Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Whickham Christmas lights switch-on

The Christmas lights were switched on in Whickham by the Metro Gnomes. The event was organised by Lighting Up Whickham. Hundreds turned up for the event.

Museums at Cabinet

The title is not a reference to Labour! While Labour may be doing everything under Comrade Corbyn to consign themselves to being an exhibit in the Museum of the Self-Destructed and Deluded, this post is actually about the museums service in Tyne and Wear. I am one of Gateshead's three representatives on the joint committee that runs Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums. The committee is now to be abolished and the functions will be transferred to a board which will have no opposition members on it. Instead, there will be one representative from each council who will be the relevant cabinet portfolio holder. I've raised my concerns about this at a previous TWAM meeting but yesterday, at Cabinet, the report on the change over was considered.

I actually have no objections to the change to an executive board. TWAM need to increase their income from non-council sources and rely less on contributions from local councils. The new board will help to achieve that. The problem comes with the elimination of non-Labour voices. There are many of us who are not in the Labour party who can and do make a contribution to the running of the service. For example, I have advised officers on how to produce video material and gain an income from it (I am a YouTube partner and earn a modest income from advertising revenue). I warned at cabinet yesterday that the new arrangements will mean a reduced gene pool of  experience and expertise that could be brought to TWAM by restricting the political input to Labour only. I also said there needs to be a role for scrutiny that seems to be missing from the proposals. I suggested the council's corporate resources scrutiny committee takes on that function. I also suggested that the reports on the various establishments managed by TWAM which currently are reported to the joint committee are sent to all councillors.

To be fair to Gateshead Labour leader Martin Gannon, he was open to the proposals I had put forward and said that there would be a review in a year that could consider the issue of opposition representation. Sadly however I will have to cut my ties with TWAM in May next year when the joint committee is abolished.

Swalwell Quiz NIght

Poacher's Pocket quiz night Nov 16 (2)

I went to the pub quiz at the Poacher's Pocket in Swalwell on Monday night. The event was to raise funds for the memorial bench in Swalwell Park to Kaitlin Tremlett and Jennifer Fradgley who died in a road accident in August. Our team was called Pinkies, after one of my goats, and by the last round we were in 1st place....until the marks for the picture round came in. Alas, we finished 3rd though we did win various bonus prizes. David won the Christmas round.

Poacher's Pocket quiz night Nov 16 (1)

This was the picture round that sank us.

Lifting the lid on Sunderland

Niall Hodson and Jonathan Wallace Nov 16

Gateshead East branch had their AGM and annual lunch on Saturday. I'm not a member of the branch but I went along as Lib Dem leader of the opposition in Gateshead to give a report. The guest speaker was Niall Hodson who was elected as our first councillor in Sunderland since 2012. Niall had a barnstorming campaign in the run up to May and I visited the ward he won, Millfield, to help push him past the winning post. He won with over 60% of the vote.

Labour were not pleased and it seems, from Niall's speech, that the worst one-party state, authoritarian, bullying, silence-the-opposition traits have been to the fore in the Labour party since Niall's victory. Anyone who considers Labour a "progressive" party should pause for thought and take a look at Labour in Sunderland. They have a huge majority on the council and that control is not currently under threat though individual Labour held seats are. This is a council that needs a strong opposition. That doesn't come from the Conservatives in Sunderland but it is a good possibility that the role of opposition can be claimed by the Lib Dems in the borough over the next few years. It is clearly the case that Niall's team are not expecting to stop with just one seat in Millfield. They are clearly interested in expanding further.

Swalwell Christmas Fayre

Swalwell Christmas fayre Nov 16

Saturday morning was tightly packed with events for me to attend. After the red kite coffee morning in Whickham, I headed down to Swalwell Community Centre for the Christmas Fayre. Cake purchasing is a requirement, as is buying tombola tickets. This turned out to be a lucky purchase - I won 2 prizes - all chocolate!

winnings Nov 16

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Red kite coffee morning

Red kite coffee morning Nov 16 1

A constituent called at my house last week to invite me to the red kite coffee morning on Saturday at Fellside Methodist Hall. The red kites were reintroduced into the Derwent Valley over a decade ago and have now become established in the area. I sometimes see them flying over Sunniside. So I decided to call in to the coffee morning. It was packed. And the quantity of cakes would easily put Greggs to shame.

This was a useful visit. I got a useful briefing on the population of red kites in the area. Alas, I couldn't stay long. I was due in Swalwell for the community centre's Christmas fayre.

Red kite coffee morning Nov 16 2

Whickham lights switch-on

Poster Version 6 re Xmas Tree Switch on - 2016-page-0

I am just about to head down to Whickham for the switching on of the Christmas tree lights at Church Green. The event has been organised by Lighting Up Whickham who raised the funds for the tree and lights. Joining us for the switch-on are the Metro Gnomes - see photo below (taken at the Swalwell Community Centre Christmas Fayre on Saturday).

Metro Gnome Nov 16

Honorary aldermen

alderman ceremony Nov 16

As leader of the opposition in Gateshead, it fell to me to second the appointment of six honorary aldermen last Friday. The 6 were Brian Coates, John Hamilton, Yvonne McNicol, Ian Mearns MP, Joe Mitchinson and Pat Ronan. I calculated that between them they had jointly served 114 years as councillors. The honorary role is for former members of the council who have served 2 full terms and have given outstanding service to the authority. So, congratulations to the 6 new aldermen, and thank you for the 114 years of service you gave Gateshead.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Having my cake

Sunniside Club Christmas Fayre Nov 16 1

Sunniside Social Club held a Christmas Fayre yesterday. I decided to call in to have a look around but also to buy cakes. I found the cake stall, parted with my cash and ate the cakes when I got home (with help from David!)

Sunniside Club Christmas Fayre Nov 16 2

Jam today (again)

Lighting Up Whickham coffee morning Nov 16 2

On Saturday morning, Lighting Up Whickham held a coffee morning to raise money towards the village's Christmas tree. I was invited to have a table to sell my homemade jams. There was a reasonable flow of people into the library where we were holding the event. For me it was more like my councillor surgery as people spotted me and used the opportunity to raise local issues with me!

Hopefully, the coffee morning will become a regular event.

Lighting Up Whickham coffee morning Nov 16 1

Friday, November 18, 2016

Whickham eFocus 103

The latest edition of our email newsletter for the Whickham area, eFocus, was finished this evening and I sent it out to the 1500 people on the circulation list. It leads with the video of Sunday's Remembrance Day parade. Also included is the proposal to sell part of Chase Park, the Council budget, Derwentside in Swalwell to be converted to flats, deep clean at local swimming pools and various local events.

You can read it on this link.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Rained on in Ryton

Ryton Riverside Nov 16

On Sunday afternoon, after attending the Remembrance Day Parade in Whickham, I headed down to Ryton to do a bit of campaigning. Alas, the rain came with me. I got rather wet on the new Riverside estate but at least I was able to have a look around one of the biggest recent new housing developments in Blaydon constituency.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Jam today

Jam on sale Nov 16

My self-sufficiency activities led to an interesting invitation last week: would I like to have a stall at Lib Dem regional conference on Saturday to sell my homemade jams? I took up the offer. A quite pleasing number of sales took place. Alas, the income was somewhat dwarfed by the vet bill I had on Friday when I had to call out a livestock vet for one of my goats, Pinkie. She had eaten something that disagreed with her. Fortunately she recovered quickly, unlike my bank balance!

Tim Farron's speech to North East Conference

Tim Farron MP was the guest speaker at the North East Lib Dem conference on Saturday in Gateshead. Most of the speech is covered in this video though annoyingly, the final few minutes were not captured as my camera decided the memory card was full (despite 800MB space left to use up).

Award for Frank at Gateshead Conference

My predecessor as Gateshead Council Group Leader, Frank Hindle, was awarded the Regional President's Award at North East Lib Dem Conference held in the Jurys Inn, Gateshead Quays, on Saturday. Well done Frank! He has put in a huge amount of work over the years for the party, not just as a councillor and group leader, but also as a Parliamentary candidate, agent in the European elections and more recently as our lead person co-ordinating the Lib Dem responses in the North East to the Boundary Commission's review of Parliamentary constituencies.

North East Lib Dem conference Nov 16 (16)

North East Lib Dem conference Nov 16 (19)

The awards were presented by Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron MP. Wearside won the Alisdair Wardlow Cup following their spectacular gain of Millfield from Labour in this year's local elections.

North East Lib Dem conference Nov 16 (24)

And the winner of the Frances Foote Wood Award, for an individual who has put in effort well beyond the call of duty, went to Meg Crosby, from Sunderland.

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night Nov 16 (5)

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night Nov 16 (3)

On Friday evening, Lighting Up Whickham held a race night at the Crown pub. As the only person in the organising group with a food handling certificate, I was tasked with being head chef for the evening. It was hardly an onerous task - reheating the pies, pasties and mushy peas. My catering pans and meat thermometers proved very useful on the evening.

I started the evening on a winning streak, betting successfully on the first 2 races. It was downhill after that as I blew my winnings on failed bets that helped boost the profit on the evening to £600, a great sum that will ensure Whickham village continues to have a Christmas tree.

I'm pleased to announce that my winning streak returned at the end of the evening. I won a bottle of prosecco, generously donated by Cllr Sonya Hawkins.

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night Nov 16 (1)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Whickham Remembrance Day - the video

The Whickham Remembrance Day parade and service went ahead today. This video covers parade, the readings by local children and the laying of wreaths by over 40 organisations.

Photos from today's Remembrance Day Parade and Service

Whickham Remembrance Day Nov 16

I attended the Remembrance Day service and parade in Whickham this morning and laid a wreath on behalf of my constituents. You can see photos of the event on the photo link above.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The irony of timing

Berlin Wall Aug 13 6

I don't know if history is attempting to cheer us up with a sense of irony but yesterday was the 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. On the same day, it was announced that the wall-building Donald Trump had been elected US President. Whether or not the Trump wall will ever be built is a moot point and were it to go ahead, quite how he gets the Mexicans to pay for it is not explained. I suspect that even if work starts on it, Trump's Maginot Line will never be finished.

Meanwhile, I hear of interest among Americans in emigrating to countries such as Canada and New Zealand is soaring. Let's hope those countries don't follow Trump's example and start building walls - to keep the Americans out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

We need Europe now more than ever before

There may be some in the crazy world of the Brotherhood of Brexit who believe a stronger link with the USA is vastly more important than good relations with the EU. The result of the US Presidential election should make us all stop to consider the consequences. Trump is a protectionist, which rather contradicts the assertion of Brexiteers that free trade treaties outside the EU are just waiting to be signed.

Secondly, Trump is a climate change denier, as are so many in the Brexit camp. International environmental treaties are likely to be put through the Trump shredder early in his Presidency. Environmental protection in recent decades is one of the great success stories of the EU and anyone who cares about the need to pass on a world that has not been wrecked by pollution needs the EU more than ever before.

Any finally, President Putin welcomes the success of Trump. It's hardly surprising that he was among the first to congratulate him. The Baltic States and parts of the Ukraine are in his sights and Trump has already suggested he will not necessarily support NATO (and EU) members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia if Russia attempts a land grab. If a Trump USA cannot be relied on to defend free democratic nations, the EU needs to be more united.

So the election of Trump shows we need Europe more than ever before but sadly, without us due to the Brexit vote. Instead, we will simply be bobbing along in Europe's wake, stuck in a special relationship led by a misogynist, racist, climate-change-denier over whom we will have virtually no control. How the hell did we ever get into this mess?

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Please let it be Hillary

New York Trump Tower Aug 15 (4)

I was in the US last year when the first tv debates were held for the Republican candidates. Even with 16 would-be presidents were battling it out, Trump dominated the stage. That says a great deal about the quality of the "establishment" candidates though few at the time believed Trump would triumph over the Republican field. And when I went to New York, we saw many demonstrations against Trump outside Trump Tower. Divisiveness is, after all, his defining feature.

I'm now doing something I haven't done since 2008 - sitting up to watch the US election results come in. The last time I did this was when Barack Obama was first elected. We were in Amsterdam at the time but tonight I'm back home in Gateshead. It feels we are at something of a crossroads. Americans could elect a racist mysogynist whose rhetoric chimes horribly with the far right. Or they can elect someone from the progressive centre. Though Hillary Clinton is far from perfect, she is head and shoulders above Trump.

So let's hope enough Americans do what we need them to do, vote for Hillary and reject Trump.

New York Trump demonstration Aug 15 (9)

New York Trump demonstration Aug 15 (7)

Monday, November 07, 2016

Planting up Whickham's flowerbeds

I was in Whickham yesterday, with volunteers from Planting Up Whickham, to plant the flowerbeds on Church Green. All the beds there were done but the rain put an end to plans to plant up other flowerbeds in Whickham. They will be done later this week.

Jonathan Wallace Church Green Nov 16

Above: me in my Sunday best, ready to get my hands dirty.

Planting Up Whickham lunch Nov 16

Good lunch at the church hall for the volunteers.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

The battle for Parliamentary Sovereignty

Britain Stronger in Europe banner June 16

In the thick fog that was the Brexit message during the referendum, some Brexiteers argued that we needed to re-establish Parliamentary sovereignty. Today's court judgement that Parliament, not the Government, has the power to trigger Article 50, should be welcomed by those who argued the Leave case. Yet they are doing the opposite. They are horrified by the ruling that triggering Article 50 is for Parliament, not the Government.

It seems daft, and a waste of public money, to appeal to the Supreme Court. We have a constitutional system and representative democracy. The court case today was not about Brexit, it was about where constitutional powers lie. Parliament should therefore trigger Article 50. Given that most Tories and probably a significant part of the Labour party will vote to trigger, there will be no serious likelihood that Brexit will be blocked.

Gateshead's energy-from-waste plant - the video

This is the video I filmed last month of the visit we made to Gateshead's new energy-from-waste plant in Teeside. It still staggers me, even with recycling, just how much waste modern society generates. At least with this plant we get a useful product from the rubbish that cannot be recycled.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Pie, Peas and History

Sunniside History Society Nov 16

First Tuesday evening of the month is a regular in my diary - Sunniside History Society meeting in Sunniside Club. Last night it was the pie and pea supper which followed the showing of a video made by the pupils of Washingwell Primary School about the Fugar project. Sadly I was too busy to get along to the school when they filmed the video but the kids did a good job. A few budding tv presenters there!

Also included in the evening were photos taken at the unveiling of the Fugar information panel where I did the medieval catering, and a programme about women Spitfire pilots during the Second World War. (This was one of the best videos I've seen at the monthly meetings.)

pie and peas Nov 16