Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Whickham Golf Club, which is in my ward, received a grant to develop new facilities and to reach out to local schools to encourage children to take up golf as a sport. Since I am keen on mass participation in sport and healthy lifestyles, I supported the application when it went to Sports England. On Sunday, the facilities were officially opened by Gateshead Mayor Cllr Allison Thompson. I attended the event as well. As I have never swung a golf club in my life, the bit of me in the video attempting to do so has significant embarrassment value!
Friday, September 23, 2016
Yesterday, the Chopwell and Rowlands Gill by-election was held in Gateshead. This has, for the past one and a half million years, been a Labour held seat and few realistically expected a change yesterday. I was still delivering leaflets in the afternoon, in between attending the accounts committee in the morning and full council in the afternoon. I had a patch were large numbers of houses had trampolines in the garden, one house had a small dog with very large teeth and a loud bark, and streets were named after leading communists (Supreme Leader Comrade Corbyn will be pleased!).
I attended the count, held in Chopwell Community Centre, after milking the goat. Turnout was down at 25%. In the local elections in May, we were 5th (and last), behind Labour, UKIP, Conservatives and Greens. Our aim in the by-election was to increase our vote and move up the pecking order. We actually achieved this, moving ahead of the Conservatives and Greens and nearly catching up with UKIP. We went from 4% to 12% and were the only party to increase our actual vote. So modest progress though still some way to go.
Congratulations to David Bradford, the new Labour Councillor. Welcome to Gateshead Council.
Photo above taken after the count: me, Cllr John McClurey, Chris Ord, Amelia Ord (our candidate) and Kevin McClurey.
Above: change in share of the vote.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Back home from conference on Wednesday afternoon, I was straight back into self-sufficiency and local constituency issues. The first job to do was to cut some branches from one of the hedges in the community garden at the Whinnies, Sunniside, and feed them to my goats. In the evening I headed down to Whickham for a meeting of Planting Up Whickham where we sorted maintenance days for Church Green (23rd October and 6th November). I was back home by 8pm but there for only a few minutes before heading out again to milk one of my goats.
Tomorrow I have to take my duck eggs to the shop in High Spen that sells them, and then go to accounts committee. Once that's over I need to head to Rowlands Gill to deliver some leaflets for the by-election then return to Gateshead Civic Centre for full council. Following this, I'm back to the by-election for the count, fitting in milking the goat and feeding the animals somewhere along the line.
Just another day.
Conference finished yesterday and people left feeling more confident about the Lib Dems. Tim Farron's speech was one of the best from a leader in many years, full of passion and purpose. Anyway, this is my video about conference, covering some of the debates, fringe meetings, exhibition area and life generally at the annual Lib Dem get-together.
Monday, September 19, 2016
I've just heard that stocks of the new Nick Clegg book have sold out here at Brighton conference. This is hardly surprising given the huge queue for the book-signing this weekend. Well done to Gateshead Lib Dem Councillor Daniel Duggan for his patience after joining the queue.
There literally was just standing room only yesterday at Conference for Tim Farron's Q&A session. I popped in to do some photos and while I was in, he was answering questions on Europe. I wonder how many other party leaders would take questions from the floor without having notice of them in advance. It was a good performance by Tim. He's clearly growing into the role.
It is noticeable that the outlook and mindset at conference is much more positive than it has been for many years. We no longer walk around as if the entire world is about to beat us up!
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Another good performance last night by Tim Farron at the party rally in Brighton. He talked about Europe and how we will continue to put the case passionately for a liberal, outward looking, pro-European internationalist outlook. We are now the only party doing so.
A standing ovation after his speech.
This is my first video from conference in Brighton. The Leader always carries out a tour of the exhibition stands. It's always a bit of a rugby scrum. I edit Parliamentary Campaigner for the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidates Association and managed to grab this very short interview with Tim Farron at the PCA stand during the tour.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Lib Dem Conference started this morning in Brighton and I am here to soak up the politics and enjoy the sun (and rain). I came down to London yesterday. I'm staying in my flat, commuting down to Brighton each day as it is much cheaper than getting a hotel!
I arrived at Brighton this morning. Most conversations I've had so far have been about my goats! Lib Dems are obviously more interested in them than me!
Anyway, now is the time for my annual rant about the price of tea at conference. This thimble size cup of tea cost me £1.80. That's three quarters what I charge for a jar of my homemade jam! And my jam tastes much nicer! To compensate, I will have to find a fringe meeting at lunchtime that has a free buffet!
There is a by-election taking place in Chopwell and Rowlands Gill ward on Thursday 22nd September. This is a very strong Labour ward though their strength is based more in the Chopwell part of the ward. In that village, there are streets such as Lenin Terrace and Marx Terrace. That tends to give a bit of the flavour of the ward. In the May local elections, Labour romped home with about two thirds of the vote. There were 5 candidates standing. We came last, though we ran a paperless campaign. This time we have fought it harder. We have delivered focuses and carried out a survey. Sadly, I missed the action day in the ward last Saturday as I was at the Bowes Agricultural Show in Teesdale. (I got 2 second prizes and 2 thirds. Alas, no first prizes this year.) Instead, I was in the ward on Monday delivering more Focuses and letters.
I'm at conference now so I'm missing the final weekend in the ward. There will, of course, be a pile of leaflets waiting for me when I get home from Brighton to deliver!
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
Yesterday, Gateshead's all-Labour cabinet met for the 4th time to try to take a decision on whether or not to be part of the North East devolution deal. Yet again, they deferred a decision. While the dithering continues, Labour in the region have demonstrated they could not even lead the way through an open door. They have fallen apart over the devolution package which is now having to be shelved. The North East will gain nothing from this shambolic mess. Other regions will be powering ahead leaving the North East behind. My views are in my latest vlog above. The cabinet debate, in which I speak, is below.
Thursday, September 01, 2016
I was knee deep in pond water in Sunniside being filmed for a local history DVD this morning when I got a call from the BBC to ask for an interview. At long last, Gateshead Council's Cabinet appears to be on the verge of a u-turn and next Tuesday is expected to agree to sign up to the North East devolution settlement, complete with elected mayor. So far, Gateshead has been the lone voice fighting the devolution plans. Labour in Gateshead had hoped to bring down the devolution policy and damage the government in March but their hoped for revolution against a key Conservative policy spectacularly backfired when a display of comradely solidarity failed to materialise. Since then, Gateshead has been dithering as to whether to sign up or declare UDI and become the People's Republic of Gateshead. As independence from the rest of the region would see Gateshead kicked out of the arrangement to run the Metro and would prevent the borough being the recipient of any regional cash from the government, going it alone was totally unsustainable. Labour peered over the edge of the cliff and a about to step back. Hooray!
My interview on BBC Look North can be viewed on this link.