Friday, June 30, 2017

Video - Gateshead's Energy Centre

A short video of the Gateshead Energy Centre which I shot yesterday.

Visiting the Gateshead Energy Centre

Gateshead Energy Centre June 17 (3)

One of the first acts of the Lib Dems in the Coalition in 2010 was to allow councils to set up energy companies. I'm pleased to say that Gateshead was one of the first councils to take up this new freedom. The Gateshead Energy Centre has been built. It is a combined heat and power plant and will sell electricity and heat to public and private sector buildings in the central Gateshead area. The Gateshead Energy Company has been set up to run the plant and sell the electricity and heat and it should be running at a profit in the near future, once the plant is up and running and the network of wires and pipes is completed.

I visited the plant yesterday to have a look around. I'm looking forward to proposals for new plants elsewhere in Gateshead.

Gateshead Energy Centre June 17 (5)

Gateshead Energy Centre June 17 (6)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Avoid the Blaydon roundabout on Saturday

On Saturday the damaged section of the footbridge over the A695 will be replaced. Expect lots of disruption to the road as the east bound carriageway will be closed. The bridge was damaged when it was hit by a lorry last year. I did ask about who is paying for the repair (surely the lorry driver's insurance should cover it) at a council meeting recently but I haven't yet had an answer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Theresa and May - my two ducklings

ducklings June 17

These two ducklings were hatched in one of our incubators last month. They aren't lame but I couldn't resist the temptation to name them Theresa and May. As you would expect, they are very messy and there's a great deal of cleaning to do after them.


So Ed Davey is not standing for the leadership of the Lib Dems. Without Ed in the fray, it almost certainly means there will be no contest. I am disappointed as I wanted there to be a debate (even though I was edging towards supporting Vince) about the future direction of the party. My hope now is that Vince will spend the summer reaching out to the members and will tour the country, giving both members and supporters the opportunity to meet him and hear first hand what he has to say.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bureaucratic Brexit

The underwhelming offer by Theresa May of residency rights to (some) EU citizens resident in the UK will require a vast bureaucracy to ensure it happens. Inspectors will need to be employed to sniff around people's private lives to show they have been resident for 5 years. Thousands of bureaucrats will be needed to sort out the vast number of applications to remain. All of this, of course, means a reduction in the rights of both EU and UK citizens.

The growing bureaucratic empire of civil servants won't end there. A new immigration system will need to be set up and operated so that fruit pickers can be brought into the country (assuming the fruit farms don't close down - no jam tomorrow with Brexit), nurses can be employed (applications are down 96% from the EU) and GP shortages can be filled.

Then there is the bureaucracy needed to run our own regulatory system which we will need to set up in the absence of the EU system. And don't forget the creation of government departments needed to negotiate separate trade agreements with other countries.

Brexit - looking more and more like an employment scheme for bureaucrats.

Kells Lane Fair

Kells Lane Fair June 17 (5)

On Saturday I spent the day at the Kells Lane Fair in Low Fell, Gateshead. I had a table there to sell eggs and preserves from my self-sufficiency venture. I also took along Whinnie, the baby goat we are raising by hand. He turned out to be the big hit of the day. I didn't need to spend time looking after him - people were queuing up to walk him round Kells Lane Park. Cllr Marilynn Ord bagged the biggest time with him!

Whinnie is now the mascot of the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside and his next public outing will be at the fair at the garden on Sunday 16th July. More about that on a later post.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Roll out the barrel

Piglets Jul 12 2

The gay-hating, abortion-banning, creationist-believing DUP have done a deal with the Conservatives which they say, will last 5 years but with a review in 2 years' time. There will be some in the ranks of the Conservatives pleased that the like-minded DUP have Theresa May in a cage. There will however be many liberal Conservatives who will be very unhappy at the state of affairs.

As long as May keeps rolling out the pork barrels for the DUP to spend in Northern Ireland, she, or at least the Conservatives, will likely survive in office. Let's hope for her sake (though not the sake of the nation) she doesn't run out of pork.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Visiting the Ravensworth Arms at Lamesley

Ravensworth Arms Lamesley June 17 (2)

We had a friend staying with us last weekend so we went out for lunch at the Ravensworth Arms at Lamesley. So this post is to wind up the sneering "socialists" of the Blaydon Labour Party on 2 counts. They attack me for eating in "high end" restaurants (I don't think I've ever eaten in such a place) and they spit venom at me because I keep goats (apparently this is a reason they claim for not taking me seriously.) The Ravensworth Arms is not a "high end" restaurant but is a pleasant pub/restaurant that happens to employ local residents. Indeed, I discovered one of the waitresses is a constituent of mine. She recognised me while serving us. She quizzed me about how our baby goat, Whinnie (we are raising him by hand), is doing. He featured in our general election tabloid so clearly my literature is being read and remembered by residents even if they aren't voting for me in large numbers in the general election! (Local elections are a different matter - the last time I got less than half the votes cast was when I was first elected in 1987, and even then I got 48.8%)

It's good to have a life outside politics. My local Labour detractors think otherwise. It will be interesting to see what attacks they will make on me when I am next up for election!

My chance to protest is slipping away!

I see the state visit by Donald Trump is in question. It is likely that 2 stumbling blocks are in the way of Trump's unwelcome sojourn. Firstly, he doesn't want to cross the pond until the Brits have grown to like him. Million-strong demonstrations against him appear not to his liking. If he is waiting for the prospect of people here conducting a mass uturn and deciding he's a good guy after all, he will be waiting beyond his term of office.

The 2nd stumbling block is the state of the government. The Tories have enough licking of self-inflicted wounds to do without adding to their woes of massive demonstrations against hand-holding Theresa and Donald.

It seems therefore that my chance to protest against Trump is slipping away.

Loathsome Leadsom and the politics of patriotism

No party or political movement has a monopoly on patriotism. Any mainstream political party will want to do their best for their country even if the people has differing views on precisely what constitutes the "best". Indeed, I have no problem with any political party using national flags in their promotional material. But shame on those politicians who want to beat the drum of patriotism to drown out coverage of bad decisions and third rate government. Therefore shame on Andrea Leadsom.

There are great reasons to be patriotic about our nation: we are an open liberal democracy with a free media and relative limits on the powers of the executive. These are great characteristics to celebrate throughout the world. So Loathsome Leadsom's demands that the media should be more "patriotic" in their coverage of Brexit is anathema to traditional British values of free speech. The government should not be telling the media how to report anything. Instead, the media has a duty to challenge authority and inform the people, even mock those in power.

Politicians who equate loyalty to the government with patriotism are unfit to govern. Andrea Leadsom has demonstrated that she should not be in office.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Is it to be Vince or Ed?

Jonathan Wallace Vince Cable Mar 15

With the decision of Norman Lamb and Jo Swinson not to stand for the leadership of the Lib Dems, we now have one declared candidate (Vince Cable) and a possible candidate (Ed Davey). We await Ed's announcement. I hope he does stand though I am yet to decide how I will vote if the contest is between the two. I don't like political coronations. It was a disaster for Labour when Brown was appointed without opposition. The same mistake is now stalking the Conservatives with Theresa May now giving a completely new meaning to "strong and stable".

The party should have a contest and a relatively short debate over the summer about the future direction of the party and especially how we put the brakes on the return to two party politics. So I am hoping Ed will throw his hat in the ring.

Of the two, I know Ed better. I worked closely with him when I was in Cowley Street and he stayed a couple of times in my house in Sunniside, Gateshead, when he had engagements here in the North East. He was very appreciative of our home cooking!

Any contest should be over before conference. The interesting issue is: what happens if the Tories fail to get their slimline Queen's Speech through the Commons and there is an autumn election? The coronation route may be the only option though I think an autumn election is unlikely. Sadly, however, I cannot discount it completely.

Jonathan Wallace Ed Davey Mar 15

Congratulations Jo

I'm pleased to see Jo Swinson elected as the Lib Dems' new deputy leader. I was looking through my collection of photos to add one of her to this post but discovered she is one of the few people who is, or has been, a Lib Dem MP whose photo I have not yet taken! This looks like something that will need to be corrected in the near future.

Her re-election to Parliament earlier this month was one of the results that came through after I left the Blaydon count. We were almost home when the declaration was made. It was a nice bit of news to hear after having been buried under a Labour landslide in my own constituency.

I did not have much contact with Jo when I worked for the Lib Dems up to 2009 but somehow she was able to pick me out in a crowd about 4 years ago. I was at a theatre in London to see a stage performance of the Diaries of Chris Mullin. At the interval, everyone poured outside for a bit of fresh air and late evening sunshine. She was with her husband Duncan Hames (then also an MP) and they chatted to me about self-sufficiency and life after Cowley Street.

I suspect, given a few more years, she will be taking on the role of leader.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thank you Tim

Last Wednesday, just a day after Tim Farron announced his resignation, I attempted to take a day off from politics. I had the day set aside for a visit to Beamish Museum. I was about to head out of the door when the phone rang. It was Richard Moss from BBC Look North wanting an interview with me about Tim's resignation. As a friend of Tim from his Newcastle University days, the BBC were after a more personal view of his decision to go. Richard offered to come to my house so I agreed to do the interview in my back garden at 4pm, effectively knocking an hour off my Beamish visit. When I got to the Museum, one of the first people I bumped into was a constituent (who volunteers at Beamish) who was keen to know my views on Tim's resignation!

Back home and Richard and the cameraman arrived. The interview went ahead. Though I was saddened for Tim personally, my view is that Tim was right to resign as his views on gay sex had become a distraction which he failed to close down as an issue. I also wanted to demolish the point that Tim himself is homophobic. I used the example of his invite to myself and David, my partner, back in 2004, to his wedding (there were other gay couples there as well). This hardly strikes me as the actions of a homophobe.

So thank you to Tim for his leadership over the past two years. Despite the sinful distraction, he ensured we were able to hold our own in the snap election. We now need a new leader who can help us stop the return to the awful prospect of two-party politics in which Labour and their Tory mates swap around with each other the occupancy of Whitehall and Downing Street.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Farewell to Dad

funeral flowers June 17 2

Dad died in May and on Monday 12th June we held his funeral at Saltwell Crematorium. A humanist service and a great send-off for Dad was followed by a wake in the Bridle Path in Whickham (which is also run by one of my cousins). Dad was in good health until last year. He had 85 years of good health and one of poor health. He was proud of the fact he still had a head of hair and his own teeth! I'm hoping I've inherited his propensity for good health.

Dad, we will miss you but you've left us with great memories.

funeral flowers June 17 1

David and Jonathan Wallace Oct 16

Sunday, June 11, 2017

My day off from campaigning

While we contemplate the possibility of another election in the not too distant future, and we watch with some degree of trepidation as the DUP and the Conservatives sup together, I'm taking a day off from politics to prepare for my Dad's funeral tomorrow and to sort out jobs that need doing down on the plot. Having left David to get on with planting crops over the past 7 weeks, I am back to the land. After all, I do have a life outside politics, a point on which I was actually attacked by the Labour agent Chris McHugh during the election. Thankfully, some of us have a more rounded experience of the world. I used to work in politics myself (bizarrely Labour used to attack me for that as well) but I always  had my non-political interests. Thankfully, we are not all cardboard political cut-outs like Chris.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A pivotal role for the DUP - can things get worse than that?

In the brave new world of Trump election and Brexit referendum victories, the UK has now thrown in another bitter tasting ingredient - the DUP. A party that competes with the worse elements of UKIP for the most distasteful, backward-looking and illiberal policy positions now has a pivotal role in government. This is a party that is sectarian in nature, is climate change denying and opposes same sex marriage and abortion. For the extreme, headbanging Brexiteers of the Conservative Party, they may be natural bedfellows. Liberal Conservatives however must be feeling that they have been shackled to a monster. And they can blame it all on Theresa May.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Election campaign day 50 - eggs and hedgehogs

delivering in High Spen June 17

Every Wednesday morning I take our surplus hen eggs to a farm shop in High Spen where they are sold. As yesterday was the last day before polling day, I not only took the eggs, I also took some bundles of tabloids to cover some unfinished patches (one in High Spen and 2 in Rowlands Gill).

delivering in Rowlands Gill June 17

Evening saw me back in Swalwell to finish a patch that was meant to be done on Tuesday. The downpour that day rather got in the way of deliveries. I didn't stop to have any conversations with voters but I did meet a hedgehog crossing a road. I will avoid puns about discussing prickly subjects!

hedgehog June 17 (2)

Just voted

polling station June 17

I'm just back from voting at our polling station, Sunniside Social Club. I had a couple of "good lucks" from people as I went in. I was then given the biggest ballot paper I've had for a Parliamentary election. There are 7 candidates therefore making the race to come last much more challenging this time. My name was at the bottom and not surprisingly I voted for myself.

Responding to policy requests: the environment

goats April 17 (5)

I've received a large number of requests from voters in Blaydon about Lib Dem views on the environment and my own personal outlook on what needs to be done to tackle pollution and climate change. This is an issue close to my heart. The environment was one of the key issues that brought me into politics 36 years ago. And I don't just talk about it, I live it as well. My self-sufficient lifestyle, at which the local Labour Party has been spitting venom recently, is all about reducing my impact on the environment.

Marsden Jan 15 2

So here are the key Lib Dem environmental policies:

Climate change:

In government, we championed green energy, and oversaw the trebling of renewable electricity generation. Liberal Democrats will expand renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, cutting dependence on fossil fuel imports and generating more jobs and prosperity. We will:

  • Pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act to set new legally binding targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040 and to zero by 2050.
  • Support the Paris agreement by ensuring the UK meets its own climate commitments and plays a leadership role in international efforts to combat climate change.
  • Expand renewable energy, aiming to generate 60% of electricity from renewables by 2030, restoring government support for solar PV and onshore wind in appropriate locations (helping meet climate targets at least cost) and building more electricity interconnectors to underpin this higher reliance on renewables.
  • Oppose ‘fracking’ because of its adverse impact on climate change, the energy mix, and the local environment.

Wildlife and nature:

Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to protect and support Britain’s wildlife. We will:

  • Pass a Nature Act, which will put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing. We will also set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water, and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets.
  • As well as this, we will reverse the current sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation by aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next ten years, and protect remaining ancient woodlands.
  • Significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including completion of the coastal path, and create a new designation of national nature parks to protect up to one million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities.
  • Liberal Democrats will support our precious marine habitats and wildlife. We will protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas.


Bowes Agricultural Show Sept 16 (30)

The agricultural sector can play a major role in providing public goods and protecting wildlife.
The vote to leave the EU puts farming and agricultural businesses in huge danger, threatening both cuts to the support which underpin farmers’ livelihoods and ability to manage the countryside. Our system must ensure food production and protect the environment. That’s why Lib Dems will:

  • Continue our long campaign to reform agricultural subsidies – rebalancing away from direct subsidy and refocusing support towards the public benefits that come from effective land management including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production and climate-change mitigation. This would ensure that smaller farms are protected and move support away from large landowners, while delivering a more localised agricultural policy.
  • Introduce a national food strategy to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food.
  • Continue to improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture by updating farm animal welfare codes and promoting the responsible stewardship of antibiotic drugs.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Just when you thought UKIP were dying

Lab leaflet Sunderland May 17 p1

UKIP may be looking like they are in their death throes but spare a thought for the new way their beliefs could survive. In this instance, I'm not talking about the Tories doing a smash-and-grab on UKIP policies. Instead, Labour in Sunderland seem to be setting out to be UKIP Mark II. They have published an article in an election leaflet which could have come straight from the pages of the Kippers' manifesto.

The article has a go at the government for spending money on foreign aid. There is a sideswipe at the Conservative government for committing the UK to spending 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid (isn't that Labour policy as well?) "Why are we given (sic) aid to such countries as India or Pakistan...?) asks the leaflet.

There must be something seriously wrong with the Labour Party in Sunderland if they are allowing the Conservatives to be more progressive than themselves. The problem for those arguing for a "progressive alliance" is that there are plenty of people in the Labour Party who could never be counted as "progressive" in a million years.

Election campaign day 48 - giving Tim a hand

Helping in Westmorland and Lonsdale June 17 2

I had a long standing promise to fulfill: I had agreed to give my old university friend and now Lib Dem leader Tim Farron a hand in Westmorland and Lonsdale. The choice was phone canvassing from home or visiting this Lake District beauty spot on a lovely sunny Sunday. We opted for the latter. 5 of us went over in Cllr Chris Ord's car: me, Chris, Cllr Marilynn Ord, Cllr Ian Patterson and Amelia Ord. We knew we were in the constituency when we started to see the Lib Dem posters.

On arriving at the campaign HQ in Kendal, we were given a large quantity of tabloids to deliver and some maps. Cumbrian villages may be quaint but finding some streets on the sides of mountains could be something of a challenge! We stopped off for lunch at the Pig and Whistle in Cartmel and then headed off to do our remaining delivery patches. Back at HQ, we relaxed with a mug of tea and lots of envelopes to stuff.

So a pleasant day out. Tim now owes Gateshead a return visit.

Helping in Westmorland and Lonsdale June 17 1

Election campaign day 47 - lots of freeposts

Jonathan Wallace freepost 2 May 17-page-1

My second freepost leaflet arrived on Saturday. Alas, it hit people's doormats along with the 2nd Labour and the one and only Tory freeposts. I didn't have much time however to read my opponents' literature. I had to be in Dunston again to deliver more tabloids.

Jonathan Wallace freepost 2 May 17-page-0

Election campaign days 45-6: delivering again in Riverside and Dunston (again)

delivering in Dunston June 17

Yet more tabloid delivery on Thursday and Friday last week. On Thursday I was in the Ryton Riverside Estate. Those in charge of our leaflet delivery here keep giving me this estate to do on the grounds I've done it so often that I know my way around easily! I've also watched it grow. It is a new build of about 500 houses on a brownfield site and on my visit on Thursday, I saw that work had finished on the final few houses.

Friday took me again to the patch I normally do at the top of Dunston Hill. I've done that patch so often, I could do it with my eyes closed. I had some useful chats with people (and picked up more casework.)

eFocus on Whickham edition 105

Our latest edition of eFocus for the Whickham area was published last night. Lots of news about Chase Park, Planting Up Whickham, volunteer groups in Sunniside and much more. You can read eFocus on this link.

Friday, June 02, 2017

My latest video: What to do if you have bees in your garden

In May and June each year, lots of people contact me as a beekeeper (and councillor) for advice on what to do about bee colonies in gardens and walls. At the risk of getting a load of abuse from Labour about my lifestyle, I've put together a short video about what is going on with the bees and what to do in response.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Labour agent attacks me for living the good life

Chris McHugh attack on JW Whickham Residents FB 31 May 17 1

I noticed on the Whickham Residents' Facebook site that someone had put up a post saying they were going to vote for me. And then I spotted one of the responses, from a certain Chris McHugh, who just happened to forget to say that he is the agent to the Labour candidate here in Blaydon. Mr McHugh lists what the election is about (but does not include Brexit on which the Labour candidate is silent in her literature) and then makes the astonishing claim that I'm only talking to residents about living the good life! He includes pictures of bits of my leaflets (with the bits where I do talk about campaigning and policy carefully removed).

"Blaydon constituency deserves a serious representative" he claims. On that bit he is right. But a serious representative needs to be experienced, well rounded, have a personality and be a person who is much more than a figure stamped out by a political machine.

Mr McHugh however seems to be suggesting anyone who is interesting and has a personality is not a "serious representative". I beg to disagree.

It is interesting however that Labour have decided to attack me personally. Thanks for the boost guys!

By the way, here is my reply to Mr McHugh's post:

Chris McHugh attack on JW Whickham Residents FB 31 May 17 2