid

The host cities for England's World Cup 2018 bid have been announced and I am delighted to see that NewcastleGateshead is included. I have to confess that I am not a follower of football but I am a very strong advocate for tourism in my region. Anything that brings the visitors (and their money) to our area is welcome.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My 4th video to hit 50,000 YouTube viewings

Shock news from my YouTube Channel! I now have 4 videos with over 50,000 viewings. The video below is of the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai. I visited the emirate state in 2002 (I hasten to add I did not stay at the 7 star Burj) and filmed this short video. I only added it to YouTube last year.

For those who don't know the Burj, it is the hotel built on its own island in the shape of a sail (not a sale which I think Dubai may have to do of its overseas assets to pay the debts built up to invest in buildings such as the Burj.)

Anyway, here's the video:

Meanwhile, I am approaching the one-million-viewings-of-my-videos-on-YouTube milestone.

A significant quantity of constituency Christmas cards

In Blaydon constituency recently we had a significant quantity of Xmas cards produced and dropped off ready for putting into envelopes. The whole lot of them were dropped off at my house and 8 of use worked an entire evening last week to stuff as many of them as we could. There were still lots of boxes left to do when we stopped at 1am. I won't say how many we had delivered - such tactical information is for Labour to wonder about rather than be handed on a plate - but deliveries have started in a number of wards in Blaydon. The Northside estate at Birtley is the most recent to be ticked off the list.

I have been away in London filming videos and taking photos since Thursday evening last week but I have received today an email from Noel Rippeth, my group leader and agent in the constituency, updating me as to how far we have got with deliveries and asking me to host another envelope stuffing party! We have of course increased the pace of the Blaydon campaign in recent months. We have Dave Anderson MP firmly in our sights!

I am now heading home to Gateshead and am looking forward to that joyous task of delivering thousands of Xmas cards.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

A high profile day in the press

I blogged yesterday about the Journal being in touch to follow up some questions I had raised at Council last week. Well, two main articles today in the Journal and Evening Chronicle. It looks from the website (I am in London at the moment so I'm reading material on line) that the Chronicle coverage of the slow progress on the Gateshead Get Carter Multi Storey car park demolition was the main front page story. I'll get the press cuttings when I'm back home tomorrow.

I do however have a priceless gaffe. I got to Victoria Station a short while ago and got on the train. Not my train as it turned out. I casually watched through the window as my train pulled out of the station, thinking to myself, I wonder why the train I am on is not moving. So here I am still on the platform, waiting for the next train to Crystal Palace.
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another video shoot and some press work

I am off to Parliament Square now. I have another session this afternoon of shooting videos and taking photos for parliamentary candidates. Only one customer today but more on Monday and Tuesday.

I had to deal with an email from the Journal in the middle of filming yesterday. They have picked up on some questions I asked at Gateshead Council on Thursday about funding the proposed conference centre and about the non-demolition of the Get Carter car park. Demolition of this was supposed to have been carried out two years ago. The hideous, concrete monstrosity that looks as though it came straight out of the Josef Stalin Guide to Communist Architecture is still standing. The Evening Chronicle may well carry something on this latter story.

I also gave some comments about the budget cuts Gateshead is facing - up to £60 million. If they are published, avid Labour readers of my blog will be able to read them in the coming week in the Journal.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

He would say that, wouldn't he?

Tony Blair claims he would have invaded Iraq even if he knew Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction. He claims he would have deployed alternative arguments but the world was "better off" without him. Well, he would say that anyway, and I can't help but feel he is attempting to smooth the route to the Iraq inquiry which he will face in the new year.

What we already have in response however are MPs rushing to say that they were conned by Blair when the Commons they voted for war in 2003. Had they known the truth about the non-existent WMDs, they claim, they would never had supported the war. I saw Tory MP Richard Ottoway making that claim. Frankly, such people are as bad, if not worse than the likes of Blair. The Tories had the opportunity to question the "evidence" in 2003. They chose not to. Instead, they were the cheerleaders for the war. They put the boot in on those who did question the evidence. It hardly bolsters their credibility now to pose as the upholders of scrutiny and peace.
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Westminster videos

I am currently heading to Westminster on the train. The purpose of this trip is to film some videos for Lib Dem Parliamentary candidates outside Parliament. Also to take their photos. The videos are for the websites. For most of them, this is an innovation so it will be interesting to see how they do.

The climate change meeting yesterday was very interesting and it gave me some ideas I think we should try in Gateshead.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Heading to a climate change conference

I am currently heading to Euston from my house in Crystal Palace to go to a conference on climate change. The conference is headlined "Hotter and drier summers" and is being put on by the Local Government Information Unit and DEFRA, the government department for environment, food etc.

I was invited as a result of my blog! I think the post that caught the attention of LGIU was the one about the floods we suffered in Gateshead last year when the Derwent burst its banks and swept away the historic Butterfly Bridge, the site of which is half in my ward. The bridge itself was swept down river and now lies like a beached whale on the river bank. I paid a visit to the remains of the bridge a few weeks ago to photograph it.

The aim of the conference is to share experiences and knowledge and look at how climate change can be tackled in our communities. It is being held in BMA House near Euston Station. I caught the train this morning I used to get when going to Cowley St when I worked there. Quite a sense of deja vu!

I am also using the visit to London to do some photo and video work for Lib Dem candidates. Admittedly this is the main reason for the trip to London.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

More delegated Xmas greetings by email

Following my email of last night in which I posted about a Labour council cabinet member in Gateshead not following the advice to councillors not to get the members' secretary to send out Xmas greetings by email on their behalf, another Labour cabinet member has committed this heinous crime! As I said last night, I think council staff have better things to do than send seasonal greeting emails for councillors who are somehow unable to do this most simple of tasks for themselves. I won't say who the new offender is but for Pete's sake send them yourself or else my mole in the cabinet will tell all!
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The Mick Henry Longevity Clause

A change to local government executives throughout England is currently underway. Councils are required to have one of two models: the first is the leader model in which the Leader is elected by councillors and remains in place until such time as his/her constituents vote him/her out. The second is the elected mayor model.

There is an additional way to get rid of the Leader. The loss of a no confidence vote in full council removes the leader. Or does it? Well, in some councils it doesn't because the hurdle for a no confidence majority is set so high that it becomes virtually impossible to remove him/her. Gateshead has opted for a two thirds majority before a leader can be removed. Some other councils have a similar requirement. One or two even higher. Our argument is that it should be a simple majority. After all, if the majority of the council has no confidence in the leader, there should be a moral obligation on that person to resign. With the majority of the council against a leader, that person should go. Governments operate in the same way. What's good for government centrally is good for government locally, at least in this instance.

We debated the amendment to the council constitution today. Labour, led by Mick Henry, argued against our alternative of a simple majority and in favour of a two thirds majority.

I spoke in this debate, dubbing the Labour amendment to the constitution as "the Mick Henry longevity constitutional clause". The argument I put forward was 2 fold. Firstly, a change in the balance of power on the council, eg as a result of an election, may not necessarily lead to a change in the political leadership under Labour's plan. A leader of the council who had just lost an election could stay on as leader as long as his or her party held over a third of the seats.

Mick Henry argued that the new majority group could simply change the constitution so that a confidence vote of only a simple majority would be needed to remove the leader. He made no mention of course of the long time needed to carry out such a change. Interestingly he did not say words to the effect of, "you have my assurance that if Labour lost control in Gateshead, we would abide by the democratically expressed wishes of the people and I would resign." No, the only scenario he was prepared to debate was Labour clinging to power and the Lib Dems having to amend the constitution (which requires only a majority vote) to get rid of the Leader.

Cllr Henry actually refused to contemplate Labour ever losing control of Gateshead, arrogantly describing such a day as being "when pigs fly." Given the low standing of politicians amongst the public, I wonder if the public will treat such arrogance with the contempt it deserves. We will of course be telling the people of Gateshead just what Cllr Henry thinks of their right to decide through elections who they choose to represent them. Perhaps he would like to tell the people why anything other than Labour control of the Council is in his mind at least never to be contemplated.

Now we come to the second point I raised. A leader in a majority group could end up losing the confidence of their own group but could stay on in power if he or she can cobble together a deal with the opposition, as long as together they have a third of the seats on the council, the minimum strength needed to block a no confidence vote. Then came an even more remarkable line of argument from Cllr Henry in response: having such a high hurdle to remove the leader was needed to "protect the Labour group." What happened in the Labour group was "the most important thing".

So, the hurdle is high to protect the Labour group! He said he did not want a situation in which a rebellion and breakaway in the ruling group would lead to a no confidence vote to oust the leader. In such a scenario the rebels team up with the opposition and under the unintended consequences which I do not believe Labour have thought through, the Leader could stay in control even though the group he/she has just left continues to command a majority on the council.

The debate did, as you would expect, go Labour's way. After all they do have a simple majority on the council. But the debate also threw some interesting light on the thinking and worries within the Labour party. They are concerned to cover their own backs in case of an internal rebellion. And they are determined to cling to power come what may in Gateshead.

Whatever the thinking in the Labour party, one thing is clear: they are stuck with Cllr Henry, at least until the day pigs take to the air! Labour councillor backbenchers can rest assured however that we are doing our best to bring forward that day!
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A tall story spread around the world

I have just discovered that one of my YouTube videos has been featured on three foreign websites with the result that its viewing figures have gone up by over 5000 in the past 3 days. The video was shot on the Skybridge of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

I suspect the cause of the interest in very tall buildings has been sparked by the completion of the Burj Dubai Tower which has somewhere in the region of 160 storeys. My video has been included with a number of others shot from famous skyscrapers.

Anyway, the Japanese, Russians and Americans are enjoying my video handiwork on the following sites:

If you have a head for heights, watch some of the other videos on the sites as well.

Delegated Xmas greetings by email in Gateshead

A few days ago, we had an email from the members' secretary in Gateshead suggesting that anyone wishing to send seasonal greetings via email whilst making a donation to the mayor's charity instead of sending Xmas cards should send the email themselves. It was pointed out that the emails sent from the members' secretary actually appear as if they came from her, not the person wishing to send Xmas greetings.

This is a very sensible piece of advice. Were all 66 councillors to disregard this advice and ask her to send everyone Xmas greetings, she would have rather limited time left to do the real job of being members' secretary. And frankly, it is not the most challenging of tasks for councillors to do themselves. How long does it take to write a few lines of seasonal greetings and then click to send it to the all members mailing list?

So, a number of councillors in Gateshead have been raising eyebrows after reading an email from an officer of the council which was sent a couple of days ago:

Sent on behalf of Councillor XXX XXX

Dear All

Councillor XXX XXX has asked that in lieu of Christmas Cards this year he will also be making a donation to the Mayor's charity.

Wishing you and your families all a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

Many thanks

I've made this anonymous to spare the blushes of the councillor concerned (who is a member of the Cabinet!) but really, this is a bit much! A message sent to councillors containing sensible advice on how to avoid the council machinery getting bogged down in doing something which is not really something officers should have to do. And then shortly afterwards, the same advice is ignored by a cabinet member.

Maybe this councillor is so incredibly important and busy that the job of sending his Xmas greetings has to be delegated to officers to do. Frankly, I think the officer's time is better sent on other things.

Anyway, after this I guess I am no longer on this councillor's (delegated) Christmas (email) list!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Play equipment and X Factor appearances

I had a meeting in Gateshead Civic Centre this afternoon about the play equipment we have been planning for ages for Sunniside Park. We have quite an exciting scheme and the money for it. Next year we will be involving local schools and consulting with residents on the actual equipment to go in.

Equipment that has been promised us but is yet to appear in Sunniside however is the traffic lights at the junction of Front St and Sunniside Road. I think we have now hit the 8th deadline for their installation yet they remain nowhere in sight. This is becoming very frustrating yet the need for these lights is growing all the time. This is a dreadful junction and people actually rat run through other parts of the village to get to other junctions that do have traffic lights.

Anyway, as I left the meeting I got an email asking if I wanted to meet Joe McElderry and Cheryl Cole from X Factor at the Sage, Gateshead, tonight. Alas I had a group meeting to go to, followed by a Focus delivery in Dunston and then to the office to print 20,000 letters. I am in the office now slaving over a hot riso. So I missed by chance to mix with the stars. Oh well....
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The Monday morning blog: the pitfalls of class warfare

The Brown fightback was evident last week when the Prime Minister used PMQs to attack David Cameron's privileged background. Whilst Cameron was clearly stung by the attack, and Labour MPs were energised by the comment that the Tories' inheritance tax policy was invented on "the playingfields of Eton" (paraphrasing the words of the Duke of Wellington if my history serves me correctly) the question needs to be asked, is this an effective attack or just something that turns on Labour MPs?

The "Tory Toff" gibe was a disaster for Labour in the Crewe byelection last years. And Labour showed their own hypocrisy when they made the attack. After all, there are plenty of toffs in their ranks. Just look at the Lady Harriet. Ordinary members of the public are not interested in fighting the class war. Labour realised that in the 90s, especially under Blair, and abandoned this millstone around their necks. They should return to it only after very careful consideration.

They should remember that what motivates their own activists is not necessarily what motivates the people. If Labour's only message is an anti-toff one, they will look desparate and out of ideas. But, it may not be entirely all bad for Labour. It depends on how they handle the issue.

As part of an armoury of weapons against the Tories, an attack on them for defending the privileged and rich during a period of financial turmoil and cuts, when everyone needs to be seen to be paying their fair share towards the cost of recovery, could be a very strong message against Cameron. The Tory inheritance tax plan, initially seen as a positive for the Tories, is now a millstone. It is too easily seen as a handout for the rich and understandably, Labour will use it ruthlessly to portray the Tories as the party of the rich (despite Labour having been the friend of the rich since 1997).

But Labour needs to tread carefully. If the language used to attack Cameron chimes only with their own activists, they will lose more votes. But if they successfully paint the Cameron Conservatives as defenders of the few against the many, they may be able to salvage something from the disaster of the past few years. Time will tell.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sunday round up

It is 9.45pm and sadly, I am in the Blaydon Lib Dem office printing more Focuses. I'll leave the regular Labour readers of this blog wondering which wards I am printing. They can read them when they come through their letterboxes. They won't lilke them, but there again, they never do!

This afternoon I did a delivery in Newcastle North, one of our other target constituencies on Tyneside. Thankfully the rain held off (just). I then had a short stint trying to work out how to put YouTube videos onto our new Blaydon Lib Dem website. Still none the wiser though it is possible - I know it is as other constituencies have put my videos on their sites. I'll give myself a couple of days before I call for help again!

Anyway, the riso says 2500 left to print. Back now to the ink.
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Gordon Brown for sale

I couldn't resist this one! I was visiting Birtley with our Blaydon candidate Neil Bradbury recently and discovered this "For Sale" sign. I snapped this on my Blackberry.

There used to be a time when estate agents were seen as amongst the lowest of the low in terms of professional standing. Now, their standing must be something to which politicians must aspire! So were Gordon Brown to lose the election and need a new job, flogging homes may be just up his street!

Neil Bradbury Gordon Brown for sale Oct 09

Jam today at the Lib Dem fayre

Whickham Lib Dems held their annual Xmas fayre yesterday in the community centre in the village (in Blaydon constituency for those who don't know the area). I had a table selling jams and chutneys and my cookery exploits of Friday paid off when the 4 apple pies I made sold out quickly! Here are a few pics from the day itself:

Whickham Fayre Dec 09 no 4
Me and that jam and chutney

Whickham Fayre Dec 09 no 6
Cllr Peter Maughan and partner Eileen on the soft toy raffle stall

Whickham Fayre Dec 09 no 3
Cllr John McClurey with his winnings

Whickham Fayre Dec 09 no 1
Prospective MP for Blaydon, Neil Bradbury, right, is urged by Cllrs Chris Ord and Susan Craig to dig deep to buy raffle tickets

Whickham Fayre Dec 09 no 2
The Wallace family out in force

Friday, December 04, 2009

By-election capital sees another resounding Lib Dem win

Redcar and Cleveland Council here in the North East region has had 6 by-elections in the past 12 months, which must make it the by-election capital of the country. 4 of the contests have been won by the Lib Dems.

Yesterday's by-election in Ormesby ward is one of the 4. It was a Lib Dem ward in the first place but there was a significant swing to us in an area that was already predominantly Lib Dem supporting. The result was:

Ann Wilson (Lib Dem) 1084 (73.5%; +12.4%)
Steven Goldswain (Lab) 210 (14.2%; -5.1%)
Martin Bulmer (UKIP) 103 (7.0%; +7.0%)
Colin Jones (Con) 77 (5.2%; -14.4%)
Majority 874 Turnout 29.55% Lib Dem hold

The by-election was held due to the resignation of long serving Lib Dem Councillor Eric Empson. Congratulations to Ann and to our prospective MP Iain Swales. This could be an interesting constituency come the general election.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Like lovers who have fallen out

Hands off the bankers, they are the driving force of the economy. That was Labour's message just 24 months ago. Labour and the whizz kids of the City were in love and the affair lasted a decade. Then it all went horribly wrong. Now Labour and the bankers are at each others throats, like a couple of ex-lovers or a married couple going through a very messy divorce.

So today we have the RBS directors threatening to resign if they can't give bonuses to their best staff. They say they need bonuses to recruit the best people. (Wasn't it the same "best people" who got us into trouble in the first place?) Labour are saying no to bonuses. Looks like there is about to be a gun fight in the City, and that the Labour/City divorce is going to get even messier.
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The race begins to be the fittest councillor

I received the following email yesterday from Gateshead Council:

I need your help! As you know next year Gateshead will be the European City of Sport. To support this and further promote our commitment to making residents much healthier, we will also be launching Active and Healthy Gateshead in January. (Date to be confirmed.)

As part of the media launch we would like as many of you as possible to commit to becoming healthier over the year with assistance from our health checkers, dieticians, fitness experts, smoking cessation counsellors etc.

We are currently planning a launch/press day at Gateshead Stadium where you can access all of the experts mentioned and will be photographed for the press.

You will then be monitored over the course of the campaign and your improvements publicised.

This is an excellent opportunity to not only improve your own health and fitness, publicise the services Gateshead Council offers but to encourage and inspire residents within your wards to follow suit.

After this initial launch we will be appealing for residents across the Borough to take part.

I would be grateful if you could let me know if you are interested asap so we can finalised the numbers and details.

Alas, I have signed up for this. The whole borough will be able to watch me struggle to improve my health! Gone have the days when I used to swim 4km a week. My exercise now amounts to delivering Focuses and digging the allotment. Admittedly I do plenty of both.

The diet isn't too bad at the moment. I have cut down heavily on meat and milk. Lots of fresh veg and fruit is consumed from the allotment. Alas, I have failed to give up on my liking for cheese and chocolate.

So watch this space and enjoy! I will be reporting the results.

10:10 motion to be debated by Gateshead Council

We had our group meeting last night in Gateshead and decided to put forward a motion inspired by the 10:10 campaign. The motion is as follows:

Council notes that Climate change predictions show that without severe cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the world will be hit by drought, flooding and famine affecting all of us and poorest countries in particular. Some of these countries are already suffering from the effects of climate change. This is an issue of social justice as well as a call to take environmental action.

Council also notes that under the UK Climate Change Act 2008 the UK is due to cut its emissions by 34% by 2020 and that the 10:10 campaign to reduce carbon emissions in 2010 by 10% is supported by a large number of individuals and organisations, including front bench MPs from all three major parliamentary parties, and a number of Councils.

Council notes the steps it has already taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Gateshead and supports the ambitions of the 10:10 campaign. Council therefore asks the Chief Executive to prepare a report for cabinet to consider the feasibility of Gateshead Council signing up to the campaign

Full Council is on Thursday next week. It should make for a good debate.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Where will Labour's dinosaurs be in the voting reform debate?

Crystal Palace Park dinosaurs May 06 no 2

The move by Labour to legislate for a referendum on electoral reform will throw some interesting light on the position of the dinosaur "socialist" brethren in Labour's ranks who share the Tory horror at changes to the voting system.

In strong Labour areas, such as the North East (admittedly Labour are not as strong as they used to be), the tendency amongst Labour members is to support the existing first past the post system as it has given them a local dominance they find comfortable and enjoyable. Though the existing voting system has given Labour a temporary benefit by giving them a considerable majority in the Commons, completely out of proportion to their share of the vote, first past the post has historically benefitted the Conservatives. I am not arguing that the Conservatives are on the verge of election victory (they aren't and recent polls suggest the trend is making a Tory majority less likely) but the system left to run unreformed will eventually produce a majority Conservative government which is likely to last some considerable time. Just look at the political history of the 20th century to see that in practice.

Despite the current system historically favouring the Tories, the Labour dinosaurs continue to support it. So the move to Alternative Vote, itself just a modest step, is going to press the Labour reactionaries into something of a problem: do they support the line taken by their party, do they shut up, or do they jump into bed with the Tories and run a joint campaign to keep the old (Tory favouring) system in place.

Perhaps some of you local diehard "socialist" Labour reactionaries who so regularly read my blog may wish to use this opportunity to enlighten us as to your view: are you reformer or reactionary?

A photo of me taking photos

My thanks to Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidates Association Chairman Martin Turner for this photo, taken at the National Liberal Club in October. I don't often get to be in the photos as I am normally on the other side of the lens. So I thought it would be amusing to post up this one of me taking a photo of Nick Clegg.

JW photos Nick Clegg Oct 09

Tree planting in Whickham

One of the tasks to perform yesterday (Tuesday) was to help plant trees at Washingwell School and on the Watergate Estate in Whickham. The Mayor Cllr John Eagle came along as well. My colleagues Councillors Peter Maughan, Yvonne McNicol and John McClurey (and his dog) joined in as well, despite the freezing weather.

Inevitably I turned up with my SLR and my new video camera. A few of the photos are below. A full set and the video will be sent to Washingwell School once the video is edited. And as I'm such a generous chap, I'll send a disc to Labour Councillor and Mayor John Eagle.

As a result of the mud, my shoes and suit now need cleaning.

Meanwhile, good time had by all this evening at the Sunniside History Society Xmas buffet in Sunniside Club. I did not win the history quiz!

Washingwell School tree planting Dev 09 no 39

Cllr Peter Maughan and Cllr Yvonne McNicol with shovels at the ready

Washingwell School tree planting Dev 09 no 21

The Mayor Cllr John Eagle shovels the dirt!

Washingwell School tree planting Dev 09 no 17

Green fingers and green jackets

Washingwell School tree planting Dev 09 no 16

Yvonne directs the planting

Washingwell School tree planting Dev 09 no 15

More green fingers

Our latest tabloid

Our latest tabloid in Blaydon constituency has been hitting the streets over the past week. My village, Sunniside, was delivered today. This edition contains a mix of stories both national and local.

The lead is about the closeness of the result in the constituency last time. There is also coverage of the Lib Dem plans for education, Vince on the economy and a fair deal for our troops. On this latter poinnt, Neil Bradbury, our candidate for Blaydon, has been out campaigning on this for the past few weeks. He's picked up quite a few signatures on his petition and has visited the village and town centres of Crawcrook, Ryton, Blaydon and Whickham to collect them.

The picture below was one I took in Crawcrook in early November of Neil and Councillor Sally Danys collecting signatures for the petition.

collecting petitions Nov 09 no 2

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Frost and focuses

I looked out of the window this morning and saw frost. Well, I shouldn't be surprised. I was out last night in Dunston delivering Focuses. It was a difficult patch which I haven't done since the council byelection a couple of years ago. I had planned to do it in the morning but the rain set in. Doing it in the evening would have been easier if I had night vision. At least the weather was dry last night (for most of the time) but there was clearly a drop in the temperature. So frost is hardly a surprise to me this morning.
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