Saturday, March 31, 2018

Dunston Hill and Whickham East action day

Saturday last week saw our latest action day in Dunston Hill and Whickham East. A day of deliveries and door knocking.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Negotiating to get what we've already got

So, Liam Fox, the globetrotting Secretary of State for International Trade, has expressed his hope that after the "transitional" period is over (quite what we are transitioning to is not clear), we will be free to negotiate our own trade deals around the world, and he expects 40 agreements with 70 countries to be made.

Except, these are 40 agreements with 70 countries that are already in place, put there by the EU. As we are constantly being told, the "will of the people" is being followed by the government. So why, therefore, are we "rolling over" existing agreements which the Brexiteers tell us are bound up with EU bureaucracy and red tape? We were told that we would be free to negotiate "better" trade deals. So all this negotiating activity as we use our new found freedoms and it delivers us.....nothing more than we already have.

As I have said many times before, the UK needs to accept the consequences of the decisions we make. The "will of the people" dictated by a small majority is that we leave the EU, which means we do not continue to enjoy the benefits of EU membership. So surely, to deliver the "will of the people", all those EU trade agreements should be abandoned and Liam Fox should then have to do some work and come up with new agreements rather than copying someone else's homework.

Given that the EU carries vastly more economic and political clout than the UK, quite what "better" deals Fox can negotiate is the big unknown.

And of course if the people don't like the consequences of the decision they have taken, they should have the democratic right to change their mind.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Video: Sgt Bill Forth's memorial service

On Wednesday last week, police and residents of Sunniside gathered for a memorial service to Police Sgt Bill Forth who was murdered in the village 25 years ago while on active duty.

The will of the people: Britain's Brexit Star Wars

According to the Financial Times, Theresa May is battling to keep Britain in the EU's Galileo space programme and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson "hit the roof" when he was informed of moves by the EU to exclude Britain. It seems to me that all the EU are doing is following the often-repeated mantra of the Brexiteers that Britain is "taking back control of our borders" (admittedly these are borders in space), "freeing ourselves of EU red tape" (we will have to invent and launch our own rockets) and "controlling our own money" (it will of course cost vastly more than we save to design, build, launch and maintain our own equivalent of the Galileo project - which has a crucial role to play in defence and security operations.)

The space industry is an area in which the UK has already built up a share of international business, fueled to some extent by the UK's involvement in European space programmes. Pulling out of those programmes is a significant setback for Britain's prospects in this sector but that is the "will of the people". The people voted to leave (by a very small majority) so when the people (and our own Brexit government) don't like the outcome, they need to understand there are consequences to the decisions they take. Some believed the Brexiteer claims of a pain-free divorce from Europe in which we were told we could have all the benefits of being in Europe with none of the costs and rules. The reality is that UK "independence" from the EU comes at an enormous price and with few of the benefits promised by the likes of Boris Johnson.

The alternative to going ahead with Brexit and accepting its consequences is to remain in the EU. That would require an opportunity to show whether or not the people have changed their mind - a referendum. This is a fundamental part of democracy. Just don't expect it to happen under this government or one led by the Theresa May Brexit echo chamber otherwise known as Jeremy Corbyn.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Dunston Hill and Whickham East Action Day

Whickham East annual report Mar 18 (2)

We had another action day in Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward in Gateshead on Saturday. In the Dunston part of the ward we were delivering the next Focus (I had already delivered a patch on Thursday). In the Whickham part of the ward, we were delivering the Focus Team's annual report. It was printed by colleagues through the week but I headed to the office on Friday to fold it.

Most of the ward was delivered on the day though some took patches to do this coming week. We also did some canvassing in the afternoon. We deliberately chose the area where Labour's vote was strongest. Admittedly, we excluded from the canvass known hard Labour supporters. However, as our historic canvass in this area is less than the rest of the ward, we still called on lots of doors and I went in with an expectation that we would find lots of Labour voters. We did, except for the fact that a very large number of them are very disillusioned with Labour over local issues. There is a modest shift in voting intention from Labour to Lib Dem. I came away satisfied that we were getting a higher level of support that predicted. When looked at simply in terms of numbers, Labour were only ahead if every polite but otherwise non-committal canvass response was transferred to Labour's column.  Add in those previously canvassed as hard Labour and they move ahead of us. Don't forget however that this is the strongest area for Labour in the ward. That means there is all to play for as this is a ward in which, just 3 years ago, Labour held on by a mere 23 votes. If Labour are struggling in this part of the ward, they will have a real battle to hold in the local elections on 3rd May.

But there is no room for comlacency.....

Canvassing in Dunston Mar 18

Lib Dem campaigner Kevin McClurey and me in Poplar Crescent in Dunston.

Delivering in Ryton

On Friday I was in Ryton to deliver our latest Focus about the council budget. My colleagues very kindly gave me two patches to do which contained lots of houses with lots of steps to front doors. My legs hurt when I got home!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Delivering in Dunston

Delivering in Dunston Mar 18

Our latest Focus is hot off the press in Gateshead and I was out in Dunston delivering it this morning. I did a patch of 180 before going to council. It leads on Labour's neglect of Dunston. The old Dunston Hill Primary School building has been left by Labour run Gateshead Council to stand unused and derelict for ten years. And people are understandably getting fed up.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I am hoping this is a mistake

paper cup Mar 18

I arrived at cabinet at Gateshead Civic Centre yesterday and discovered that the usual china cups for teas and coffee were nowhere to be seen. Instead, we were to use disposable paper cups that were "green" because they were "100% compostable". This is of course a factually accurate claim. Paper is compostable. Indeed, in my household, all waste paper either goes straight into the compost bin or is shredded and used for livestock bedding and then goes into the manure bin. Yet just because paper is compostable, does not mean it is green. Resources are required to produce it and paper production uses large amounts of chemicals and bleaches which can damage the environment. Resources are also required to dispose of single use paper cups though the plus point is that, when they are not dropped as litter or dumped in landfill, they can be burnt to produce a tiny amount of heat that can be converted into electricity.

The amount of resources used to manufacture, transport and reuse china cups across their lifetime is far less than those used to manufacture sufficient single use paper cups. A china cup can be used thousands of times. A paper cup is used once.

I had words with Martin Gannon, Leader of the Council, after the meeting and, to be fair to him, he was as surprised as I was to find the paper cups replacing the china ones. We are both hoping that the cups were used as a one-off simply because of a problem that will be resolved (eg a dish washer breaking down). If on the other hand this is a permanent change, I will be making a great deal of noise.

By-election victor at Gateshead meeting

Jonathan Wallace Martin Haswell Mar 18

I attended the Gateshead East Lib Dem branch meeting last night to give my group leader's report and talk about the issues on which we are fighting the forthcoming local elections. However, I was not the guest speaker! That privilege fell to Martin Haswell, the Lib Dem victor in the Pallion by-election in Sunderland last month. He talked us through how he was able to take the Lib Dem vote from 4% to 54%. I'm pleased to report that many of the techniques are now being used by us in Gateshead.

Sergeant Bill Forth's memorial service

Bill Forth Memorial Service March 2018

Sergeant Bill Forth was murdered in Sunniside while on duty 25 years ago today. A memorial service was held this afternoon at the memorial stone on Sunniside Front Street. A full set of photos of the service can be viewed above.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Gathering to remember Sergeant Bill Forth

Bill Forth memorial Sunniside Mar 18

25 years ago on 21st March, Sergeant Bill Forth was murdered while on duty in Sunniside. At 2pm tomorrow, the police will be laying a wreath at the memorial to Sergeant Forth on Sunniside Front Street. Residents are very welcome to attend.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Our recent tabloid

Birtley tabloid Jan 18 p1-page-0

In January and February Gateshead Lib Dems delivered tens of thousands of copies of our tabloid across the borough. There were five editions which focused on significant local issues. Generally it was well received (except by Labour!) I've included images of the five different front pages in this post.

Low Fell tabloid Jan 18 p1-page-0

Pelaw tabloid Jan 18 p1-page-0

Ryton tabloid Jan 18 p1-page-0

Whickham tabloid Jan 18 p1-page-0

The will of the people - queues at our borders

One of the biggest cries from Brexit campaigners was that leaving the EU would allow us to regain control of our borders. It was one of the promises that, if implemented, would create far more problems than solutions. One consequence will be that there are more extensive checks at the borders with ramifications for businesses and the flow of goods as lorries join long queues while border bureaucracy is carried out.  This is, of course, the will of the people.

Now, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is claiming there will be no delays at our borders as there will be no checks. Somehow all the checks will be done in the ether, in the virtual world of the internet or somewhere in hyperspace. As with so many other matters, he is offering a pain free world which in reality cannot be achieved. Nevertheless, the people voted to take control of the borders and Grayling's comments indicate that, like so many other issues, implementing the will of the people comes at an enormous price. The Government simply proceeds by pretending there is not a cost or problem.

So, to implement the will of the people, there should be extensive border checks for the whole of the UK (including Northern Ireland). Other services will have to be cut to pay for the customs officers and officials who will be needed to police our borders, but that is the will of the people.

Of course, the will of the people can change. And the people should be given the opportunity to change their mind once they've seen what needs to be done to implement the will of the people as it was in June 2016.

Dunston Hill and Whickham East Action Day

I had to miss conference at Southport last weekend due to my friend Richard's emergency heart operation (I am his carer). The good news was that I was able to help at the Dunston Hill and Whickham East action day in Gateshead where we are hoping to pick up the seat of the former Labour mayor on 3rd May. We shifted a large quantity of literature. The video was shot on the day.

Gateshead Lib Dems first "party political broadcast" - cutting councillors rather than street cleaning

This is Gateshead Lib Dems' first "party political broadcast" for the local elections in May. It features on of our "Six to Fix" campaign issues - cutting the number of councillors by a third in the borough with the savings of £250,000 a year used on street sweeping and litter clearance.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Video diary: missing conference

I had to miss conference at Southport last week as my friend Richard (I am his carer) needed an emergency operation on Friday afternoon. Thankfully it was a success. Sadly, I was not able to rescue my conference hotel booking. I had to pay for night. Happily, the hotel did not try to charge me for the 2nd.

Video diary: the best data destruction technique

Due to my friend Richard's recent visits to hospital (and two heart operations), I've been out of time to keep the blog up to date. But I've continued to record my video diaries. Now that Richard is back home, I have the chance to catch up. This video was my diary from 8th March. I attended a meeting about the new personal data regulations that come into force in May. At the meeting, the officer asked us how we safely disposed of papers that contained personal data. I have the most effective and original way. It involves a shredder and pooping animals!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Labour campaigning on the wrong issues

Julie Elliott is the Labour MP for Sunderland Central. A relatively recent arrival in the Commons (she was first elected in 2010), Ms Elliott represents a constituency which has been Labour for as long as people can remember. Such security can generate a degree of complacency and throughout Sunderland, complacency is rife in the Labour Party. They run the council with a whopping great big majority and their Parliamentary majorities are rather steep. Campaigning and communicating with voters is not a Labour priority in the city. Or at least, it wasn't until January when Labour faced the prospect of losing a safe seat (Pallion) in a council by-election.

The rather decrepit, rusting, dilapidated Labour machine therefore swung into action. A street stall was set up in the city centre and a petition was launched. People were invited to sign it. Sunderland has high levels of unemployment, poverty, poor health, low incomes, there's the impact of Brexit and so on. So which of these important, relevant issues did Labour and Ms Elliott take up as a campaign?  Errrr, none of them.

Instead, members of the public were invited to sign a petition calling for Nick Clegg to be "stripped" of his knighthood. (He hadn't even been knighted at that point!) One of our members witnessed residents parting with a few choice words about Labour's choice of campaign subject.

You will be pleased to learn that Labour lost Pallion on 1st February to the Lib Dems. Our vote rose by 49%. I'm almost tempted to suggest a knighthood or damehood for the person in Labour who came up with their campaign idea!