Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Printing Focus

Whickham Focus Dec 15

Christmas is over. Hooray! Today I was able to use my time constructively. I spent the afternoon doing self-sufficiency things, mainly cleaning our quail aviary. And tonight, I went to our office in Consett to fold our next Focus newsletter for the Whickham part of my ward. It will be hitting doormats shortly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Delivering in Chowdene

Low Fell Focus Dec 15

Daniel Duggan, who organises our campaigns in Low Fell and Chowdene wards in Gateshead, asked me if I would deliver one of the Focus patches left over from the action day a couple of weekends ago. I agreed to do one patch. At our next meeting, Daniel arrived with a large bundle of leaflets. 207 to be precise, to be delivered in Calderwood Crescent and surrounding streets. I did the whole patch this morning. It was easier than I expected.

Jonathan Wallace Chowdene Focus delivery Dec 15

I'm back home now but I know our print shop is in operation at the moment and I'm expecting the next bundle of Focuses to be with me tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gardening cancelled

Byermoor planters John McClurey Nov 15

We had planned to get a group of residents to do some gardening on the planters at Marley Hill and Byermoor on Sunday. If all went well, we would have done some weeding around the trees in the Kingsway community orchard in Sunniside. Alas, snow put an end to these plans. We will have to reschedule the work. As you can see in the photo above with my ward colleague Cllr John McClurey, the work definitely needs doing as the council no longer maintains the planters.

Church Green in snow Dec 15

This was the snow we endured over the weekend. Thanks to Kevin McClurey for the photo of Church Green in Whickham taken from Chase Park.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Swalwell Community Centre Fair

Swalwell Community Centre xmas fair Dec 15 (9)

Yesterday was the Swalwell Community Centre Christmas Fair. I was due to take Pinkie, one of my goats, who would do an impersonation of a reindeer and help raise funds for the Community Association. Alas, it was raining when I was due to take her down. As goats don't like wet weather, she could n't be moved.

goats Dec 15 (9)

I went along anyway and bought an absurdly large quantity of pies and cakes. It's not exactly a good example of my self-sufficient lifestyle but at least everything I bought was homemade.

Swalwell Community Centre xmas fair Dec 15 (6)

Cllr Chris Ord playing his cards right.

Swalwell Community Centre xmas fair Dec 15 (8)

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Swalwell Community Centre xmas fair Dec 15 (1)

Councillors Peter Craig and Sonya Hawkins wearing this year's must have fashion accessories.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

75th birthday of a Liberal stalwart

Chris Foote Wood party Dec 15 1

Yesterday was the 75th birthday of Chris Foote Wood, a Liberal stalwart in the North East of England who has been active in the party for decades. He had a birthday party in Darlington last night and David and I popped down to it though, sadly, we couldn't stay for long as we had another Lib Dem engagement in Newcastle.

Chris Foote Wood party Dec 15 2

So happy birthday Chris and keep up the good work.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Visiting the North East Refugee Service

Charlotte Sq burnt out building Dec 15

Last week I was contacted by the North East Refugee Service and invited to their HQ to have a look round. So today (Thursday) I went in to Newcastle to meet the head of the service and one of the trustees. They told me about how the service works and how I could help them help refugees now living in Gateshead.

The HQ is next to Charlotte Square, a location which was on the national news last week. A shop had been burnt out there and sadly the owner of the shop owner died in the flat above. I knew the shop, the Card Bar, as I occasionally visited it. My last visit was in late October. As you can see in the photo above, the building has been gutted.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Stocked up for the new year

Land rovers Dec 15

The call went out. Help was needed to get a half tonne of paper to our office in Consett. It had been delivered through the week to the shop of my ward colleague, Cllr John McClurey, in Newcastle. Those with large vehicles normally used for moving goats and beehives were especially welcome to provide transport. So my Land Rover was conscripted to carry half the paper. It may sound an easy job putting boxes of paper into the office - except, of course, for the 24 steps leading to the door. Just wait til we get the new risograph. Getting that up the stairs will be something to experience!

At least we are now fully stocked for printing Focuses over the next few months.

Lib Dem Christmas Dinner at Chowdene

Lib Dem Xmas dinner Gateshead Dec 15 (3)

I was in London from Wednesday to Saturday. This meant I missed the Lib Dem action day in Low Fell and Chowdene. It was meant to take place on the last Saturday in November but a hitch with the printer meant the Focus wasn't ready (we delivered in Dunston Hill, Dunston and Teams instead). Low Fell and Chowdene were rearranged for this weekend but that was after I had sorted my London trip. I understand from Daniel Duggan, who jointly arranged the action day with Cllr Frank Hindle, that Low Fell ward was delivered (a couple of patches were taken by volunteers to do later in the week) and some of Chowdene was done as well though, again, lots have been taken to do later this week.

Despite the best efforts of Storm Desmond to disrupt Virgin East Coast Trains, I was able to get back to the North East and to get to Chowdene shortly after stepping on to the platform at Newcastle. This was for the Gateshead Lib Dem Christmas meal which was held at the Stone Trough on Durham Road. Not a bad meal and good time had by all.

Lib Dem Xmas dinner Gateshead Dec 15 (2)

Lib Dem Xmas dinner Gateshead Dec 15 (1)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Sunniside History Society meeting

Sunniside History Society buffet Dec 15 (2)

The first Tuesday of the month is the date on which the Sunniside History Society meets. I am deputy chairman and the society itself is very active. The December meeting always has a Christmas buffet and therefore we had plenty of food to tuck into on Tuesday.

Sunniside History Society buffet Dec 15 (1)

I somehow managed to get out of entering the quiz as the chairman, Colin Douglas, asked me to be the quizmaster instead. This was a good move by him as I would have been terrible at answering the questions another member had put together - people had to name 24 celebrities from video clips we played.

The next meeting is on 5th January 2016.

On balance the right decision

I can't recall a situation in which the front bench of the opposition have put on such a public display of division. The incredible scene of the Leader of the Opposition calling for one particular policy and the Shadow Foreign Secretary calling for the opposite may be the first of many divisions to come. But on balance, the decision to use air strikes against ISIL in Syria was the right one.

There can be no negotiations with ISIL, a cult that is engaged in genocide, the murder of gays and the brutal repression of the people in the territory they control. As an historian, I can see the parallels with the Nazis once war was declared in 1939. Nazism had to be defeated militarily. So too with ISIL.

Had I been an MP, I would have voted last night in favour of air strikes. We are already involved in the war. Our aircraft have been bombing ISIL in Iraq. The Commons have voted to extend an existing military campaign. It made no sense to restrict ourselves to one part of the battlefield when crucial targets are in the other part. As an internationalist, I don't believe we could stand back when our allies are under attack and ask for help.

What doesn't help are foolish and inflammatory comments by Cameron equating those opposed to air strikes to terrorist sympathisers. People have genuinely held views and in a democracy, everyone has a right to express them. Cameron should apologise. And on the other side of the divide over this issue, there should be respect from those who oppose air strikes towards those who supported them. It seems however that the threat of deselection is stalking the ranks of Labour MPs. And the offices of some MPs are almost under siege with a tidalwave of abusive messages. This is not the gentler, more caring politics Corbyn says he supports.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Momentum runs out of momentum in Gateshead

I was in Gateshead Civic Centre last night having a meeting with my colleague Cllr Frank Hindle. Along the corridor from the opposition office, where we were meeting, is the Bridges Room. It had been booked by Corbyn fanclub Momentum. At 6pm I walked past the Bridges Room, where the door was wide open and glimpsed inside to see, well, not very much. A handful of people were sat, awaiting in a comradely fashion for the arrival of the massed ranks of the Momentum activists. Sadly for them, over the next 15 minutes only another handful of Momentum comrades appeared. We could see what was happening as our office door was open and we could see right down the corridor.

What was interesting however was the arrival of one individual in particular. Martin Gannon, the deputy leader of the Gateshead Labour council group arrived a few minutes after the 6pm start. Martin is the weathervane of the Labour group. Back in the 1980s he was militantly socialist, in the 1990s and 2000s he was more Blairite than Blair, now he appears to be reliving his glory days of the 1980s by meeting up with the Corbynistas.

But if Momentum thought they had momentum behind them, the numbers attending their meeting must have been disappointing. The Labour establishment need fear nothing from such a small meeting. At least at the moment.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Mince pies at dawn

sweet mince pies Nov 15

I suffered an attack of generosity this morning. Last night I made some sweet mince pies, using sweet mince meat I also made myself. At 9am today (after an early start feeding the poultry and goats), I had a meeting with Gateshead Council's Chief Exec and at 10am I was at cabinet. The mince pies were well received at both meetings. Only one Labour councillor at cabinet made a sneering comment. John McElroy said the biscuits that came with the tea and coffee "were better" though he did not sample the pies before making the comment. No pleasing some! His leader Mick Henry, however rather liked his. Looks ,like another Labour cabinet split.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Labour MPs "make me sick" - claims Labour MP

Blyth Valley Labour MP Ronnie Campbell is a cheer leader for Comrade Corbyn. He has spent all his years on the backbenches (he was elected in 1987). He has now waded into the row between Corbyn and a significant part of Labour's shadow cabinet over Syria. In our regional newspaper, The Journal, yesterday, he lets rip about those on the right of the party. "They make me sick," Comrade Campbell is reported as saying.

Clearly there are differing positions in the Labour party on Syria, as indeed there are in all the parties. Differences of opinion have to be respected but the spitting of venom by the increasingly fractious Labour party at themselves over Syria reminds me so much of the (for Labour) calamitous years of the 1980s when Labour members were more interested in beating each other up than trying to beat the Conservatives. What a sorry mess.

Marley Hill Christmas market

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (1)

It was the Marley Hill Community Centre Christmas market today. I had a small involvement with organising it but most of the work was done by other members of the management committee. I did however have a stall selling the surplus preserves from my self-sufficient lifestyle.

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (7)

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (6)

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (3)

Live music was provided.

Marley Hill Christmas Fair Nov 15 (5)

There was a steady flow of people all day. No mad rush but everyone felt the market went well.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Action day in Dunston

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (5)

An action day in Dunston, Gateshead, today was not our original plan. We were meant to be piling into another ward but a technical hitch at the printers meant that the Focus for that ward was not ready in time. However, we had 5000 Focuses for Dunston, Lobley Hill and Teams to deliver so suddenly, we had a Dunston action day instead.

The priority was to deliver Dunston Hill (which is part of a ward we are defending next year). I delivered 400 in the morning. Some patches in Dunston Hill were taken by others for delivery later in the week.

Waggon Team Nov 15 (2)

Waggon Team Nov 15 (1)

We then headed down to the Waggon Team for lunch, a rather slow affair as the meal took over 45 minutes to be served to us. At least we had time for sore feet to recover.

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (1)

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (2)

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (3)

It was then time for a trip to the Dunston Staiths. Myself, Daniel Duggan (Chowdene) and Kevin McClurey (Dunston Hill and Whickham East) delivered the whole estate.

Dunston Action Day Nov 15 (4)

There are lots of flats at the Dunston Staiths - some of which are very easy to deliver!

Sadly, when I got home, I still had 50 Focuses to deliver in Sunniside. I did them between having a cup of tea and milking the goat. Who said life isn't varied?

Momentum planning Labour takeover in Gateshead

My thanks to the person who I won't name for directing me today towards a Facebook site set up by Corbyn fan club Momentum. The first meeting of the Gateshead and Blaydon branch is being held on Monday and apparently the agenda is ruffling a few feathers in the ranks of the Labour party. You can visit the page on this link.

I draw your attention to item 3: "How we intervene in the LP/TU Movement."

"Intervene" is quite an interesting word to use. It is clearly a euphemism for taking control of the Labour party. But what should be even more worrying for the Labour party is the guest list for this meeting. Let me quote:

"Remember you don't have to be a supporter or member of the Labour party to come along." This appeared at the bottom of the agenda.

So what we have with Momentum is a Labour faction encouraging non-Labour members to take part in its attempts to take over the local Labour party, even though those people may not even be Labour supporters (ie they could be opponents of Labour).

In the Lib Dems we set the fashion for internal party democracy decades ago. It has since spilled over, in a limited way, into the other parties. Ours is a membership democracy - based on members who share a common set of beliefs. They have to be signed up and paying their subs to the party to take part in internal party democracy. Momentum, on the other hand, is inviting people who aren't Labour supporters to help them capture control of the Labour party.

The question has to be asked, why are Momentum inviting those who may oppose the Labour party to help them take over the Labour party?  Surely Labour should consider that a reason for banning them.

All this however does highlight the mess into which Labour has descended by electing Corbyn as leader. It also highlights the dangers we face in areas which Labour regard as their own fiefdoms, such as here in the North East. A Momentum clear out of the old guard could put the lunatic fringe in control of councils and institutions which play significant roles in the life and affairs of the North East. If the Momentum Tendency seizes control, those bodies will be politicised in a way that will completely undermine them, until such time as the Labour party in our area can be defeated at the ballot box. That's the goal my colleagues and I in the Lib Dems have to achieve.

No photos please, we're British

I popped in to the citizenship ceremony taking place in Gateshead Civic Centre on Wednesday. One of my constituents was to be there, having his new British citizenship recognised. I think these are great ceremonies and would love to see them extended to all 16 year olds to mark their adulthood and their citizenship (though we also need to lower the voting age to 16). I was just getting out my camera to take some photos (my attending an event and not taking photos is unthinkable!) when an officer told me that photos were not allowed. This seems a bit odd for a ceremony that celebrates citizenship. Surely it should be something we should be promoting. Sadly, my camera had to be put away.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Washingwell Project Meeting

Fugar and Washingwell Nov 15

About 2 years ago, I persuaded the Sunniside History Society to consider setting up a project to look into the history of the Washingwell area of Gateshead, part of which is in my ward. The society has since then enthusiastically pursued funding for the project to draw out the history of the past 2000 years in the Washingwell area which contains the remains of a Roman fort and medieval manor house, a Tudor culvert, ancient waggonways, early railways, ancient quarries, old coalmines and a historic orchard.

A couple of months ago, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced the project is to receive £10,000 to draw out the history of the area from the medieval to the modern era. We hope to carry out 2 other phases of the project in the years to come: an exploration of the Roman fort (which has not yet been excavated) and renovation of the historic orchard.

Tonight we had the latest meeting of the group running the project. I am leading on the work looking at the changing landscape and the flora and fauna which has inhabited the area over the past 1000 years. I will also be helping to do some filming about the project and to produce a dvd.

The project should be completed by October next year.

In the meantime, check out the photos I took recently in the Washingwell area. Washingwell Woods contains a number of features which are man made. They will need a great deal of study to work out what their purpose was. This is going to be an interesting project.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Shooting yourself in the Little Red Book

Can Labour's stream of shoot-themselves-in-the-foot actions ever end? Apparently not, if today is anything to go by. The looks of horror on the faces of Labour MPs as John McDonnell whipped out his copy of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book had to be seen to be believed. And the look of absolute joy on the faces of Tory MPs said it all. Labour have already pressed the stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off button with their decision to rebel against reality by electing Corbyn to the leadership. Now they just want to make life easy for the Conservatives by self-destructing. This is like a political soap opera with a seriously bad and unbelievable script.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lights switch on in Whickham

Whickham Christmas Lights switch on

For some years now, Gateshead Council has not been providing a Christmas tree for Whickham. Instead, a group of volunteers called Lighting Up Whickham, have raised the funds for the tree and have held a switching-on event. This year's tree was switched on today and I was there to do the photos. You can see them on the above link.

Delivering Marley Hill and Byermoor

Marley Hill leaflet delivery Nov 15 (1)

Marley Hill and Byermoor villages are in my council ward in Gateshead. They are both relatively small with 170 and 55 houses respectively. I wrote the focus for the 2 villages over the weekend. We had plenty of news and had to leave some stories out of this A3 edition. The main articles are about the sale of Marley Hill School for housing, an appeal for volunteers to help tidy up planters in the villages, damage to the embankment next to Marley Hill football pitch and Labour's decision to spend £45,000 on refurbishing the Leader and Cabinet offices at Gateshead Civic Centre.

I spent this morning delivering the two villages.

Marley Hill leaflet delivery Nov 15 (2)

Meanwhile, as I write this, my colleague Cllr John McClurey should be finishing the printing of the Sunniside Focus. I'm expecting a large quantity to be deposited with me later today.

Labour's fossilised North East establishment versus the raving revolutionaries

The dinosaur Labour establishment which believes the North East is a Labour one party state has just been given a bloody nose by the raving revolutionaries of the Momentum Corbyn fan club. Our local newspaper, The Journal, reported today on a meeting of the North West Durham constituency in which Momentum members turned up in large numbers and had the audacity not to vote back in the MP's husband as the long serving "campaign co-ordinator". Bob Glass was dumped in favour of Paul Simpson, a Corbyn devotee and left wing blogger.

Quite what on which Mr Glass has campaigned in recent years, other than his wife Pat's election as MP, is something I cannot answer. The Labour party generally in the North East is not renown as a campaigning organisation. The Labour establishment simply believes they have a natural right to rule. Why campaign when they have all the power?

Quite which new direction Mr Simpson will send his constituency in terms of campaigning is also something I cannot answer. The real interest however is in whether or not this is the first shot fired in a more brutal civil war in the Labour party. Will the momentum behind Momentum mean they start eyeing up Labour MPs and councillors who are not "socialist" enough (that does not narrow down the field very much)? Will the prospect of deselection stalk the Labour establishment? And what about Labour's choice of candidate for the North East elected mayor in May 2017? Will Momentum be pressing for a left winger or will the Labour establishment be able to impose one of their dinosaurs?

It's probably too early to say. If Corbyn's current poor performance continues, and he is given his marching orders, will Momentum sit idly buy and watch as the Beloved Leader is dumped?

It's all turning into an interesting spectator blood sport.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Helping in Millfield

Millfield Action Day Nov 15 (3)

In recent weeks in Gateshead we have held 4 action days to ensure a large team can deliver and canvass various wards. On Saturday however I headed out of Gateshead to neighbouring Sunderland where the local party was having an action day in Millfield ward. The team in Sunderland is small but made up of mainly new, young and enthusiastic members. It was an enthusiasm that was obvious from the moment I arrived.

Millfield Action Day Nov 15 (1)

They kindly gave me over 500 Focuses to deliver and one of the streets I had to do was called Ravensworth Street. As the Ravensworth country estate is partly in my ward (and was managed by my great grandfather Henry Wallace in the late Victorian period) I couldn't resist taking the above photo. The street is similar to most of the other streets I delivered - long terraces with no front gardens. This is delivery at its easiest! Later on I was sent into an estate that was so new that some of the houses were still being built and none of the streets was showing up on Google maps.

Millfield Action Day Nov 15 (2)

Niall Hodson is candidate for Millfield. If he and his campaign team continue along the course they have set themselves, there is a good chance he will be elected to Sunderland Council. We have no councillors in the city at the moment and we lost our last seat there in 2012, not that we had many in the first place. Re-establishing a foothold on the council will be a great boost for the Lib Dems.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Meeting at the Staiths

Staiths Cafe Gateshead Nov 15 (3)

We have a modest number of new members in Dunston and Teams and Lobley Hill and Bensham wards so we decided to have a meeting with them on Thursday evening. Venue for the gathering was the Staiths Cafe, opposite the Dunston Staiths. We were up against the live (and loud) music but we huddled ourselves in a corner upstairs and talked about campaigning in the two wards. Alas, I was given the job of writing Focuses for the wards! They will be done after I've finished the two I'm currently writing for my own ward.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Labour councillor attacks living-within-your-means

Labour councillors in Gateshead had been rather quiet on the issue of their new Leader. No outward expressions of joy at the onward march of the people's revolutionary collective, no socialist slurping of champagne at the arrival of Comrade Corbyn, no burblings from the brothers and sisters of socialism welcoming statements that everything they have fought for over the past 20 years was trash. Nothing. Just socialist silence. And then along came Cllr Catherine Donovan who decided to break Labour's holy vows of silence at the recent meeting of the Council's cabinet.

In appearance, Cllr Donovan is a socialist Margaret Thatcher with suits so severe and sharp you could slice bread with them! She zooms into the Civic Centre car park in her brand new Nissan Juke (or is that Joke?) and struts along the socialist catwalk as a rising star of Gateshead Labour party. My guess is that she has ambitions to rise further. Good luck to her.

Cllr Donovan was one of only a handful of Gateshead Labour councillors to come out in support of Corbyn during the leadership contest. So it was no surprise that she was the first Labour Councillor in Gateshead to welcome the Great Leader's election at a council meeting. The only surprise was how long it took any of them to make an announcement.

My views about living within your means are well known. It is a term I use regularly on this blog and in meetings. I aim to live my life within the means I have - I grow my own food, I reuse and recycle whatever I can, I've rejected the consumerist lifestyle, food waste is regarded as a hideous crime and I always aim to have a lower expenditure than income. At the last cabinet meeting, Cllr Donovan chose to look directly at me when she attacked the concept of living within your means. The words were said during the debate on the consultation on the council budget for next year. At last, she told us, with the election of Comrade Corbyn, she was in a party that now rejected austerity. There was no need for austerity as it is a "political choice" (presumably the flip side of her argument is that bankruptcy is the equal and opposite political choice). She ranted on about how the baby-eating evil forces of the Lib Dems and Conservatives had come together to destroy everything. Now, she was able to reject all of that in the Labour Party under the new Great Leader.

Given the views she had just presented, it is hard to square them with the previous lavish praise she had heaped on the Labour party over the past few years, at a time when they supported to varying degrees, some form of austerity. At no point however did Cllr Donovan say in the cabinet meeting how the money would be found for ending austerity. "Spend, spend, spend" may make Catherine feel good, but where does the money come from? Or do I heard the sound of printing presses cranking up?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Campaigning in Coronation Street

Ryton Action Day Nov 15 (4)

We held another action day in Gateshead today, this time in Ryton ward. There are 2 Labour and one Lib Dem councillors in the ward and Labour's weakest councillor is the one up for election next year. The aim of the day was to deliver 4500 leaflets and, apart from a few patches being taken by a couple of members for delivery later this week, we achieved full coverage across the ward. I was sent to deliver the largest patch in the ward (thanks colleagues!) which included Coronation Street. Not a cobble or recycled, rehashed storyline in sight!

Ryton Action Day Nov 15 (5)

Back at HQ, food was, as usual, provided for the masses.

Ryton Action Day Nov 15 (3)

Ryton Action Day Nov 15 (2)

Ryton Action Day Nov 15 (1)

A good time had by all though my shoes are now in a poor state and in need of replacement. It looks like a rare visit to a shop by me is required. Meanwhile, preparations are underway for our next action day in Low Fell and Chowdene.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Airbrushing the Lib Dems out of history.

We have full council in Gateshead on Thursday so I thought I would look back at the last council meeting on 24th September and report on some of the issues debated.

There were 3 motions on the agenda, one from us, on public health spending, and the other two from Labour, one on the trade union reform bill, the other on Syrian refugees. Our motion was about in year cuts to the public health budget, but it also raised concerns about the £1 million underspend by the council on public health last year. After all, Labour had screamed dementedly at us when in government, claiming we weren’t being given enough money for public health when Lib Dems in the Coalition negotiated the transfer of this function from the NHS to local government.

Labour of course had to have an amendment, moved by the Rainbow Warrior of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon. Martin reminds me very much of one of those large, leather clad cushions that retains the shape of the last person to have sat on it. In the 1980s he was sat on by militant socialism, in the 90s and 00s he was sat on by the Blairites, after the 2010 general election he was sat on by Miliband, leaving him with no recognisable shape or form at all. We await news of Martin's latest shape in the Corbynesque, back-to-the-80s Labour party.

Labour's amendment removed the words that welcomed the coalition’s decision to hand over control of public health to local councils. I pointed out that this was one of our victories in the coalition. “I won’t credit the Liberal Democrats with anything in Government,” Martin replied. I accused him of wanting to airbrush away the Lib Dems whilst praising the Conservatives, which was effectively what his amendment did.

Then came the debate on the TU bill. We oppose what the government is doing as it is illiberal. As I pointed out, I am not a union member, have no interest in being one and can find no benefit to myself being one. But in a democratic society, people have a right of assembly to do and speak about things that others oppose. The Labour motion was long winded and missed out some very key points about what the government is doing and what the TUC want to be able to do (such as strike ballots by phone/internet). I think the motion must have been written by Martin! So we moved an amendment to include the bits they had missed and also remove references to being free to go on general strikes. Amazingly, Labour accepted our amendment. There’s hope for us all yet! However, the TU issue is of interest only to a small minority of people. Labour’s enormous interest is an example of their talking only to themselves.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Remembrance Day Parades in Swalwell and Whickham

Swalwell Remembrance Day

My colleague Cllr Sonya Hawkins asked me to take the photos of the Swalwell Remembrance service on Sunday. So at 9.30am I was at the war memorial with camera. Photos can be seen on the album above.

Whickham Remembrance Day Nov 15

The timing was perfect as it allowed me to get to the Whickham Remembrance Day parade which was meeting up next to Front Street School. I handed over the camera to David. He was to take the photos. I was in the parade.

You can see the photos in the above album. I warn you now. There are over 100. The Whickham parade is now the biggest in Gateshead. Over 40 wreaths were laid.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Gateshead Lib Dems' AGM

Gateshead Lib Dem AGM Nov 15

We held the AGM of Gateshead Lib Dems tonight. Good to see some of our new members there as well. We had  a look back over the past year, both the good bits (local elections) and the bad bits (general election). We also reported back from the national and regional conferences. There seems to be quite a bit of interest in attending spring conference in York.

Some members stayed back for a group photo. I'm holding the Alisdair Wardlaw Trophy which was won by Gateshead at the recent regional conference for our local campaigning.

My BBC Radio Newcastle Interview

I was interviewed today by BBC Radio Newcastle abut the decision to spend £45K on improvements to the Labour Leader/Cabinet office suite in Gateshead Cuivic Centre. We got the figures from a Freedom of Information request. You can hear my interview on this link. My interview is about 48 minutes into the programme.

Labour pours £45K into plush new Leader/Cabinet office suite in Gateshead Civic Centre

Despite having to find £22 million of cuts to services this year, Labour in Gateshead have poured £45,264.89 into a plush revamp of the offices for the Labour Leader of the Council and the all-Labour Cabinet.

We spotted the work being carried out during the summer and discovered how much was spent by submitting a Freedom of Information request.

At a time when priorities in spending are in sharp focus due to the cuts, this refurbishment can only be seen as a complete waste of money.

Labour have clearly demonstrated where their priorities lie. Their own leadership now has a comfortable office paid for by taxpayers from where they can decide how to slash services to pay for their own plush comfort.

The same Freedom of Information request also revealed that the Council plans to spend nothing on the Opposition Office which has not been redecorated since 1986 when the Civic Centre was built.

There are more important things on which to spend than an office revamp. So I’m happy that the wallpaper and furniture (other than one seat) in the Opposition Office hasn’t changed in 29 years!

Indeed, given the desire of the Labour party to go back to the 1980s, the opposition office decor would make them feel at home. And since I have every intention of rehousing them to the opposition office, I will be doing all I can to retain the office as it has been for the past 29 years.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Action Day in Whickham

Whickham North Action Day Oct 15 (3)

We held the latest of our Gateshead action days in Whickham North yesterday. A group of people descended on the home of Cllr Sonya Hawkins to help deliver 1000 leaflets, call at 300 doors and help run 3 street surgeries.

Whickham North Action Day Oct 15 (2)

Providing lunch is always a requirement for wards hosting action days in Gateshead.

Whickham North Action Day Oct 15 (1)

Some of the members who were back early for lunch, including (back row) Cllr Sonya Hawkins and ward colleague Cllr Peter Craig, Cllr Susan Craig (Low Fell), Daniel Duggan (Chowdene), (front row) Robin Stanaway (Gateshead East), Craig Martin (Durham) and Paul Gibson (Houghton-le-Spring).