Friday, January 26, 2018

Politics before patients

Without a doubt, the NHS has a doctor recruitment problem. Depending on your point of view, it can be described as anything from a shortage to a crisis. In Gateshead we have had to close at least one GP surgery because it was impossible to recruit a new GP after one left a practice which was already suffering from being one GP short. Our hospitals suffer from similar doctor shortages. Traditionally, we have recruited from abroad to fill the gaps. Sky News today reported that it is now increasingly difficult to recruit doctors from outside the EU because of the points based visa system the UK operates. The system is in place because of political reasons. Governments need to be seen to be cracking down on immigration but ministers tell us that highly skilled workers are welcome here. And then they create a system that makes it nearly impossible to bring to the UK those same skilled workers. We are told that the points based system is to protect British skilled workers, but if those same British skilled workers don't exist, what's the point of keeping out the skilled workers from outside the EU?

Given that the same or a similar system is expected to be applied to EU workers after Brexit, we are heading for a far greater crisis than the one we have now. Perhaps the Brexiteers will argue that we can recruit new doctors from the ranks of the British unemployed but it takes years to train them to the necessary standards. It seems the NHS has fallen victim to political posturing. Politics before patients.

Tabloids arrive

tabloids Jan 18

Our Gateshead tabloid arrived back from the printers today. I picked up 12,000 to transport them to those responsible for distribution in three wards. Other wards made their own way to the collection point in Newcastle to collect their copies. I'm pleased to say that delivery through people's doors has already started!

Incident at council meeting

We had a presentation at the start of the Gateshead Council meeting yesterday about the Great Exhibition of the North. While the presentation was taking place, I caught in the corner of my eye a man standing at the edge of the well of the chamber. My first thought was that he was there to be part of the presentation. But it quickly dawned on me that someone dressed in black leather and wearing gauntlets covered in spikes was probably not there is assist the speaker. And then, he marched across the chamber to the mayor, thrust a note into her hands and then marched off, shouting something about handing in his benefit application.

Thankfully it was nothing more serious but I suspect security on the council chamber will be stepped up in future.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Dunston Hill Action Day

Dunston Hill action day  Jan 18 (1)

Our latest action day in Gateshead was held in Dunston Hill yesterday. We shifted all the Focuses that needed to go out though one patch was collected by one of our members on Friday to deliver later this week. He was helping in the Pallion by-election this weekend, hence the delayed delivery of his patch.

Boots were needed during delivery. The snow was still lying on the ground.

Dunston Hill action day Jan 18 (2)

Friday, January 19, 2018

MEP takes the exit door from UKIP

Jonathan Arnott, UKIP MEP for the North East of England is something of a "Nice But Dim" character who is as inspiring as the proverbial drying paint. Mr Arnott has, today, decided to declare independence from UKIP, claiming there is too much nastiness, back-stabbing and unpleasantness in his former party. I am rather surprised that that it has taken him until today to spot these not insignificant problems. To be fair to Mr Arnott, he has also pointed the finger of blame at recent shifts in the UKIP positions on cultural and religious issues. The flip side of that coin is that the UKIP position on such matters hasn't really changed much. UKIP have always viewed such issues through the social lens of the 1950s.

Mr Arnott also expresses his dismay at the failed leaders of UKIP and passes a damning verdict on the current leader Henry Bolton. He is "not the right person for the job" and those jockeying for position aren't any better.

So as Mr Arnott waves goodbye to UKIP (as do the rest of us), I wish him the best of luck in his new role as an independent MEP for the North East.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Woolly hats

Jonathan Wallace delivering Focus Jan 18

On Sunday I was, yet again, out and about delivering our latest Focus. It was woolly hat weather. Fortunately there was no snow on the ground at that point. Job done in 90 minutes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

First Focus of the New Year

Focuses Jan 18

I was back in the Lib Dem office in Consett last night to print one side of the first Focus of the new year in Gateshead. A whole pile of them came off the printing machine and are currently sitting on the desk waiting to have the other side printed tomorrow. I expect to be walking the streets soon with a large bundle of leaflets in my hands!

Monday, January 08, 2018

Berated for being Labour in Sunderland by-election

Pallion by-election Jonathan Wallace Jan 18

I headed over to Sunderland yesterday to help the Lib Dem candidate Martin Haswell in the Pallion by-election. The ward is a Labour stronghold, home to the late leader of the council, Paul Watson, who died after a long battle with cancer in November.

I set off in the morning to deliver 200 letters and then, in the afternoon, I was sent to an estate to deliver a Labour squeeze leaflet. For more years than I can recall, I have knocked on doors and delivered leaflets as a Lib Dem. And once in a while I get shouted at and receive the occasional bit of abuse as a Lib Dem. All that I can cope with! But yesterday, a gentleman started shouting at me about how we haven't done anything for years in the area despite controlling the council! I explained that I was a Lib Dem, not Labour. He looked again at the leaflet and on looking at the inside, accepted my protestations of innocence. I guess the big headline on the outside of the leaflet saying "Inside: Labour's plan for our area" could inadvertently and momentarily give the incorrect impression that it was a Labour leaflet when clearly it was from the Lib Dems.

Anyway, the gentleman in question explained he had voted Labour in the past but was now fed up with them and was voting for us. He gave me back the leaflet, telling me he had already had lots of them from us and his mind was already made up to vote for us.

Let's hope this is a good omen for the result on 1st February.

Norman Lamb in Sunderland

Norman Lamb Sunderland Lib Dems Jan 18 (1)

Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb MP was in Sunderland last Friday to help out in the Pallion by-election and to be the guest speaker at a local Lib Dem dinner at the Arabesque Egyptian restaurant in the evening. I was busy through the day but I was able to attend the dinner. Norman and I worked together 10 years ago when he was Lib Dem Shadow Business Secretary and I was the party's policy officer dealing with the DTI. So it was good to catch up.

Norman built up a strong and positive reputation while he was care minister in the Coalition and it is very much down to him that mental health issues are taken more seriously by the NHS. He spoke about this in his speech but also talked about the millions of people who feel dispossessed from politics because of a failure by the parties that represent them to engage with them. Sunderland is of course a classic example of this as Labour have been running the council for as long as people can remember yet outside an election, the ruling party is noticeable for its almost non-existent profile.

So, a good speech by Norman and a great event, attended by 40 people, which helped to boost the Sunderland party's funds.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Goodbye 2017. Don't ring us, we'll ring you

So how was it for you? 2017 I mean! For me it was not a vintage year. My Dad died in May and his sister, my Auntie Hazel, died on Christmas Day. My friend Richard has been in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for most of the second half of the year. He was rushed in by ambulance in early July and on his times out of hospital, David and I have been his carers. Much of what I planned for the second half of 2017 therefore simply didn't happen. And much of what I planned for the first half of the year was sacrificed to that bloody general election campaign with its worrying return to two party politics. This was meant to be the year off from elections in Gateshead. It turned out to be nothing of the sort. 

Meanwhile Brexit is all-consuming and Trump reveals his innermost thoughts on Twitter (easily done given the restriction of 140 characters on tweets.) Politics has been something like a bad dream in 2017 from which it has been impossible to wake up.

Meanwhile, on the self-sufficiency side, my beautiful billy goat Spotless died suddenly in April. Spot, one of our nanny goats, rejected one of her two babies and we ended up hand raising a kid during the election campaign. Sadly, he died suddenly in June after winning lots of fans at the Whinnies Community Garden where he lived. In January, we found all our bees had died (fortunately we have since been able to replace them but we have therefore had no honey production this year).

So 2017, thank you and goodbye. In 2018, things can only get better. Now, where have I heard that before!?