Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Labour's position on confirmatory referendum now made totally clear!

Just leaked, Labour’s European Manifesto section on confirmatory referendum:
"Taking into account the variations in people’s voting intentions and the scope of austerity as it impacts on the jobs related economy, and intersecting this with the Tory agenda of the few rather than the many, Labour will consider the next steps towards a resolution of the 2016 referendum vote in conjunction with Labour’s 2017 manifesto commitment to require a general election as the solution to wide ranging and challenging issues. As part of this wide ranging review, Labour will nationalise fences, bringing them into public ownership where they rightly belong, allowing unhindered fence sitting by the Labour party.
"With reference to the confirmatory referendum, Labour confirms it will remain a party of indecision by confirming that it confirms that Labour may, or may not, look at a confirmatory vote provided it does not confirm that Labour confirms it will be confirmatory.
"Up the socialist revolution and all hail the great one."
So Labour's position now is clear for everyone to see!

Last leaflet drop

This evening I did my last leaflet delivery in Whickham East. That does not mean I have no more deliveries to do! Alas, tomorrow I will be in Dunston, Festival Park, Lobley Hill and Birtley. It will be my eve-of-poll Gateshead tour! In the meantime, I am working on the next eFocus. It will be another edition eagerly awaited by Labour!

Vote for me, I'm on a committee: Labour's car crash campaign in Pelaw and Heworth (no.2)

PH Labour letter Apr 19

I wrote earlier this month about Labour's local election campaign in Pelaw and Heworth where the Mayor of Gateshead, Cllr Jill Green, is defending her seat against a strong Lib Dem challenge. In that post, I suggested Jill would be well advised for her sake to replace Cllr Leigh Kirton as her campaign manager/agent given the car crash nature of her re-election campaign. Thankfully, Jill did not follow my advice and Leigh continues in her prized role as inadvertent helper of the Lib Dem cause in Pelaw and Heworth.

Leigh was the recent author of a highly transphobic motion to Gateshead Council which led to the Labour group winning gold medal in the 2019 Quickest U-turn of the Year Competition. (Her motion was dumped by Labour after a media backlash.) Telltale signs of Leigh's material includes producing text heavy leaflets stuffed full with turgid, dull lists few people will read. You can see the most recent one above.

Whether or not people will be motivated to vote for Jill due to her being a "long-standing member of ANEC (Association of North East Councils)" is one of the great unanswerable issues of the campaign. I can't quite bring myself to imagine people sitting down to dinner and discussing the reasons for voting for Jill, and then reaching the conclusion that Jill is the one for them because of her membership of an organisation few are aware of!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Our best canvass so far

Bill Quay canvass Apr 19 (1)

We were back in Pelaw and Heworth ward this evening for another canvass. Admittedly we were in an area that is normally good for us anyway but the returns tonight were the best so far for this local election campaign, not just in this ward, but in all our target and defended wards. It seems that the vote is firming up well and people have read our literature.

I'm not complacent. The final battle is yet to be fought.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Six to Fix video

Gateshead Lib Dems have launched our manifesto for the local elections and have produced a short video version - click on the link above to view it.

Targeting today

Target leaflets Apr 19

We are now half way through out get-out-the-vote weekend targeting operation in Gateshead in all the wards where we are aiming to top the poll. I have a stack of leaflets to deliver to my constituents in Whickham South and Sunniside and a load of letters to deliver in Dunston Hill and Whickham East.

Order for new shoe leather will be placed when I get home later today!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Too close to call

Canvassing in Heworth Apr 19

Last night Gateshead Lib Dems' canvassing attentions were focused on Pelaw and Heworth ward. Again, more positive responses on doorsteps. Labour are defending a majority of around 100 over the Lib Dems. Our campaign this year has been much more targeted than last year but our candidate then was new to the ward, though so too was Labour's. Nevertheless, in what was traditionally a very strong Labour ward, Labour's core vote was enough to let Labour scrape through.

This time round, I feel we have closed the gap though Labour are having to fight back, albeit in a very amateurish manner. Three years ago we unexpectedly snatched the ward from Labour by 20 votes. As I watched the canvass figures being uploaded to Connect at the end of the session, my feeling is that this ward is still too close to call.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Marley Hill Bowling Green transfer

Marley Hill bowling green summer 18 (2)

About three years ago, Marley Hill Bowling Club invited me to a meeting so I could talk to them about what could be done to give the club a strong, long term future. I told them about community asset transfer, under which the club itself would take on a lease of the bowling green and run it themselves as a charitable group, thus opening up more external funding opportunities.

The club eventually decided to go ahead and are now enthusiastic proponents of community asset transfer. On Tuesday Gateshead Council cabinet agreed the transfer. I spoke at the meeting in support.

Good luck to the club and I'm looking forward to your having a successful future.

Softening Labour vote

On Facebook this morning I found a Mirror article which focused on the dire state of the Conservative vote which is in meltdown in the local election campaign. As this is the Mirror, Labour's poor state was only mentioned in passing.

In Gateshead our canvassing is finding it increasingly difficult to find Conservative supporters (admittedly their base here is tiny) and those we do manage to find are largely voting tactically for the Lib Dems. The interesting point about the Mirror article is that it reflects what's happening with the Labour vote. Our canvassing has deliberately targeted Labour areas and Labour voters we identify are softening rapidly. I am not however taking anything for granted. This weekend we will be working on a major targeting campaign to get out the vote on Thursday.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

This one will be close!

I'm just back from Pelaw and Heworth ward where I've been canvassing for Lib Dem candidate Paul Diston. Another positive set of results. There was no sign of a vote for Conservatives, Greens or UKIP. We did find a former Labour voter who recently switched to the Conservatives but is voting Lib Dem in the local elections. Quite a journey! Overall, once we number crunched the figures (a large number of devices had to be uploaded to Connect before we could do so), added the won't says and soft Labours into the Labour column, the projection continues to show it is close.

Labour won by 100 votes last year. This year it could go either way though I admit the Lib Dems have a spring in our steps!

Another good canvass!

Canvassing in Dunston Apr 19 2

We had another good canvass in Dunston last night. Again, we went to areas where Labour are traditionally stronger. Labour supporters here seemed more prepared to admit their party colours to us than was the case on Tuesday. The flip side is that people backing us were much more likely to say so as well. We identified a good number of people as Lib Dem supporters from whom we have not previously had a canvass response.

Overall I was very pleased with last night's results, but we are taking nothing for granted.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Canvassing in Dunston

Canvassing in Dunston Apr 19

We had a good evening canvassing in Dunston. We deliberately went into the strong Labour areas to see what was happening to the Labour vote. The preliminary results are encouraging. There was no swing to Labour from us and we found a number of Labour supporters who aren't voting or are voting for us because of Jeremy Corbyn.

Yet again, I'm not in the photo above as I was the one taking the pics!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Printing and delivering

This is a bit of catch up from a couple of weeks ago. I seemed to spend much of my time in the Lib Dem office in Consett printing leaflets for Birtley and Lobley Hill and Bensham wards. Both wards are developmental campaigns where we are aiming to build up a strong base in the ward for future gains. Most of my activities are captured on my video diaries listed here.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Pelaw and Heworth eFocus no. 8

Published this week, edition 8 of the Pelaw and Heworth eFocus, covering Paul Diston's local election campaign. You can read it on this link.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Whickham eFocus 116

Just published, edition 116 of the Whickham area eFocus. Issues covered include new speed limit on Fellside Road, Staiths reopens this weekend, streetlight problems on Watergate Bank, and the local elections. You can view eFocus on this link.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Canvassing in Whickham East

Canvassing DHWE Apr 19

Tonight I joined a canvass session in the Whickham East area of Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward. This is one of the most closely fought wards in Gateshead, indeed, probably in the North East. Labour are defending their last seat in the ward - they clung on four years ago by 23 votes on the day of the general election. Since then, Labour have been a more distant second place. Last year they went down to defeat by 600 votes though some of the explanation for that was the poor quality of the Labour Councillor who lost so badly.

So, nothing is being taken for granted but the canvass tonight was positive for the Lib Dems.

(I'm not in the photo above as I was the one with the camera!)

More letters delivered

WSS letters Apr 19

Another morning of deliveries - I was back in the Whickham part of my ward to deliver more of the letters we are sending to postal voters. I'm pleased to report job done by 1pm. Postal votes hit the doormats tomorrow.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Canvassing in Bill Quay

Pelaw and Heworth Lib Dem canvass team Apr 19 3

We had a great canvass session in Bill Quay in Pelaw and Heworth ward tonight. There was a positive response on the doorsteps which reminded me of the reaction we had from people before the Coalition years. I'm not going to predict victory on the basis of this canvass but I do feel buoyed by it. Labour held the seat here last year by only 100 votes. It could be close again.

Letters to constituents

WSS letters Apr 19

This morning I delivered a large number of letters to constituents in Sunniside and Marley Hill who vote by post rather than at polling stations. Postal votes arrive this week so the letters I delivered focused on my record as councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside for the past 32 years and my priorities for the area in the years ahead. Last year we got about two thirds of the votes cast but I'm taking nothing for granted.

There has however been no sign of a Labour election leaflet. They are leaving it a bit tight if they want to get their message out before the majority of those likely to vote have exercised their democratic rights.

The photo above is of the pile of letters I will be delivering in the Whickham part of my ward.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

March campaigner and councillor video diary

This is my video diary for March 2019 mainly covering the local election campaign but also a wide range of council meetings.

Low Fell eFocus

I have somehow managed to miss the publication of recent Low Fell eFocuses so I've included the links to them here.

Edition 27 (4th February 2019) includes:
  • Success for Cardinal Hume Catholic School
  • Residents fight litter
  • Preparations for the Low Fell's Summer Fayre are underway
  • Council to decide budget this month

Edition 28 (20th February 2019) includes:
  • Council Budget
  • Dealing with overflowing litter bins
  • New flats to be built on Durham Road
  • Supporting Low Fell businesses
  • Outrage over Council's double standards

Edition 29 (3rd March 2019) includes:
  • Council Budget passed - but calls for extra money for street cleaning rejected
  • Gas pipe works planned for part of Low Fell
  • Supporting local schools
  • Tolls on the Tyne Bridge?
  • Dealing with weeds

Edition 30 (14th March 2019) includes:
  • Play equipment in Kells Lane Park
  • Tolls on the Tyne Bridge?
  • Time to cut the number of Councillors
  • £11,000 spent on wall at Lowrey's Lane car park
  • Low Fell Library Easter fair

Edition 31 (29th March 2019) includes:
  • Ron Beadle selected as Lib Dem candidate for Low Fell
  • Fighting Labour's plans for tolls on the Tyne's Bridges
  • Broken speed sign to be replaced
  • Hoarding repaired

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Dropping off in Birtley

Birtley Lib Dem leaflet Apr 19

I was back on familiar territory this afternoon when I visited Dunston to help deliver a pile of letters to voters. This evening I was back to being the delivery driver for the local Lib Dems when I headed down to Birtley to drop off the remaining leaflets for Paul Elliott, our candidate there. The main focus is Labour waste. Paul already had 1000 copies of the leaflet so delivery is already underway and should be completed over the next few days.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Printing for Lobley Hill and Bensham and Birtley

printing Focus LHB Apr 19

I had another visit to the Lib Dem office yesterday. This time I was printing for Lobley Hill and Bensham and Birtley wards for the local elections on 2nd May. Postal votes arrive next week and in many wards, of those who vote, far more do so by post than at polling stations. So when the postal votes arrive next week, we are effectively having our first polling day. Circulation of the Lobley Hill and the Birtley leaflets has already started.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

On BBC today

Today I was on the BBC's Sunday Politics (North East and Cumbria) programme speaking about the need for stronger opposition to Labour on North East Councils. It was recorded on Thursday on the Gateshead Quays. My bit was longer than my usual blink-and-you-will-miss-it but two blinks and you could be forgiven for not noticing me!

You can see the interview on this link.

Euro selections

I have just voted in the selection of Lib Dem candidates in the North East region for the European Parliament elections. It is of course a secret ballot so I will not be divulging who got my preferences. Two candidates stood out. It's still up in the air whether or not the election will take place. And I have a feeling that if there is an early general election, it could be on the same day (23rd May). We shall see.

Labour's car crash of a campaign in Pelaw and Heworth (no. 1)

Labour letter PH Apr 19-page-0

Pelaw and Heworth ward in Gateshead is a marginal ward. Once a Labour stronghold, it went Lib Dem in the Blair years, back to Labour in the Coalition years and since then Labour lost one seat to the Lib Dems Ian Patterson) by 20 votes but held on by about 100 votes last year. So it is a ward with an interesting history. To add to this, defending Labour councillor Jill Green is the mayor. I have a lot of time personally for Jill but I fear that her campaign is being run in the manner of a slow motion Labour car crash. 

Her agent is Labour Councillor Leigh Kirton, agent to Ian Mearns MP (an opponent of a confirmatory referendum). She emerged from obscurity recently to hit the headlines as the author of a council motion widely regarded as Transphobic. After Labour got a battering, her motion was dropped like a hot potato. Having therefore become the queen of the political car crash, Cllr Kirton is exactly the person Lib Dems want in charge of Labour's campaign in marginal Pelaw and Heworth.

Labour's activity in the ward this weekend has been the delivery of the above letter. If anyone has a spare half hour to read this voluminous essay, please go ahead. Sadly, I did read it to the end (I need to get a life!) and decided that if anyone managed to do the same, this excessively long diatribe about the Lib Dems is likely to ensure they vote Lib Dem.

Much of the Labour letter is a personal attack on Lib Dem candidate Paul Diston, even going to the extent of naming him. Jill then reminds people of the letters Paul has sent to people. (We know the letters were well received by residents!) Topping the list of car-crash-things-not-to-mention however was the number of Focus editions we have produced. Referring to Focus edition 87 simply reminds everyone of the long history of Lib Dem activity in the ward.

The Labour letter attacked Paul for having changed ward - Paul had previously stood in Wardley and Leam Lane. But the comments by Labour are somewhat rich. Last year their sitting Councillor in Pelaw and Heworth switched to the neighbouring Labour stronghold of, none other than, Wardley and Leam Lane!

Meanwhile, Labour's attack on us for opposing something 21 years ago suggests an element of barrel bottom scraping!

To add to the car crash scenario, Labour have made the classic blunder of delivering another text heavy leaflet with the letter. The number of people likely to read both through to the end will probably be less than the majority Ian Patterson got when he won the seat back from Labour in 2016.

So Jill, I suggest for your sake that you sack your campaign organiser (I assume it is Cllr Kirton), though for the sake of the Lib Dems, stick with her!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Windmill Hill Park litter pick

On Saturday, Nick Seaborn, Lib Dem candidate in Lobley Hill and Bensham ward of Gateshead, organised a litter pick in Windmill Hill Park. A number of residents and Lib Dem members joined in. The result was 20 sacks of rubbish removed from the park. Well done Nick for your efforts.

More printing

This video is a bit late but last Friday I had yet another printing session in the Lib Dem office in Consett, this time for my ward, Birtley, Low Fell and Lobley Hill and Bensham. Job done but there is more coming down the line to print as well!

House plan rejected

Over the weekend I was asked by residents of Cornmoor Road and by ward councillors Peter Maughan and Kevin McClurey to speak at Gateshead's planning committee against plans for a new house in the back garden on the street. Peter and Kevin were unable to get to the meeting because of work commitments so I agreed to attend the meeting, which took place yesterday. Unlike most of my previous appearances at planning committee, this time I was speaking in support of the officer recommendation, which in this instance was to reject the application.

The officers explained that Cornmoor Road is an area of low density housing and continued infilling of back gardens is changing the nature of the area. In my presentation I was able to put more meat on the bones. I explained that the Cornmoor Road area was bought by a back-to-the-land allotment society in the 1890s. The land was sub-divided into plots large enough to contain a bungalow and enough land for a family to grow their own food, hence the reason for the plots being much bigger than what would be expected for a late Victorian family home.

I am aware of only two such surviving sites in the North East: Cornmoor Road and Darras Hall in Ponteland.

After my presentation, and that of the developer, a short debate took place and then the vote was taken: unanimously in favour of the recommendation to reject.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Only mainstream opponents

Nominations for the local elections in Gateshead closed this weekend. I've just spent a few minutes looking at who is standing where. In my ward of Whickham South and Sunniside, I have only Labour and Conservative opponents. No fringe candidates this time (though we had none in my ward last year either). Not too many years ago, we had TUSC, UKIP and the Greens standing here. They have quietly departed from the battlefield.

So, good luck to my Labour and Conservative opponents. I look forward to meeting you both at the count on 3rd May.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Delivering in Dunston

Dunston Focus Apr 19

I was in Durham this morning for a meeting of the NECA audit and standards committee. My time was more usefully spent this afternoon when I went to Dunston to deliver 220 Focuses as part of the election campaign. No sign of anything from any other party over the past few days. A month to go to polling day. Oh joy!

Monday, April 01, 2019

Nomination papers submitted

My nomination papers for Whickham South and Sunniside were handed in to Electoral Registrations at Gateshead Civic Centre today. I'm pleased to report that they were accepted and therefore I will be standing for the ward for the 10th time. On the previous 9 occasions, I was elected each time. Sadly, in one of those elections, I did not receive at least half the votes cast. That was when I first stood in 1987 when I gained my seat from the Conservatives (who have since disappeared organisationally). In that election 32 years ago, I got only 48.8%, 856 votes ahead of the Conservatives. Labour were third. Since then, I have taken between 50% and 78% of the vote.

Hopefully, the trend will continue on 2nd May.