Sunday, May 31, 2015

Planting Up Whickham

Planting Up Whickham May 15 1

On Sunday last week, the volunteers of Planting Up Whickham, of which I am one, set to work on preparing the flower beds on Church Green for a new set of bedding plants. I brought 9 sacks of manure, kindly donated by my livestock, to dig into the beds. All the old flowers were removed. Today, the volunteers returned to plant the flowers. Sadly, I wasn't able to take part. A friend of mine was staying for the weekend (he is a Labour councillors from London!) so we agreed to spend this weekend visiting places of interest (Chesters Roman Fort and Beamish Museum). I therefore don't know how they got on. Tomorrow I need to be in the village so I will be able to have a look at their work.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Startled bunnies and the art of falling off chairs

There was a headline in the Newcastle Journal recently announcing that Labour MP Ian Lavery was planning a leadership bid. When I read it, I nearly fell off my seat laughing. Quite what Labour members see in this ranting leftwinger is beyond me. I once had to sit through a "speech" he gave to a National Association of Councillors meeting about nuclear power. He admitted to knowing little about the subject, a claim he proceeded to demonstrate admirably. I found his speech to be embarrassingly poor and his demand that more coal should be burnt to help save the environment provided me with another falling-off-the-seat-laughing moment.

The day after announcing his leadership bid, Mr Lavery announced his withdrawal from the race. His platform was to have been one of leftwing "socialism". Instead, he announced his backing for Andy Burnham. Listening to conversations amongst the "socialist" brothers and sisters in Gateshead, there seems to be a hope that Burnham will swing the Labour party to the left as the way of storming to power in 2020. Not winning in 2015 because Labour wasn't leftwing enough is a common theme among the "socialist" comrades. All those lessons of the 80s and 90s have been forgotten.

Claiming to be "socialist" is one thing. The record of a person can often tell a different story. Labour's hysteria about the "privatisation" of the NHS rather overlooks the fact that Burnham himself was one of the key Labour figures, as Health Secretary under Gordon Brown, who "privatised" NHS services.

Burnham has always looked to me like a startled bunny caught in the headlights of an approaching juggernaut. If the assumptions that he is heading for victory come to fruition, it could be that Burnham ends up afterwards as roadkill, torn apart by his own party which ideologically wants to swing to the left but which needs to occupy the centre ground to win an election.

Gateshead's new mayor

Jonathan Wallace and Mayor Alex Geddes May 15

Last week, Labour in Gateshead had clearly spent some time sharpening their barrel scraping utensils but on the appointment of the mayor, they've taken a good decision. Alex Geddes is a pleasant bloke, probably too nice for the Gateshead Labour Party. So good luck Alex for the year ahead. Invites to you will be on their way to local events once I've organised them!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My early BBC interview about the early Tim Farron

I had to deal with the livestock early this morning, thanks to the BBC and Tim Farron! The goats, ducks, quails and chickens were fed at 6am so I could be in the Bigg Market in Newcastle at 8am for an interview about Tim Farron's university years. Tim was an undergraduate when I was at Newcastle University researching my PhD. In terms of Parliamentary campaigning, Tim was first bloodied in Hexham where I was the Lib Dem candidate in the 1992 general election. Along with other members of the Lib Dem Society at the university, he was dragged out to deliver leaflets through doors in the wilds of Northumberland.

The interview was not about politics. It was about Tim the person. That meant I was free to refer to his pink dungarees and Lenin style cap. His fashion sense was something of a car crash! As a group we regularly met up in the Rupali restaurant in the Bigg Market (hence the location for the interview). It was famous for it curry hell challenge though I can't recall vegetarian Tim taking up it up.

The interview will be broadcast on Sunday on the North East edition of the BBC politics programme. I am yet to decide which of the candidates will get my vote. I know both the candidates and will take a decision after I have seen them perform at the hustings and read what they have to say.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May Fayre Video

I've started catching up with video editing tasks. I filmed this one last week at the Whickham May Fayre in Chase Park. The hen and chicks at the end are mine!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Whickham eFocus 96

Just published this evening is the next edition of our eFocus newsletter for the Whickham area. This edition looks at the local election results and events happening over the next few days. You can view it on this link.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gateshead Lib Dem members' newsletter

As we now have email addresses for over 80% of our members in Gateshead, we have launched an email newsletter in addition to our printed edition. The first edition can be viewed on this link. We have 22 new members in Gateshead since polling day - one of the unexpected consequences of our general election defeat. We are redoubling our efforts to ensure we keep in touch with them.

Monday, May 18, 2015

When dirty tricks backfire

Spoof election posters Sunniside Road May 15 2

Early on polling day on 7th May, the above spoof election poster appeared on Sunniside Road, only a few metres from my house. David spotted it at about 6am when he was heading over the road to feed the livestock. I spotted another just up the road. We then got reports of a small number at the fire station in Swalwell and some on Ryton.

Spoof election posters Swalwell fire station May 15 3

The above photo of the ones on the premises of Swalwell Fire Station was taken in the afternoon. We were rather surprised that the staff at the fire station - some of whom featured in a last minute Labour leaflet in uniform with Labour candidates on the same premises - had not removed the posters, given this was a public facility and the staff are public servants. A phone call to the chief fire officer saw the posters removed shortly afterwards. Presumably the staff were just rather unobservant on that day and failed to notice the front of their building plastered with posters.

I am curious to know whether these same illegal posters went up in other constituencies. They were professionally printed on corex and will therefore not be cheap.

Quite what the culprits sought to achieve by spending money like this and disrupting their own sleep to drive in their volvos and people carriers to various locations in Blaydon constituency is beyond me. It appears that they must be driven by a hatred of us that took them beyond sensible, logical behaviour into the world of absurd pettiness. Being beastly to the Lib Dems may be a big turn on to poisoned dwarfs and those with gigantic egos but no personality, but it achieved nothing for them other than unnecessarily sleep loss and wasted money.

The irony is that most people who saw the posters simply glanced at them and thought they were promoting the Lib Dems. They didn't stop to read what was on them. We know that because people told us they were pleased to see our posters up!

The posters in Sunniside were removed on the advice of the police who are looking in to the matter. I have one of them at my house and I'm quite happy for the owner to collect it from me. Just get in touch and make the necessary arrangements.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A great day at the May Fayre

May Fayre Chase Park Whickham May 15 2

The May Fayre at Whickham's Chase Park went ahead yesterday and was a great success. I had a table selling eggs and preserves in the bottom corner of the park and as I was out in the open, my hopes for a rain-free event were fulfilled! Lots of people spoke to me about my re-election and my self-sufficiency project. There was particular interest in my goat Pinkie who is recovering from an emergency caesarean on Wednesday evening. News has got around about her operation.

Anyway, here are a few pictures from the event:

May Fayre Chase Park Whickham May 15 6

May Fayre Chase Park Whickham May 15 5

May Fayre Chase Park Whickham May 15 4

May Fayre Chase Park Whickham May 15 3

Friday, May 15, 2015

Setting up the May Fayre in Whickham

Whickham May fayre preparation May 15 3

I've been in Whickham's Chase Park this morning to help set up the May Fayre tomorrow. I was late as I am also nursing a very ill goat. Pinkie, my Golden Guernsey, had to have am emergency caesarean on Wednesday evening and she is still not out of the danger zone. Sadly, we lost both the kids.

Whickham May fayre preparation May 15 4

The fayre opens at midday tomorrow. There will be live music, entertainment, participation events, stands for community organisations and stalls selling a range of goods.

Whickham May fayre preparation May 15 2

Everyone is welcome.

Whickham May fayre preparation May 15 1

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Swap your home

I've been contacted by the BBC to ask me to promote a programme called Home Away From Home and encourage people to put themselves forward to be on it. So if you have an interesting home and want to stay in someone else's house while appearing on tv, you can find details below.

Dear Jonathan,

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you, but I’m working on the new series of BBC One’s Home Away From Home and thought you might be able to help, as we are particularly interested in featuring any self-sufficiency and eco-living enthusiasts on our programme!

The series sees couples (be it partners, friends or family members) from across the UK swap homes with one another over the course of three days. It’s a chance to have a new experience and discover local cuisine, sight-seeing that goes beyond the guide book, and an authentic place to stay. It might be that people are considering a home swap for the first time or have swapped many times before. It’s very much a warm-hearted series and celebrates the beauty of our homes and localities in the UK.  

Here is a link to the website:

I was wondering whether you might be able to help circulate our details whether that’s via social media, an editorial piece on your blog etc, in the hope that we might find some lovely would-be home swappers for our series?
Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,


Emma Linstead
Assistant Producer, Home Away From Home

Sunday, May 10, 2015

1199 majority - thank you

I'm back in! My constituents in Whickham South and Sunniside kindly returned me to Gateshead Council with just over 50% of the vote and a majority of 1199. And whilst I would rather have my teeth pulled out without anaesthetic than rerun the general election outcome, the local election results in the wards were were defending in Gateshead were, relatively speaking, shining examples of hope. We were defending 3 seats and held all of them with increased majorities. We were also within 23 votes of taking Dunston Hill and Whickham East from Labour.

The votes in my ward (last year's in brackets) were:
Liberal Democrats 2399 (1511)
Labour 1200 (619)
Conservative 531 (214)
UKIP 503 (430)
Green 109 (-)
TUSC 41 (50)

If memory serves me correctly, this is the largest vote I've ever got in my ward (and I've been councillor here for 28 years). Labour Deputy Leader of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon, announced during the election campaign that Labour were expecting to win my seat. I replied that I would be wiping the smug grin from his face by holding my seat. Martin, please be ready for your public face cleaning exercise. I'll bring appropriate cleaning materials to our next meeting!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

To "be" or not to "bee"

These are the freepost leaflets from the Blaydon candidates: 2 from me, 2 from Labour's Dave Anderson, an unaddressed leaflet from the Conservatives' Alison Griffiths and an addressed leaflet from UKIP. There was nothing from the Greens. The leaflet from UKIP meant that I got to see what their candidate Mark Bell looks like. He has attended none of the hustings and produced no other leaflets. His freepost arrived last week. Last year he was the UKIP candidate in my ward but produced no leaflets and did not come to the account. At least now we know he exists!

I have to plead guilty to a typo in my 2nd freepost. I am described as a "bekeeper" rather than a "beekeeper". None of us spotted the mistake until it landed on our doorsteps! I also spotted a mistake in the Labour leaflet. It claimed it was Labour policy to increase NHS spending by £8 billion. Oh no it isn't!

Anyway, I have an early start in the morning and I doubt I'll be writing any posts tomorrow. So, I'll take this opportunity to wish my opponents well. It's been quite a calm campaign for the Blaydon seat. It's likely the declaration will pass the world by without causing any ripples, a rather unfortunate characteristic of our not-fit-for-purpose voting system in which so many seats have a foregone result.

Approaching the end of the delivery treadmill

Light at the end of the tunnel. The piles of leaflets are now almost gone though I am about to go to the office to print another batch to replenish the diminished stock of literature. Yesterday I was delivering both in Dunston Hill and Whickham East (see above photo) and in Whickham North. Though my shoes were worn out over the weekend, I found an old pair in the wardrobe. The soles were split but they were robust enough to get a few days of pounding.

We are pressing the tactical vote message very strongly in Dunston Hill and Whickham East. Labour clung on by 78 votes last year and we need only one in 10 of those who voted Conservative, UKIP and Green to switch to us to defeat Labour in the ward. The unanswered question is what way those who will turn out because of the general election vote in the locals. They haven't voted since 2010. We have canvassed this group and the results are good but, unlike the eggs that are currently hatching in one of my incubators, I'm not counting any political chickens until the  ballot boxes have hatched.

Whickham eFocus 95

The latest edition of my email newsletter to residents has just been published and can be read on this link.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Delivering Marley Hill and Byermoor.

I'm glad I delivered Marley Hill and Byermoor yesterday with my final Focus in my ward. Pleasant weather all round. Not so this morning.

Anyway, here's a look at the front page of my Focus. It's simply just a reminder that the Lib Dems are the only party in the ward active all year round. And lots of people vote for us just because of that.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Heading for cuts

I have a mature hawthorn hedge around one of the pieces of land I rent. Thick branches and very hard thorns are its defining characteristics. On Friday I discovered some of our hens were getting through a gap in the hedge we be blocked it up with some wire netting and bamboo canes. Alas, as I was pressing most of my body weight on the cane to get it into the ground, it shattered and I went head first into the hedge. The resulting cut above my eyes has been something of a talking point when I meet people. Sadly, the genuine explanation is somewhat less interesting than the suggestions made by some as to how I came by the injury!

My shoes have met their end

All this canvassing and delivering has worn out my shoes. Sadly they are beyond repair. It will mean a trip to the shops to get replacements. At least they were worn out in a good cause (I appreciate that statement will not be shared by the Labour trolls who follow me!) The weekend left us a bit ahead of schedule. Other than one polling district, all our letters and leaflets to polling station voters in key wards are now out. The plan was to complete them by the end of today with any mop up operation taking place tomorrow.

This is what I delivered yesterday afternoon. I also delivered a few streets in Dunston that got left off the list on Saturday. Next stop Polling Day!

Sadly, I missed the mass Labour canvass in Dunston Hill and Whickham East on Saturday morning by about 5 minutes. We were having a street surgery which I left at 10.55am. Labour, including Leader of the Council Mick Henry, walked past a few minutes later. It's interesting to note they needed to pull in everyone to help out in a ward they are defending.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Sore feet

I've got to the point of the campaign where my feet are starting to hurt from pacing about Blaydon constituency canvassing and delivering. Last night we were in the office until 10pm printing focus leaflets which we delivered across my ward today. We have a few patches left to do tomorrow but most of my ward has been done.

I delivered 5 patches this afternoon and evening. That's 2 of the patches above on the seat of my land rover. The focuses were delivered with letters. I've already had some positive responses.