Sunday, March 31, 2019

An afternoon in the office

Printing Focus annual report Mar 19 (2)

Yet again I was in the Lib Dem office in Consett, printing yet more Focuses. I am now in the happy position of having produced all the literature we are planning for my own ward. More time to concentrate on the target wards.

Printing Focus annual report Mar 19 (1)

Pelaw and Heworth eFocus no. 7

Just as Whickham eFocus no. 115 was published, the Lib Dem team in Pelaw and Heworth were publishing the ward eFocus, no. 7. In this edition:

  • Paul Diston chosen to be Lib Dem's candidate in Pelaw and Heworth
  • Have your say on the 20 mph zone for Heworth and Leam Lane
  • Lib Dems oppose Labour's plans for tolls on the Tyne's bridges 
  • Council Tax - Gateshead still charges the most!

Whickham eFocus no. 115

Just published, eFocus for the Whickham area, edition 115:
  • plans for tolls on the Redheugh, Swing and Tyne Bridges;
  • Whickham Post Office update;
  • Review of 20mph scheme;
  • Chiropractor opens in Swalwell;
  • Fairs in Whickham and Sunniside;
  • Call to scrap Council News magazine;
  • Dunston Hill School planning applicaiton expected;
  • Brownfield sites left unused while houses built on countryside.

After 32 years I'm not ready to retire

Electoral register Mar 19

I was first elected to Gateshead Council in 1987, taking my seat from the Conservatives who have since ceased to exist in any credible sense in the borough. Having now been elected 9 times over the past 32 years, I've decided it is not yet time for me to retire! As of 2nd May, I will be the joint longest serving member of Gateshead! So I am asking the good people of Whickham South and Sunniside to vote for me for a 10th time. Alas, that requires some paperwork, (I hate paperwork!) namely, the nomination papers and the requirement for 10 signatures. Last night I walked around Sunniside and got 10 people to sign up who are not too appalled by the idea of having their names associated with me!

A double check will be made of the papers today by my agent and tomorrow I will hand them in to Electoral Registrations at the Civic Centre.

My first election leaflet

Printing Focus Mar 19 (2)

My first election leaflet was printed on Friday though I need to go back to our office to finish printing the Sunniside edition. That is probably a job for later today, as is folding the ones already printed. Friday also saw me printing for Birtley and Lobley Hill and Bensham wards. Fortunately, we took a big delivery of paper recently!

Printing Focus Mar 19 (3)

The pile on the right is for Lobley Hill and Bensham, the rest is for my ward.

Litter pick in Bensham

Windmill Hills litter pick Mar 19 (1)

Nick Seaborn, the Lib Dem candidate in Lobley Hill and Bensham, organised a litter pick yesterday in Windmill Hill Park. Nick is young, keen and hands-on. He organised a great event that saw 21 sacks of litter collected by local residents and Lib Dem members.

Nick is definitely up for the battle with Labour in the ward!

Windmill Hills litter pick Mar 19 (3)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Gateshead Lib Dem members' email newsletter

The March edition of the email newsletter for Gateshead Liberal Democrats was published earlier this week. Issues covered include a report back from Lib Dem spring conference, campaigning for the local elections and a request for our next litter pick, this time in Bensham on Saturday.

You can read the newsletter on this link.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Gateshead Lib Dems' first election video

This is Gateshead Lib Dems' first local election video, 30 seconds about Labour leaving urban brownfield sites derelict while building executive homes in the countryside.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Is by-election result green shoots of spring?

On Thursday 21st March, Lib Dems, right at the start of spring, won the Esh and Witton Gilbert by-election in Co Durham. Though in a Labour heartland, it was actually a Lib Dem defense. Predictions based on individual by-elections are unwise as some local issues not relevant elsewhere can affect the result. Nevertheless, the strong rise in the Lib Dem vote and the fall in the Labour vote were noteworthy. Labour's candidate, when speaking to the press, said she had "challenging conversations on the doorstep." This is probably the most noteworthy point about the Labour campaign as it chimes with what we are picking up on the doorsteps back over the border here in Gateshead.

While the numbers canvassed are not yet gigantic, one of the most regular points raised is people's dissatisfaction with Labour. Our canvassing has been focused on Dunston Hill and Whickham East, Lobley Hill and Bensham and Pelaw and Heworth wards so, as with the Esh by-election result, some caution needs to be exercised about projecting the findings on a wider scale. Nevetheless, what happened in Esh is what is happening in Gateshead.

So, are the green shoots of spring coming through for the Lib Dems? Possibly it's too early to say but I go into the May local elections feeling more confident than I have done for a decade.

Esh and Witton Gilbert by-election result (21 March 2019)

LDEM: 63.2% (+9.5)
LAB: 20.7% (-8.0)
IND: 8.8% (+8.8)
CON: 7.3% (-10.3)

Corbyn's two fingers to Remain

Sadly, I couldn't get to London yesterday for the People's Vote rally. I had too much to do up here in Gateshead for the local elections. And I also have two baby goats I'm raising by hand at the moment as well! While my absence may go unnoticed other than by a few friends, the absence of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour "Leader", was more widely noticed. Even those Labour members who believe the Beloved Supreme Comrade can walk on water must now be in a state of despair. Instead of being in London, Comrade Corbyn was in Morecambe, knocking on doors. This is nothing other than raising two enormous fingers at Remain. Time for those misty-eyed Labour members to wake from their trance and get a real Leader.

Conference video diary

A bit late as I've been busy with other activities but this is my conference video diary from York last week. I was there for the while conference though I stayed overnight only on the Friday evening. The video covers the rally, Parliamentary Candidates' meeting, supporter scheme debate, Vince's speech and a few other issues as well.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Woodmans approved

Last week, Gateshead's planning committee agreed to the plans to extend the Woodman's Pub in Fellside Road, Whickham (in my ward). An application like this would normally be approved, probably under delegated powers. However, the Woodmans is in greenbelt and therefore was recommended for rejection by officers. My view is that we need to build up the tourism infrastructure in the Derwent Valley and that means private businesses stepping up to the plate to improve visitor facilities and create reasons for people to visit the area. The Woodman's plans included the building of a function room, mainly for weddings. As far as I was concerned, the application in question was exactly the sort of small scale development we need to boost tourism in our area. I have therefore been guiding the application through the planning system.

I had to sit through 4 hours of other planning applications before the Woodmans was considered. I went into the meeting believing that the decision would be knife edge with a probability of rejection a touch ahead of the likelihood of approval. When it came to the vote, it was unanimously in favour of the application.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Moving forward with the campaign in Lobley Hilland Bensham

Last week I paid two visits to Lobley Hill and Bensham ward in Gateshead to help our local election candidate Nick Seaborn. Nick is new to the party but is very keen to lead the battle in the ward.  So far we have had one action day this year which saw the whole of Lobley Hill leafleted. Nick has recently been delivering letters in the Festival Park area and I will shortly be providing him with more to put through doors.

We've also been looking at the insufficient street sweeping and grounds maintenance. We'll be campaigning more on that during the election.

This ward campaign is very much about re-establishing our presence. Over a decade ago, we came within 50 votes of winning here and our plan is to build ourselves back up to a point where we are back in a position to take the ward from Labour.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Conference final report

conference hall York Mar 19 (6)

I'm back home from Lib Dem spring conference at York. Lots of photos taken and video shot. A good set of debates as well. The debate on setting up the registered supporters scheme did not entirely produce the fully desired result - members voted not to give a leadership vote to supporters, only to members - but the scheme will otherwise go ahead, which is great news. I was also in the conference hall for debates on internships and town centres.

Ed Davey Jonathan Wallace York Mar 19

One of the best points about conference is the chance to catch up with friends not seen face-to-face for six months (and sometimes longer). I bumped into Ed Davey MP this morning. I used to work closely with Ed when I worked for the party but that ended 10 years ago. So we had ten minutes to catch up on the past 10 years. Ed will be standing in the party's Lib Dem leadership election in May when Vince stands down. I'm tight lipped at the moment about who to support as no candidates have actually officially declared. And I want to see what each has to offer.

And finally, conference was closed in the traditional way - with the leader's speech. And as usual, Vince Cable demonstrated he was head and shoulders above Corbyn and May. Another good speech, peppered with examples of Vince's dry wit and poignant examples of the poor state of political affairs in the UK.

So, 6 months to go to party conference in Bournemouth. Quite what state the UK will be in by then is the great unknown. There is a great deal of water to pass under the bridge by then.

Back at York

I did not stay overnight last night in York. I simply weighed up the costs and found that it was far cheaper to go home and come back this morning. It meant last night I was in our goat house at 11pm bottle feeding two baby goats that were born ten days ago. An interesting distraction from politics! Anyway, I am now back in York having got the first train out of Newcastle (which was packed) this morning.

There are policy motions this morning on justice, knife crime, town centres and unpaid internships. The main attraction however will be Vince Cable's speech at 12.15pm, his last as leader.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Labour leader predicts "Total Oblivion" for Lib Dems

An interesting pronouncement by Gateshead Labour Leader Martin Gannon popped up on my facebook feed this morning. Hot off the plane from Cannes (the playground of the idle rich), Martin shared his prediction that the Lib Dems are going to be wiped out - "Total oblivion" he called it. Alas, Martin Sun Tan Gannon has made similar predictions before such as when he predicted we would lose in my ward (we won comfortably after Labour's vote collapsed). What his comments reveal are his greatest desires - no Lib Dems so therefore no opposition on the council. The People's Republic of Gateshead is what Labour wants. Perhaps, instead of travelling to Cannes at the taxpayers' expense, he should jet off to the Socialist Republic of North Korea.

After all, Martin is used to long journeys. Back in the 1980s he was militant Martin, in the 1990s he was Blairite Martin, then he became Momentum Martin. Three decades to go full circle. As for Lib Dems suffering "Total Oblivion", there is that small technicality called local elections getting in the way. We will see what results they bring but I predict he will be eating humble pie. In the meantime, we will continue to remind the people of Gateshead what Comrade Leader Jet Setting Gannon and his minions are up to.

New improved mugs!

Lib Dem Image Mar 19 (2)

It seems Lib Dem Image have improved some of their merchandise and introduced some new must-have (for Lib Dems) items which can be bought at their shop here in Spring Conference in York. New improved mugs can be added to my already extensive collection of assorted mugs collected over the years from SDP, Democrats and early Lib Dem days.

Lib Dem Image Mar 19 (3)

Lib Dem Image Mar 19 (4)

Supersized key rings (big pockets required) are also on sale.

Lib Dem Image Mar 19 (1)

And finally, Lib Dem aprons. I've not seen these on sale before. I'm tempted to get one. I could wear it while making mincemeat out of Labour in Gateshead!

York Spring Conference

Vince Cable at PCA reception York Mar 19 (6)

York is, yet again, the venue for the Lib Dem Spring Conference this weekend. I arrived yesterday, armed as usual with cameras. My photography jobs last night included taking the photos at the Parliamentary Candidates Association AGM and reception with Vince Cable. Vince has been through the Jonathan Wallace photography mill many times before so is used to my shouting at get people to stand in the right place and look in the right direction!

Photos from this weekend will be uploaded gradually to myFlickr account on this link.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I told you not to put up the bunting

Labour's recently announced policy that they will support a referendum on the Brexit deal did not last long. Labour MPs have just been whipped to sit on the fence on a vote to delay Brexit to allow for a referendum, thereby allowing the Conservatives easily to defeat the call. I wonder what those misty eyed Corbynistas who defend his every action (and inaction) are thinking about him now?

I did warn people a few weeks ago not to put up the bunting when Corbyn said Labour will back a People's Vote. If you did put any up, it may be time to remove it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Video diary 5th March 2019

Another catch up, this video was filmed on Tuesday last week. My main task of the day was to complete our eFocus newsletter (edition 114) and attend Sunniside History Society meeting.

Video diary 4th March 2019

A bit late as I've been busy over the past week so editing my video diary is a bit behind schedule. This video is from Monday 4th March. I was at corporate resources committee in the morning and spent the afternoon  delivering target letters.

Corbyn silent on referendum

One of the most interesting points about today's political events in Parliament was who said what. Note that Theresa May mentioned a number of options that MPs will have to consider over the next few days included the R word. In effect she said MPs may have to consider voting for a referendum on the Brexit deal. Yet, when Corbyn spoke as "Leader" of the Labour Party, he made no mention at all of the referendum, despite it allegedly being Labour policy. His usual response to any difficult question is to call for a general election (even though polls now show the party he leads is 9% behind the Conservatives despite the civil war the latter are fighting). Tonight was no different.

Those misty eyed Corbynistas, who think Jeremy can do no wrong, must surely now be getting a bit fed up with Corbyn. Or are they just too stubbornly stupid to realise the disaster he is to progressive politics?

Getting as far as Private Eye

Private Eye Gateshead Car Park Mar 19-page-0

When I wrote recently on my blog about Gateshead Council coming down on an errant publican about planning rules being ignored while building a gigantic car park themselves without planning permission, I was pleased to see it taken up by the Chronicle, our regional daily newspaper.

The ripple effect goes on however! Private Eye are now featuring the issue.

And it all started on this blog!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Council and Campaign Video Diary February 2019

My video diary for February 2019: lots of meetings attended, letters and leaflets printed and literature delivered.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Delivering in Festival Park

Nick Seaborn Mar 19

Our campaign in Lobley Hill and Bensham ward of Gateshead took another step forward at the end of last week. Nick Seaborn, Lib Dem candidate for the ward, delivered 300 letters to residents, mainly in the Festival Park area. More will follow shortly. Nick snapped this selfie on the estate. He'll be out again soon, delivering more letters.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Whickham eFocus 114

Just published this evening, the Whickham eFocus no. 114 covering the following issues:
  • council budget approved but no extra money for sweeping streets;
  • Swalwell scrapyard could be used for house-building;
  • branching into Lobley Hill and Bensham;
  • Arson attack on Dunston Staiths;
  • charity coffee in Sunniside;
  • Gibside's "Route to Relaxation" trail.
  • Woodmans application deferred.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Visiting the fire damaged Dunston Staiths

Yesterday I visited the Dunston Staiths which had been damaged recently by an arson attack. I was taken on to the structure by a member of Friends of the Staiths who also explained to me some of the problems of securing the site. The damage was less than I feared but nevertheless, still significant. Repair costs could be up to £50,000.

A public appeal has been launched to pay for the repairs and renovation work needed. You can contribute on this link.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Pelaw and Heworth eFocus no. 5

Lib Dems in Pelaw and Heworth ward have just published their latest eFocus, edition no. 5. Issues covered include:
  • Council sets budget - and rejects calls for cleaner streets
  • Potholes on Bolburn fixed
  • Support Heworth Grange
  • Tolls on Tyne Bridge.
You can read eFocus on this link.

Sunniside History Society - photos of Whickham

John Medcalfe slide Mar 18-page-0

Sunniside History Society's next meeting will be on Tuesday 5th March, starting at 7pm for 7.30pm, at Sunniside Social Club. The speaker is Richard Pears who will be talking about the recent history of Whickham, from the 1970s to the 1990s, and will be using the photos of John Medcalf, a local resident and keen photographer.

Members and non-members alike are welcome. £1 entry fee at the door.

Gateshead Lib Dems' tabloid

Gateshead Lib Dems tabloid Feb 19 p1-page-0

Currently going through the doors of homes in Gateshead is the Gateshead Lib Dems' tabloid. As it is now being circulated, it's time for it to be featured on my blog. So here it is.

Gateshead Lib Dems tabloid Feb 19 p2 p3-page-0

Gateshead Lib Dems tabloid Feb 19 p4-page-0