Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Election campaign days 41-43: lots of tabloids to deliver

delivering in Whickham May 17

Sunday saw me delivering 500 tabloids in Sunniside and Marley Hill, Monday saw me delivering 500 tabloids in Whickham and Tuesday saw me delivering 750 in Dunston and Whickham. Total of 1750. By the end of this campaign I will either be super fit or dead.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Election campaign day 40 - my first dog bite of the campaign

dog bite May 17

On Saturday, in the late afternoon, having received 4 bundles of our tabloid, I decided to make a start in delivering the patches I normally do. At about the 25th house, one of my fingers became dog food. I felt a small, sharp tooth pierce my skin as I pushed a tabloid through the letter box. The lady who owned the animal cleaned my hand and bandaged my finger. I was then able to continue on my way.

I have no news as to whether the dog survived......

Election campaign day 40 - the tabloid arrives

tabloid May 17

On Saturday our election tabloid arrived. Thousands of them....tens of thousands of them. All we have to do now is deliver them! There's a bit in it about my self-sufficient lifestyle and our goat baby Whinnie - we are raising him by hand as he was too weak to be raised by his mother Spot. Notice how he took an interest though more as food than edification.

tabloid and goat kid May 17

Election campaign day 40 - delivering in Whickham

Postal vote leaflet May 17-page-0

After the Whickham street stall I headed to The Cedars area in my ward to deliver some spare leaflets leftover from what we delivered last weekend. It was better to have them through people's doors rather than in the recycling box. I spotted that the Conservatives had delivered a leaflet ahead of me. I still haven't had a copy through my door in Sunniside. I suspect the Conservatives have not printed many of these leaflets and have targeted those they are able to deliver onto limited areas where they think there may be a Tory vote. The area I was delivering however is one of the strongest Lib Dem polling districts on the planet with Lib Dem support, at least in local elections, typically well over 65% (we once measured it at 94% but that was in a by-election in which there was no Conservative candidate!)

Sadly, I wasn't able to get a copy. I knocked on a few doors of constituents to see if they could pass on a copy but everyone had destroyed the Conservative leaflet. I can only guess at its contents. I've come across no other evidence for any Conservative literature. We are still to receive their freepost.

Postal vote leaflet May 17-page-1

Election campaign day 40 - the Whickham street stall

Whickham street stall May 17

After visiting the Sunniside Methodist Fair, I headed down to Whickham for our monthly surgery and our street stall in St Mary's Green. Some very positive responses and an embarrassingly large number of my council constituents who told me they are voting for me. It didn't all go my way. One lady had a go at us about Tim Farron and our policy of letting people vote on the Brexit deal and then took a swipe at the community orchard I helped to plant earlier this year in Sunniside. "You won't get any apples because the kids will eat them," she told me! To which I replied "Excellent. That's exactly what we want to happen!" (For the record, the cost of the orchard was £200 for 100 trees, all of which were planted for nothing by volunteers from the Prince's Trust.)

Election campaign day 40: fruitcakes

fruitcake May 17

On Saturday I started the day (after doing my usual livestock duties) with fruitcakes. No, I wasn't encountering Ukippers. I was actually at the Sunniside Methodist Church fair. It's always a good place to buy plants and fruitcakes. Alice, the lady who makes the cakes, reminded me that they can keep for up to 18 months. So far we are half way through it. I doubt it will still be here in 18 days' time!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Eating at the high end

Barley Mow May 17

At cabinet on Tuesday morning, out of the blue, Labour councillor Gary Haley suddenly accused me of eating at "high end" restaurants. I'm not sure what the point of his intervention was but I thought it a bit rich for Posh Boy Gary to be making such silly claims. Mr Haley was the failed Labour candidate against me in 2003 and 2004 and I don't really think that Labour ever recovered from his candidacy in the ward. During that time, Mr Haley posed as the person who was safe for Tories to vote for tactically to beat all those leftwing liberals. It was a tactic that totally failed. He then ran away to a safe Labour ward elsewhere.

I suspect that Tory Boy Haley is trying to paint me as something I'm not - a high living individual who splashes the cash. Since I grow most of the food I eat, I hardly need to be eating out very often. Nevertheless, I did eat out recently. I had a pub lunch on Saturday 20th May at the Barley Mow in Birtley. I had cajan chicken and at £6.95 it was one of the cheaper meals on the menu. It was a pleasant meal in the middle of our action day in Birtley.

I have no idea whether or not Posh Boy Haley attends Corbynite cocktail parties but I do recommend he tries the Barley Mow instead. It's not "high end", just nice, friendly and competitively priced.

RIP David Wallace

Bowes Agricultural Show Sept 16 (90)

For some weeks now, my Dad, David, had been in St Bede's Hospice at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead. We were resigned to losing him. He was 86 years old and for 85 year he had been in fine health. The past year had seen a significant decline in his health. The hospice called me at 6.30am on Saturday morning to tell me Dad had passed away.

He taught me jam-making and self-reliance. He sparked my interest in self-sufficiency. He will be greatly missed.

The photo above was taken at the Bowes Agricultural Show last September. For some years, Dad had come with us to the show. My endearing memory was that he would always fill our land rover with more food that we could eat in a fortnight!

Timings this year have not been good. Losing Dad in the middle of an election campaign was hardly what any of us would want. Nevertheless, I took the decision to continue campaigning.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Election campaign day 38: the hustings meeting and UKIP gay haters

Blaydon hustings meeting May 17 (2)

On Thursday evening, the one and only hustings meeting of the campaign in Blaydon took place at Strathmore Road Methodist Church in Rowlands Gill. It was my first chance to meet the Conservative candidate Tom Smith, kindly paying us a visit from London! He seemed a pleasant enough person. Sadly, the Space Navies Party candidate was not present, presumably on some interplanetary trek going boldly where no party has gone before. Also not present was the Libertarian candidate. The panel therefore consisted of Labour, UKIP, Conservative, Green and me.

The poorest performer was UKIP. He had to be pulled back by the chair of the meeting on a number of times to the question in hand. The final question we had to answer was what we each thought was the biggest injustice in the UK. The UKIP candidate rambled on about the horrors of "thought police" forcing people to accept "sexuality" and attacking equal marriage. The audience was clearly unhappy with his response but he was then told to end his answer by the chairman as he had overrun his time. "Yes, I'll stop there," he said.

I spoke next and opened my comment with, "Yes, please do stop there." It brought a round of applause. My answer about injustice was about the wealth divide in the country. Tom Smith spoke next and took the Kipper down even further by pointing out that he had married his husband and was very happy in his relationship. That brought a round of applause as well.

Sadly, there are no more hustings meetings in Blaydon. I guess the next time I will see my fellow candidates will be at the count.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Election campaign day 35: my freepost arrives

Jonathan Wallace freepost 1 May 17 with bleed-page-1

In a Parliamentary election, candidates are entitled to send a leaflet to voters via the Royal Mail. Mine arrived on Monday 22nd May, just before the postal votes started to arrive. Labour's arrived a few days before. As of 12.20am on Saturday 27th May, none of the other parties have yet sent out their freepost leaflet though lots of people will now have used their postal vote.

Jonathan Wallace freepost 1 May 17 with bleed-page-0

Visiting the Hop Garden

Hop Garden High Spen swap event May 17 2

The Hop Garden in High Spen is a community run allotment and I've often attended events they have hosted in the past. On Sunday, after delivering some letters in Ryton, I headed to High Spen to go to the garden's swap event. The currency at these events is anything produced on the allotment that is surplus. The idea is that people swap what they have too much of, for something they don't have enough of. I took 6 boxes of quail eggs and brought back tomato and pepper plants and a goose egg!

Hop Garden High Spen swap event May 17 5

Hop Garden High Spen swap event May 17 1

Resuming campaigning

I have refrained from posting on the blog for the past few days out of respect for the victims of the terrorist outrage in Manchester. The political parties rightly suspended campaigning until today. Yesterday, Blaydon campaigning by all parties began again with the Rowlands Gill hustings meeting (more about that later). The eFocus for Whickham which was due to go out on Tuesday will be published shortly. Terrorism and hatred will not prevail.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Delivering in Ryton again

Delivering Ryton May 17

After my stint at the BBC I headed to Ryton (via home where I got changed out of my suit). I had 3 patches to deliver with letters and leaflets. Job done by 4pm.

Election campaign day 34: BBC Politics Programme

BBC Politics Programme May 17 2

I was on the BBC Politics Programme (North East) edition today, along with Chi Onwurah (Labour MP for Newcastle Central), Kevin Hollinrake (Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton) and Philip Broughton (UKIP candidate for Hartlepool). Nothing spectacular happened. Discussions were had on jobs, education and access to the Single Market. UKIP Philip seems very confident but I suspect he won't make it to Parliament.

BBC Politics Programme May 17 1

Election campaign day 33: back to Birtley

Birtley street stall May 17 1

We were back in Birtley yesterday to run a street stall and deliver letters and leaflets to postal voters. What a coincidence: when we got to the spot outside Morrisons where we had the stall 3 weeks ago, we found the National Union of Teachers there as well. I introduced myself to them and found out in conversation that they weren't teachers but worked for the NUT. And they also let me know that Labour were turning up to run a street stall next to them. Given that the NUT is not supposed to be party political, I was rather surprised at what appeared to be a high level of knowledge of Labour's whereabouts and campaign plans. It was also interesting to note that NUT staff rather than members turned up to run the stall. They were, of course, not telling people to vote Labour, not when I was there at any rate.

Our street stall was also the meeting point for Lib Dem members to collect letters and leaflets for delivery. Among them was Craig Martin who won his seat from the Independents earlier this month in North Lodge ward, Co Durham.

Birtley street stall May 17 2

At 11am we packed up the street stall and headed off to deliver. The Barley Mow pub was the rendezvous for lunch at 1pm. I had the cajan chicken.

Barley Mow May 17

sheltering from rain May 17

We left the pub and suddenly, the skies opened and tipped it down with rain. We took refuge in Cllr John McClurey's land rover. I'd been hoping for rain for some time as my crops are parched but I was wanting it to appear through the night. The timing was brilliantly bad! But at least we shifted a large pile of letters and leaflets.

Unusual stories from the campaign trail: best foot forward

Goat kid May 17 1

Elections never come at the right time, especially for those of us who lead self-sufficient lifestyles - spring is a key season for planting and livestock births and hatchings. At the end of April, one of our goats gave birth to two babies, one of which was very weak. We have been raising him by hand and bottle feeding him (including at 4am each day). The kid has been named Whinnie by supporters of the Whinnies Community Garden where my animals reside. I'm pleased to report that after 3 weeks he has now started to walk. He is very wobbly and I doubt I'll be taking him out canvassing but he is improving. I'll be booking him into the vet for a check up this week, in between writing leaflets and doing all the other election things.

Goat kid May 17 2

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Election Campaign Day 32: letters in Dunston and Whickham

letters DHWE May 17

Yesterday (Friday) saw the start of a letter delivery in Blaydon constituency. We were hitting the streets of Whickham and Dunston from 10am. Alas, the rain, which has been absent for two weeks, made an appearance. At lunchtime I made a brief appearance at home to change into dry socks! I'm pleased to report that all the letters were delivered by late afternoon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Update from the Whinnies Community Garden

I keep my goats and poultry on land I rent from the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside. In return I use the animals to promote the garden which caters for people with physical and mental health issues to experience gardening and the great outdoors. This video is all about the goat babies, the quail and hen chicks and a bit at the end of me bottle feeding one of the kids.

The Whinnies Facebook page recently asked for suggestions for names for the two most recent kids. The names chosen are Whinnie and Sunny.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Video - Chase Park update

Gateshead Council's cabinet have agreed to declare part of Chase Park in Whickham as surplus to requirement. They have included in that the main entrance to the park. We have been fighting this plan and there is the potential for a legal challenge if the sale goes through from Lib Dem councillors. In this video, Cllr Peter Maughan and I discuss what the cabinet decision means for the park.

It is noteworthy that the person on the cabinet who leads the council's drive for building new houses is Liz Twist, my Labour opponent in Blaydon.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Our latest leaflet

Ryton Blaydon intro Focus with Chritine May 17-page-0

Over the past week, our latest leaflet has been hitting doormats in Ryton and Blaydon wards. My goats even get a mention!

Ryton Blaydon intro Focus with Chritine May 17-page-1

Some of the people I spoke to in Ryton yesterday told me they had received and read it - and recognised me from it!

Whickham Race Night

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (5)

Lighting Up Whickham held another race night last night, this time at the Glebe Sports Club. The event was to raise money for the Whickham Christmas tree and decorations. It was a packed and very enjoyable event, even if it did result in my losing on every race and emptying my wallet! My job on the night was to help serve the pies and peas.

I don't yet have the figures for how much was raised. I will find out at the next committee meeting.

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (3)

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (4)

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (6)

Lighting Up Whickham Race Night May 17 (2)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Election Campaign Day 26: Ryton street stall

Ryton street stall May 17 (2)

We were in Ryton this morning, with a street stall on Main Road, outside the Coop. Lots of useful conversations were held with voters. Our most recent leaflet has just gone out in the ward and I was recognised by various people from it. My first conversation was with a UKIP voter who said that he was voting for me as he wants a good local MP and is fed up with Labour taking the area for granted. Then I had a chat to an elderly lady who decades ago was the secretary of the local Conservatives but has been voting Lib Dem for some years. I also had a useful chat with a young couple who have recently moved to Ryton and are normally Labour leaning but are voting for me because of Europe. The final discussion was with a Labour member but his views on his party are best not published!

It was great to see Ione and Noel Rippeth helping the campaign this morning. Both retired as Councillors in Gateshead in recent years but they were keen to give a hand.

In the Space Navy - my opponent's party political broadcast

The Space Navy Party, standing against me in Blaydon constituency, is an unknown quantity. A short search on Google has helped me find their party political broadcast. It's from the 1970s. Labour will therefore love it!

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Swalwell Community Centre Quiz

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (5)

A pie and pea supper tonight (I have another one tomorrow) at Swalwell Community Centre kicked off the fundraising quiz evening. My team - me, David, Cllr Sonya Hawkins and my brother Andrew - known as the Goat Doctors, have a record to defend. We won the quiz when it was last held in the autumn. Alas, we slipped up tonight and came in second.

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (2)

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (3)

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (4)

Swalwell Community Centre quiz evening May 17 (1)

Another hospice visit

As Leader of the Opposition in Gateshead, it is my duty to second the vote of thanks to the outgoing mayor and deputy mayor at the annual council meeting which was held today. I spent part of the morning pulling together notes for the speech as well as sorting a few loose ends regarding the Lib Dem group's representation on committees. I was due in the Civic Centre at 1pm for a naming ceremony for one of the meeting rooms followed by council at 2.30pm. At 12.15, however, I got the call to go immediately to St Bede's Hospice at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Dad was close to passing away. I called Ron Beadle, the group's deputy leader to ask him to stand in for me at council and then headed over the the QE.

The family gathered in Dad's room for about four hours. He had stabilised by the late afternoon. It was clear that he is with us a bit longer. I returned home as I had an engagement to attend this evening.

Space invaders sail into Blaydon

Statement of persons Nominated and Notice-of-poll-Blaydon-page-0

The number of candidates in Blaydon has hit a record 7. Nominations closed yesterday. We have candidates from the three main parties (Lib Dem, Labour and Conservatives), from a minor party (Greens) and three from the fringe (Libertarian, UKIP and "We want the future now"). This latter party is actually registered under the name of "Space Navies Party". What is on the nomination paper is actually another of its registered names. The candidate is "Lisabela Zxywhiddm Marschild". I have no idea what the Space Navies Party stands for. It could be pie in the sky for all I know. Maybe we should put a rocket under them. May the farce be with them in their trek........

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Election campaign day 24: the official campaign launch

Gateshead South Tyneside Lib Dem election launch May 17

Thursday's big event was the official launch of the Lib Dem campaigns in Blaydon, Gateshead, Jarrow and South Shields. The respective candidates (me, Frank Hindle, Peter Maughan and Gita Gordon) were at the launch at Gateshead Civic Centre with guest speaker Lord John Shipley. Each candidate gave a short presentation about themselves and then answered questions from members. A good meeting, but I couldn't hang around at the end as David and I needed to go to St Bede's Hospice to see Dad. He was keen to have a report about the meeting.

Election campaign day 23: called to the Hospice

Wednesday's big job was to get the freepost leaflet into the hands of the printer (or rather into his inbox). The Royal Mail had already approved it and it was just a case of making the file into something that the printer can use. It was a job meant for the evening. Matters did not go to plan. I was called at 5.30pm by St Bede's Hospice where my Dad is. I was warned that it would be better for me to come to the hospice straight away. My younger brother Matthew was already there when David and I arrived a half hour later. We were quickly joined by Andrew, my elder brother, and by my sister Esther. We were there for three hours during which time Dad stabilised. David and I returned home at 9.30pm so that our livestock could be put away, the baby goat could be bottle fed, a meal could be consumed and the freepost file sorted. At 11.30pm I went back to St Bede's. Andrew was just leaving, Matthew and Esther had already gone home.

Dad was settled and sleeping so I sat in the seat next to his bed and fell asleep for an hour. When I woke, I was able to have a quick word with him. Despite his extreme frailty and his great difficulty in speaking, he thanked me for coming. I returned home.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Swalwell Focus

Swalwell A3 Focus Apr 17 Final-page-0

The Swalwell Focus was the last of the current round of Focuses planned before the general election was announced. The lead story is about the transfer of Whickham Library to the voluntary sector. I also had a bit in about being the candidate for Blaydon.

Swalwell A3 Focus Apr 17 Final-page-1

3 good reasons to vote for me as constituency MP for Blaydon

Jonathan Wallace freepost 1 May 17-page-1

Birtley eFocus

Our latest email newsletter for Birtley and Lamesley wards has just been published. Lead story was the council tax rise but we also included stories about the general election campaign. You can read it on this link.

Lighting Up Whickham meeting

Last night I attended the meeting of Lighting Up Whickham, the group of volunteers who raise money for the Village's Christmas tree. We are in the middle of drawing up plans for the next Whickham Community Festival. We have now settled on a date - Saturday 22nd July, 11am to 3pm. Local musicians and entertainers are being lined up. There will be lots of craft stalls. Someone not a million miles from here came up with pets and animals as the theme. I am therefore under instruction to bring along some of my goats, chickens and goats. Watch this space for more details.

Monday, May 08, 2017

At last, a Conservative candidate is announced

News from the Blaydon campaign - the Conservatives have a candidate! He's called Tom Smith and he's local - to Camden (450 km down the road from Blaydon). I'm thinking of sending him a welcome pack and a map along with the "How to Survive Up North" manual. Tom was candidate in neighbouring Gateshead constituency in 2015. I'm not sure whether Tom's attraction to the borough of Gateshead is as a result of genuine interest or is based on his name being drawn out of a hat in a room in Tory Central Office where the candidates for no hope seats (for the Tories) are given their Mission Impossible instructions.

So Tom, welcome to Blaydon. We're a friendly lot up here. We don't bite and if you need it, I can provide a translator for you to understand our local Geordie language!

Election campaign day 21: I am officially nominated

That rather irritating legal necessity to stand for election - my nomination paper - was handed in to Gateshead Council today. Alas, it was accepted. So, into battle I go. I'm really looking forward to being verbally beaten up by the good people of Blaydon. I'm especially excited about the long days and sleep deprivation. I have budgeted for at least one new pair of shoes during the election (I'm splashing out - £10 at Primark for a pair of casual shoes). My natty old suit has been dusted down and checked for embarrassing stains, ripped lining and shiny elbows. It's 9 years old but there's still life in the old thing yet. I've had it long enough for it to have been fashionable at least twice. My tie collection has been thoroughly checked for dinner stains, spilt beer and wrong party colours.

So the battle for Blaydon shifts up a gear.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Re-elected Group Leader

On Wednesday Gateshead Lib Dem Council Group held its annual meeting to elect officers and agree appointments to council committees. I'm pleased to report that I was re-elected unopposed as Group Leader, and therefore Leader of the Opposition (there are no Conservative, UKIP or Green Councillors in  Gateshead - it's either Labour or Lib Dem here.) Ron Beadle was re-elected as Deputy Leader.

I am however, no longer the wearer of the crown for leader of the 2nd largest Lib Dem group in the North East Combined Authority area. That title goes to Amanda Hopgood, leader of the Lib Dems on Durham County Council. The party picked up another 5 seats on Thursday with no losses, taking the total number of councillors to 14, 2 ahead of us in Gateshead. I will of course be aiming to win back the crown next May when Gateshead next goes to the polls for the local elections.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Gateshead Lib Dems' email newsletter

Gateshead Lib Dem members' email newsletter has now been sent to recipients. The lead story is the selection of myself for Blaydon, Frank Hindle for Gateshead and Peter Maughan for Jarrow. There are also articles about campaigning in Birtley and in Dunston Hill and Whickham East. You can read the newsletter on this link.

New kids on the block

New goat babies Apr 17 1

When I got back from delivering our Focus newsletter in Marley Hill on Sunday, I checked on my animals. I had one remaining pregnant goat, Spot, but when I got to the allotment, she was pregnant no more. She had given birth to two little billies. One was in good health but the other was very weak. I took the decision to take his home to nurse him. He would almost certainly have died if left with Spot. However, doing this has meant I have to be the kid's surrogate mother! He is being bottle fed every four hours, including at 4am. It's not the best of timings in the middle of a general election campaign, but needs must.

The billy kid is still weak on his legs but he is doing reasonably well. He is putting on weight and his coat is in good condition - good signs for a recovery - but he is not out of the woods yet.

New goat babies Apr 17 3

New goat babies Apr 17 4

In the meantime, the Whinnies Community Garden, where the goats live, have invited residents to come up with names for the 2 kids. Given the danger of being named Goaty McGoatface, the final decision will be left to me this weekend. Suggestions so far included Lib and Dem. Corbyn and Abbott have also been suggested but that could give them a complex!

Any suggestions can be posted in comments.

Election campaign days 12 and 13: leaflets

Sunniside Focus May 17-page-0

Saturday and Sunday campaigning was all about leaflets: writing and delivering them! Our 4th leaflet of the campaign was the Sunniside Focus. (See images above and below.) It had been planned well before the election was called but to make way for general election content, I had to drop 5 local news stories from it. They will appear in our next edition and in our forthcoming eFocus email newsletter. I delivered 500 Focuses in Sunniside and Marley Hill on Sunday. I was back home in time for a little surprise - but that's for my next post.

Sunniside Focus May 17-page-1