Friday, December 29, 2017

"Green crap" fuels clean energy revolution

2017 was the UK's greenest year yet in terms of generating electricity. Low carbon sources in June generated more electricity than coal and gas combined for the first time ever. In April, we had our first ever 24 hour period in which coal was not burnt at all. Since 2012, carbon emissions by the electricity industry have halved. All great news.

Go back to the Coalition and you will be reminded of the discontent in the Conservatives' ranks about the Lib Dems' green policies which we were implementing. Remember how even David Cameron referred to it as the Lib Dems' "green crap." That same "green crap" is fueling the clean energy revolution, another one of the many benefits of having Lib Dems in government.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Putting Whickham on the map

The consultation on boundaries for the new Parliamentary constituencies came to an end earlier this month. The previous proposals would have taken a wrecking ball to Gateshead and the borough would have been split between 6 (or was it 7? - I have lost count) constituencies. The new proposals create a Gateshead West constituency (covering the old town of Gateshead, Whickham and Birtley), a revised Blaydon (covering Blaydon, Rowlands Gill, Ryton and, more controversially, a chunk of western Newcastle) and Jarrow and Gateshead East (the Gateshead bits are effectively the Felling area).So, in summary, Gateshead will have one full constituency and two in which wards of Gateshead form a significant part.

These proposals taken together are a significant improvement. The issue now is the name of the Gateshead West constituency. I believe that Whickham should be included, so my submission to the Boundary Commission's consultation made a case for this. It is a view not universally held: when it was discussed at a Gateshead Council advisory group, Labour Leader Martin Gannon dismissed the proposal to include Whickham with the words, "Not on your life!"

Anyway, here is my submission to the Boundary Commission consultation:

The proposed Gateshead West constituency covers a logical and sensible geographic area and avoids communities being split. However the name could be potentially misleading. A further 5 wards of Gateshead Council to the west of the Gateshead West constituency will be in the revised Blaydon constituency. It is therefore not an accurate description. The name of Gateshead on its own has significant historical recognition in terms of the old Gateshead town forming the eastern part of the new constituency.

Furthermore, Whickham is the 2nd biggest town in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, beaten only by the town of Gateshead itself. The name "Whickham" appears in three of the 22 wards in Gateshead.

The only other town in Gateshead to appear in the name of more that one ward is Dunston which appears in two (Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward and Dunston and Teams ward). Dunston historically is part of Whickham. The historic area of Whickham will therefore constitute nearly 40% of the constituency.

I therefore propose that instead of "Gateshead West", which could be confusing to many, the name of the new constituency should be "Gateshead and Whickham".

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Hilarious Labour by-election leaflet cock-up

Labour leaflet Pallion Dec 17-page-0

There is a by-election in Pallion ward of Sunderland Council. At the last by-election in the city in January, Labour got an absolute kicking from the voters when their vote was slashed by two thirds and the Lib Dems went from 4th place on 4% to 1st place with over 40%. So, for Pallion, Labour are a bit more prepared....or are they?

This time, Labour have learnt that getting leaflets through doors is an important campaigning technique. Sadly (for them) they haven't learnt to check content! Have a look at the Labour leaflet above. Ignore the crassly posed photo and the unconvincing finger pointing. Read the text instead. Suggesting that one of your own "senior" councillors is responsible for the litter, fly tipping and dog fouling in the local community is probably not what they intended claiming. Labour really should have got someone to read through it before printing it and then putting it through every door in the ward.

I guess it should be a lesson to all of us!

I understand that litter and dog fouling are important issues in this by-election. Labour are posing as the saviours to sort out the problem. Residents however are unlikely to be fooled by finger-pointing poses in photos. They will, of course, recall that the council has been run by Labour since the Stone Age and they've had plenty of time to sort out the problem.

Sunniside Focus

Sunniside Focus Dec 17-page-0

Before Christmas, we delivered our latest Focus for the villages of Sunniside, Streetgate, Marley Hill and Byermoor. It led with the issue of the rejection of plans for the land to the south of Marley Hill to be used for motorbike scrambling and 4X4 off-road driving. Also included were articles about the Sunniside Christmas tree, Marley Hill Community Centre asset transfer, house-building at the former Marley Hill school and Vince as party leader.

Sunniside Focus Dec 17-page-1

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Is this UKIP leaflet legal?

UKIP leaflet Dec 17 (1)

This UKIP leaflet was delivered with the post by the Royal Mail yesterday. Wanting a moment's amusement, I sat down to read it. Point one: it has no imprint. Is this legal, especially given that this is a leaflet paid for by the "Europe of  Freedom and Direct Democracy" group in the European Parliament, financed by European taxpayers?

Point two: on the back page is a photo of the North East's UKIP MEP next to a photo of Nigel Farage. I have a small confession - I cannot remember the name of the current UKIP leader and frankly, I can't be bothered to look it up. Farage however was 3 or 4 leaders ago (sorry I've rather lost count). It doesn't say much for the recently elected Mr Forgetable that his own MEPs won't mention him in UKIP literature.

Point three: the leaflet claims UKIP have proposed "390 ways to cut the money the European Union spends from our taxes each year." Can I suggest number 391? Don't spend EU money on UKIP leaflets such as this one! I understand this leaflet is going out across the country, regionalised as appropriate. That's a great deal of taxpayers' money that could be saved.

Point four: we live in a democracy so I have no problem with political literature coming through my door with which I disagree. Others receiving this leaflet who do agree with the contents will have difficulty contacting UKIP as there was not a single bit of contact information. No email address, no website, no phone numbers, no postal address. Nothing. This is a classic howler for any political party, though in this instance I'm not complaining!

UKIP leaflet Dec 17 (2)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Beaten by a couple of Corbynistas

Old Fox buffet Dec 17 1

Gateshead Lib Dem Pint was held at the Old Fox in Felling last Wednesday. I am still recovering from coming last in the pub quiz. To add insult to injury, of the 7 teams taking place in the quiz, 6 were made up of Lib Dems with the remaining team made up of people who happened to be in the pub when a bunch of Lib Dems turned up.  And it was this team that won and they called themselves "The Corbynistas"! Nevertheless, after licking our pub quiz inflicted wounds, we did a good impersonation of a bunch of gannets when we stripped the buffet bare. Note the before and after photos!

Old Fox buffet Dec 17 2

Christmas tree celebration in Sunniside

Sunniside Christmas tree carol service December 2017

A Christmas carol service took place this evening in Sunniside to celebrate the village's Christmas tree. There was a good turnout at the event on Front Street - over 100 came along. They were joined by 2 donkeys as well!

This is the first time we have had a public Christmas tree in the village but we are already looking ahead to next year when we will need to raise the funds for the tree ourselves.

As usual I was photographer for the event. A full set of photos can be viewed by clicking on the above picture.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Labour councillor deselected

We have been informed by a friendly source of information in the Labour Party in Gateshead that Labour Councillor Anne Wheeler has been deselected by 18 votes to 6. Her tenure of Pelaw and Heworth ward will come to an end in May 2018 after 8 years in the role. This could well be the first signs of the Corbynistas on the march in Gateshead, or it could be Labour members getting rid of a rather low profile councillor whose ward was gained by the Lib Dems from Labour (by 20 votes) in the last local election there in 2016. Interesting times ahead!

Sunniside Carol Service

Sunniside Christmas tree Nov 17 (1)

On Monday 18th December the first event to mark the first ever public Christmas tree in Sunniside will be held. Four local churches together will be holding a carol service next to the tree on the Front Street from 6.30pm to 7.30pm. All welcome.

Ryton Focus delivery

Ryton Focus Dec 17

After helping out at the Whickham Library coffee morning on Saturday last week, I then headed down to Ryton to help deliver our next edition of Focus. As usual, I was given the Riverside patch to do. 450 Focuses and 2 hours later I was back at the home of local Lib Dem Councillor Christine McHatton. After a bowl of vegetable broth and a discussion about local issues, I was back home ready to get ready for the next Focus delivery.

vegetable stew Dec 17

Whickham Library Coffee Morning

Whickham Library coffee morning Dec 17 (1)

On Saturday 9th December, Whickham Voluntary Library held its first coffee morning. I went along to help though it turned out that a large number of the volunteers came along as well to give a hand. A useful event that got people through the doors and raised a modest amount in donations.

Monday, December 11, 2017

When is an agreement not an agreement?

Answer: when it's signed off  by David Davis. His suggestion yesterday that the UK could go back on the agreement drawn up last week and, contrary to what the Chancellor has announced, we abandon our obligations to pay our bills, signal that he can't be trusted. The UK is in serious danger of being regarded by our friends abroad as one of the members of that exclusive club of international basket cases (other members include Greece and Venezuela). And yet again, we have divisions in the cabinet there for all to see: the extreme Brexiteers in the David/Johnson/Gove wing versus the more sane (on Europe) wing of Hammond with May caught right in the middle. The really big and unbridgeable issue however is still to be settled by the government - alignment with the EU or hard Brexit. No wonder the Tories have put this debate off!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Red lines disappearing down a sink hole

The red lines of the Brexiteers: control of our borders, no money to Brussels, control of our own laws, British courts supreme. What have we got: our only land border to remain open; £40 billion to go to Brussels; the UK will align itself with EU laws, rules and regulations; the ECJ to continue to have jurisdiction over the UK. It seems the Brexit extremists drew red lines on the ground and have just seen them swallowed up by a sink hole.

Months of unnecessary wrangling by the government achieved nothing. The delay they unnecessarily caused by their posturing has given the UK and EU greatly reduced time to negotiate the future relationship, particularly on trade. It turns out ministers don't even have a vision yet of what our future should be.

I read the divorce agreement document this morning. I was struck by the announcement that, in the absence of a free trade agreement, the UK will be aligned with the single market and customs union. So, we are paying £40 billion to leave but will agree to abide by the rules we were told we were leaving behind. The big difference between now and Brexit Britain is that we won't have any say over the rules in the future. This is not a case of "taking back control". It is a case of handing over control.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Marley Hill School house building plans

Marley Hill School Nov 17

Constituents have been asking me recently about what's happening at the former Marley Hill School site. Work recently took place to demolish the brick-built extensions to the original stone-built school building. Planning permission has been granted for 22 houses on the site. When we were first consulted about the sale of the site by Gateshead Council, Councillors Marilynn Ord (pictured above with me outside Marley Hill School), John McClurey and I stipulated that we wanted the stone building to be retained as it is one of the oldest buildings in the village. This formed part of the subsequent planning application which was submitted by the developer who bought the site. The old school building, minus the more recent brick extensions, will be converted into two houses and a further 20 houses will be build on the rest of the site. Work is now on-going.

Crushed by a celebrity quiz

Last night, the Sunniside History Society, of which I am the chairman, held its Christmas buffet at Sunniside Social Club. About 80 people were there and a good time has had by all. Alas, the quiz was my downfall. 32 celebrities had to be named. They were all film stars from the 1940s and 50s. I managed 4 and came last! And as chairman, there was no way I could hide my performance. The winner managed to name 25.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 2nd January at 7.30pm.

Paper chase for nonexistent reports

Just what does the Department for Exiting the European Union do? Led by Brexit cheerleader David Davis, he has bungled the Brexit negotiations and miserably failed to ensure his own governmental prop - the DUP - were on board when the divorce settlement seemed close to being signed in Brussels earlier this week. Now, we are told, his own department has not produced the impact assessments on the various different sectors of the economy which the government, and Mr Davis, had led everyone to believe were being written. The government therefore has no analysis on how Brexit, in whatever form it comes, will impact on the economy. What an utter shambles and waste of taxpayers' money this person and department are.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Shambolic surprises

When the hints in the media yesterday morning were all pointing towards a deal with the EU which included "regulatory alignment" of Northern Ireland with the EU, I began to think that Theresa May had pulled off the impossible - she had actually got the DUP to change its mind and back plans which they had previously implacably opposed. In all the media coverage last week, the DUP had made its position clear: no deal that meant a status for Northern Ireland different from the rest of the UK.

So when the deal fell apart yesterday, I was a bit surprised that everyone was surprised with the DUP's position. What they should really have been surprised about was the failure of Theresa May to get the DUP's support before going to Brussels to agree the deal that she thought was in the bag. This is an utterly shambolic approach to government.

Also shambolic is the government's blurring of its red lines. We were told Brexit means control of our borders but our only land border is to be open. Brexit was meant to let the UK make its own rules but part of the nation has been offered up as a place where the Single Market and the Customs Union will continue. Brexit promises also included £350 million a week for the NHS, not handing over £40 billion to the EU. The reality is that the leaders of Brexit have put forward impossible and unrealistic claims, drew red lines in the sand, and then spent the last year redrawing them while the government caved in to every EU requirement.

I have consistently argued that the national interest lies in being in the EU, arguing our case and shaping it to our needs. The alternative is to be a small nation bobbing along in the wake of the EU superpower. The past year has shown that we are slipping into this alternative role. Welcome to Brexit Britain.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Let the state visit go ahead

I have listened to the calls by many, including from within the Liberal Democrats, that the Trump  state visit should be cancelled. Personally, I don't think the offer should ever have been made. The haste with which Theresa May offered the visit to Trump, within days of his inauguration, was a national embarrassment. Nevertheless, the offer was made and the visit will go ahead. Public bodies in the UK will need to decide whether or not to participate. I suggest they don't. But I don't think the offer should be withdrawn. I want Trump to be aware that he will return to the USA knowing that he was the cause of the biggest protest this country has ever seen. So let him come here, and let us show what we think of him.