Sunday, June 30, 2019

Poll puts Lib Dems in lead in Blaydon constituency

Another poll so please add a dose of scepticism but this one suggests the Lib Dems could win Blaydon. If this prediction comes true, Labour are toast in Blaydon:

  • Lib Dem 38.2%
  • Brexit 22.1%
  • Labour 21.3%
  • Conservatives 12.3%
There is of course no substitute for on-the-ground activity when it comes to winning elections. And we are doing plenty of that.

Video - action day in Birtley

Last week Gateshead Liberal Democrats had an action day in Birtley ward. This was the video I filmed on the day.

Especially for my Labour readers

As I have said on a number of occasions, in my view opinion polls are good for identifying trends, details are not their strong point however. The polls at the moment are tending to show a trend of Labour in 3rd or 4th place. The latest one for YouGov shows:

  • Lib Dems 30%
  • Conservatives 24%
  • Brexit 19%
  • Labour 17%

For Labour, this is dire. Surely, all those local Labour members in Gateshead who dribble and drool over Corbyn and how he will "sweep to victory" in a general election must be shaken out of their mesmerised state by this dreadful rating. Yet at the moment I have heard none of them say anything about the need to dump Corbyn. For Lib Dems, that's good news.

Kells Lane Fair

Kells Lane Fair June 19 1

Straight after the Parochial fair yesterday, I headed over the Kells Lane, Low Fell, for the community fair being held there. This event seems to get bigger each year. My thanks to colleagues Councillors Daniel Duggan and Vicky Anderson, for being temporary goat minders!

Kells Lane Fair June 19 2

Kells Lane Fair June 19 3

Parochial School Fair

Parochial School fair June 19 2

I was invited by the Parochial School in Whickham to bring a couple of goats to their fair yesterday. I was happy to oblige. Two of our youngest goats, Danny and Sandy, went with us. I think they became the most photographed animals on the planet!

I had to leave for half an hour part way through the fair as I was called out to deal with a bee swarm in Sunniside.

Parochial School fair June 19 1

As PCC candidate, I couldn't resist the temptation to get this photo.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Back in the office

I made another trip to the Lib Dem office in Consett. On the to-do list was to finish printing the Whickham North Focus and the Birtley survey. Job done. Folding still to be done. That's for another day.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Expulsion and return

The readmission of Corbynite socialist fellow traveller Chris Williamson MP to the ranks of the Labour Party is bad enough. Anti-Semitism needs to be tackled with more than just a light slap on the wrists. Meanwhile, Alistair Campbell has, in the eyes of Labour, carried out a more serious crime. He voted Lib Dem. There are no signs yet that he will be allowed to return to Labour's ranks. This says so much about the current Labour Party.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

More printing

WN and Birtley leaflets June 19

I agreed to do some printing for a couple of wards in Gateshead today. Whickham North's Focus and Birtley's survey churned off the riso - or at least the front pages of them. They will be completed shortly. And then we have to deliver them!

Tour of Britain coming to Gateshead

At cabinet yesterday a report on the agenda especially caught my attention. The Tour of Britain is coming to Gateshead and competing cyclists will be following a route which includes Sunniside and Whickham. Indeed, the route goes past the end of my street. It seems I will have a good vantage point. The only drawback, as I pointed out, is that live coverage will only be on ITV4, which I described as "having fewer viewers than my YouTube channel!" (though my videos have been viewed 6 million times.)

The Tour of Britain will be in Gateshead on 10th September.

Our next Focus

Dunston Hill and Whickham East Focus June 19

My colleagues kindly left me 600 Focuses yesterday to deliver once the rains had stopped. They are for Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward. Watch out for me over the next couple of days as I'm wearing out shoe leather during the heat wave!

Monday, June 24, 2019

No Brexit candidate

Nominations closed on Friday for the Northumbria PCC by-election. I am the Lib Dem candidate and, as expected, Labour  and Conservatives also have nominations in. There is an independent as well. She has something of a Conservative past and was also involved with some anti-Lib Dem activity. For a short time, she worked for Ann-Marie Trevelyan, Tory MP for Berwick. I am assuming she has £5000 to burn as her chances of taking at least 5% of the vote, necessary to save the deposit, are somewhat limited.

So that's four candidates. Missing from the running is the Brexit Party. The reason for the absence is unknown. How this will impact on the result is difficult to quantify. On a much smaller scale, in my ward in May, there was no Kipper/Brexit candidate. Old fashioned 3 party politics, now a bit of a distant memory, came into play. I got 73% of the vote!

Anyway, polling day for this completely unnecessary PCC by-election, is 18th July.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Labour vote collapse in Blaydon - YouGov

I blogged about my doubts over opinion polls during the European election. My caution however appeared misplaced when the Lib Dems outpolled both Labour and the Conservatives. Since then, a number of polls show there is something of a 4-way divide across the Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Brexit parties in terms of share of the vote. Some of them continue to show Labour and Conservatives battling over 3rd and 4th place. But a YouGov poll on Friday particularly caught my attention, not because Labour and Conservatives were joint last, but because information was available at the constituency level.

In Blaydon constituency, Labour's vote has collapsed. The two beneficiaries are the Lib Dems and Brexit. The projection has us and the Farage party just about neck-and-neck. Labour are in 3rd place.

The figures are:

  • Brexit Party 27.2%
  • Lib Dems 26.8%
  • Labour 25.9%
  • Conservatives 10%
  • Greens 5.8%

Blaydon is developing into a two horse race, and for once, Labour are not one of the horses!

Birtley Action Day

Birtley Lib Dem street stall June 19 1

Yesterday, we had a successful action day in Birtley, one of our target wards for the Gateshead local elections next year. We started with a street stall on Durham Road and then headed off to deliver thank you focuses across the ward. Birtley Focus Team members Paul Elliott and Jo Davidson also delivered 500 focuses as well as doing some door knocking. Generally speaking, there was a positive response from residents.

Birtley Lib Dem action day lunch June 19 2

Lunch was at the Barley Mow.

Birtley Lib Dem action day lunch June 19 1

Meanwhile, Team Pelaw and Heworth were hard at work in the morning delivering their thank you focus. The aim was to get Pelaw done by the early afternoon, freeing Cllr Paul Diston to join us in the afternoon in Birtley.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Pelaw and Heworth eFocus no. 12

The latest edition of eFocus for Pelaw and Heworth ward was emailed out last night. In it, Councillors Paul Diston and Ian Patterson report on Pelaw bowling club, anti-social behaviour near Pelaw Library and Bill Quay Primary School's fundraising for a defibrillator. You can read the full newsletter on this link.

Clover Hill School Fair

Clover Hill School fair June 19 (4)

Yesterday I was invited by Clover Hill School to take some of our animals to their summer fair. So I took along two of the younger goats and 4 ducklings which hatched over the weekend. It was quite a successful event and was attended by quite a few constituents who passed on to me lots of congratulations for my re-election in May and lots of casework as well!

Clover Hill School fair June 19 (3)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Front page

Journal 20 June 19

I got front page of the Journal today! Our regional newspaper decided to make my call to abolish the PCC role their lead story. So, a good start to the campaign.

First PCC by-election interview done

Fergus Hewison BBC JW June 19

I have just returned home from my first media interview in my new guise as Lib Dem candidate in the Northumbria PCC by-election. I met up with Fergus Hewison from BBC Radio Newcastle outside the Baltic Gallery. The key issues I covered were my call to abolish the PCC role (an expensive experiment that has failed) and the need to rebuild community policing.

All candidates will eventually be interviewed. Broadcast is expected next week.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

My 3 key policies for the Northumbria PCC by-election

Now that my selection as Northumbria PCC candidate has been sorted, I can announce my three main policies:

  • Scrap the PCC role. It has been an expensive experiment that has failed (£3 million to pay for the by-election is just one example of the costs). The PCC role can be taken over by a joint body of local councils.
  • I will make neighbourhood policing and addressing anti social behaviour my major priority. I will refocus policing away from the failed war on drugs users, following the example set in Durham, and onto pursing the dealers. As PCC I will work with councils to declare drug abuse a public health crisis.
  • Press the government to keep the European Arrest Warrant which would be lost if there is a Hard Brexit. It has allowed the police to bring to justice murders, rapists and serious criminals who would otherwise evade justice by escaping to Europe.
The by-election will be held on 18th July. At the moment, Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems have announced candidates. There is no news about other candidates. Nominations close on Friday.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Marley Hill Bowls Club rises from the ashes

Marley Hill bowling club house arson Oct 18 (6)

Last August, vandals broke into the Marley Hill Bowls Club pavilion and set fire to the building. Fortunately, the structure remained sound. Smoke damage was the biggest problem. Members of the club have now restored the pavilion. They have done an excellent job and members invited me today to see their work first hand. You can see the difference!

Marley Hill bowls club June 19 (1)

There will be an official re-opening in August.

Back in Birtley

Birtley June 19 12

I was in Birtley on 9th June to sort the photos for our next Focus newsletter. Our local team - Paul Elliott and Jo Davidson - toured the ward with me to get a range of photos. All we have to do now is write the Focus and get it delivered!

Gateshead East branch meeting

Gateshead East Lib Dem meeting June 19

I was at Heworth Golf Club tonight, not for a round of golf, but to attend the Gateshead East Lib Dem branch meeting. High on the agenda was a discussion about campaigning for the local elections next year in our target wards. Also discussed was the campaign for the Police and Crime Commissioner by-election.

There is a growing feeling of excitement and willingness to campaign among the members, including those who have joined recently. There is a great deal of confidence about the party's prospects.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Selected for Northumbria PCC by-election

I have been selected as the Lib Dem candidate for the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner by-election on 18th July, caused by the resignation of Labour's Vera Baird. This of course means that I will be fully occupied over the coming month.

The by-election will cost close to £3 million. Surely there is a better way to spend taxpayers' money?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Vote Lib Dem, get expelled. Vote Conservative, that's okay: Labour's approach to discipline

Recent high profile cases of senior Labour figures being suspended or expelled for voting Lib Dem stand in sharp contrast to Labour's response to the MPs who voted with the Tories last week. These MPs single handedly saved the Conservative government and made Hard Brexit more likely. Labour's approach to them has been to ignore their misdeeds. This turn-a-blind-eye approach too often extends to anti-Semitic behaviour in Labour's ranks as well.

In the eyes of the Labour leadership, the greatest of crimes is to vote Lib Dem. Voting to save the Tories doesn't even warrant the political equivalent of an ASBO.

Hardly a surprise

As I predicted, Esther McVeil has come out as a Johnson supporter. So her vote and presumably those of her supporters will now line up behind the Charlatan-in-Chief. Quite how she fits her "blue collar conservatism" in with Johnson's call for tax cuts for the rich is yet to be seen.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Labour's helping hand to the Tories

Plans to block no deal Brexit have yet again been shot down by the government. And again, Labour MPs were the saviours of the Tories. Had the 8 Labour MPs who back the government followed their whip, the Tories would have been defeated. Two of those Labour MPs were from the North East: Ronnie Campbell and Stephen Hepburn. Both are reactionary old school "socialists" who should have been decommissioned years ago. Thanks to them and their Brexit colleagues, Hard Brexit remains a strong possibility. Not very helpful for local jobs and economy. The next time they moan about the state of the region, they need to be reminded that they have Brexit blood on their hands.

Out of the race

I am on a train to North Wales at the moment but I can't escape politics and the infernal Tory leadership race. The first round ballot was declared just as we were getting on the train. McVile, Loathsome and Harpic are now out, leaving seven in the race. Johnson was in the lead, comfortably ahead of Hunt. My guess is that the supporters of McVile and Loathsome will line up behind Johnson. As for Harpic, I'm like most other people. I have no idea who he is so who his followers are and where they now end up is anyone's guess.

So, stay tuned for the next edition of the Tory Leadership Show (if I can be bothered to write it!) Meanwhile I am going to enjoy my trip to Wales.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Video: D-Day marked in Whickham

Last Thursday, the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings was marked in Gateshead with a short service at the war memorial which included the playing of the Last Post.

Speeches by Jo and Ed at the Newcastle hustings meeting

I videoed the opening and closing speeches by Jo Swinson and Ed Davey at the Newcastle Lib Dem leader hustings on Saturday evening. Each is included with this post.

Chase Park green flag inspection

Chase Park June 19

There was an inspection of Chase Park, Whickham, for the green flag award on 6th June. Volunteers had spend a great deal of time replanting many of the flower beds in the park. I hear the inspection went well but we are not expecting the announcement of the result for a few weeks yet.

Lib Dem Leadership Hustings in Newcastle

Lib Dem hustings meeting June 18 (1)

The Old Assembly Rooms in Newcastle were packed out on Saturday evening for the Lib Dem leadership hustings meeting. Two candidates are in the running - Jo Swinson and Ed Davey. I will be happy with either though I am backing Ed Davey. Both spoke well at the meeting which I reckon must be in sharp contrast to Labour and Conservative meetings where blind panic and blood on the floor are common features.

Lib Dem hustings meeting June 18 (3)

Gateshead members Vicky Anderson and Leanne Brand are backing Jo.

Ed Davey leaflet June 19

Ed's leaflet - you may recognise the photo at the bottom!

Jonathan Wallace Ed Davey June 2019

Me and Ed.

Ballot papers will be circulated shortly and the winner will be declared on 23rd July.

Gateshead Strategy Meeting

Gateshead Lib Dem strategy meeting June 19 (1)

Lib Dems in Gateshead are already planning for the local elections in May next year. On Saturday, we held our next strategy meeting. There was a wide ranging discussion on the selection of target wards and the criteria we apply to come into target status. Within that status there are a couple of different categories based on how far down the route of winnability a ward it. We will be defending five seats next year and we have drawn up a target list of an additional six wards. The meeting also looked at campaigning plans with the result that I ended up adding to my to-do list before meaving the meeting!

Gateshead Lib Dem strategy meeting June 19 (2)

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Marking D-Day in Whickham

Last post Whickham 6 June 19

On Thursday a short service was held at the Whickham War Memorial to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The Last Post was sounded. Residents were also joined by three soldiers attending a recruitment event in the village.

A video of this event will follow shortly.

Friday, June 07, 2019

I'm backing Ed

Ed Davey Jonathan Wallace York Mar 19

Nominations close today for Lib Dem Leader. Unless there is a sudden and unexpected 3rd candidate, the race will be between Ed Davey and Jo Swinson. Both are first class candidates and I will be happy with either as Leader. However, I will be voting for Ed. For me, Ed has the lead on the environment. 10 years ago I gave up work to live the good life. The aim was to produce our own food and power and live as sustainably as possible. So the environmental agenda is very important to me.

I told Ed over the weekend I will be backing him and he phoned me yesterday (moments after having just dealt with a bee swarm - I learnt at that moment that Ed's mother is also a beekeeper!) When I worked for the Lib Dems over 10 years ago, I was part of the team that supported Ed when he was Shadow Communities, Housing and Local Government Secretary. So we got to know each other quite well.

The hustings meeting for the North East is in Newcastle tomorrow evening. Attendance is expected to be high from members. It should be a good meeting.

Good luck to both candidates. Both are very worthy of the role.

The Peterborough curate's egg

Peterborough is a place I don't know. I have been there once, many years ago, for a Lib Dem training event. I have passed through on the train hundreds of times when I used to go to London most weeks. From the train I could see the prison on one side and the cathedral on the other. Yesterday however it was on our radar screens as we awaited the much trumpeted Brexit Party's victory to win their first seat in Parliament. Except, it never happened! It was another of those occasions in which a few votes made the difference between a political earthquake and a footnote in history.

Labour are behaving as if they have just won a general election, which only goes to show what a dire state they are in. In normal political times, the main opposition should be looking to hold seats it had won marginally with majorities more akin to those in safe seats. Winning by the skin of their teeth with a 17% drop in vote share hardly inspires confidence.

The Lib Dems put in a creditable performance in a constituency which previously saw us win only 3% of the vote. 9% increase is welcome.

Overall, the result is something of a curate's egg. The good parts are: the Brexit Party did not win, the Lib Dem vote improved, Labour performed poorly but not too poorly to risk Corbyn's leadership (he is a vote winner at the moment but for the Lib Dems, not Labour).

The bad part is that the Brexit Party nearly won and Labour's victory means they will continue to have Leaver Corbyn at the helm, blocking a confirmatory referendum.

So definitely mixed news from Peterborough.

Blaydon Lib Dem meeting

Blaydon constituency Lib Dem branch had its monthly meeting last night at Marley Hill. I say "monthly" but our last meeting was actually in March. April and May meetings weren't held because we were too busy winning Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward from Labour. The usual issues were discussed and plans for Focuses were agreed. I am currently writing the next edition for Whickham South and Sunniside.

We also had a discussion about social events - we have been heavily focused on campaigning in the past so we have given insufficient thought to these. This needs to change, especially as we are picking up lots of new members and supporters. So I have been dispatched to contact possible speakers for pizza and politics events. More fundraising is also needed. We have lots of campaign plans but money is needed to pay for them!

I came away from the meeting with a long to-do list!

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Echoes of the Enabling Act

Dominic Raab is best known as the Brexit Secretary who resigned in protest at the Brexit deal he negotiated. Now he wants to be Tory Leader and PM. With a large number of contenders for the top position, the race is on to make the most extreme pledges on Hard Brexit. It is reported that Raab is ready to prorogue Parliament to stop MPs having a say on a No Deal Brexit. In effect, the future of the nation would be in the hands of the loonies of a government of the Extreme Brexit Right. So much for Parliament "taking back control".

One of the worrying features is that the exclusion of Parliament and MPs from decision-making has echoes of how the Nazis seized control and turned a democracy into a dictatorship. Hitler used a crisis (the burning down of the Reichstag) to pass the Enabling Act, a move which put legislative power into his hands, thereby sidestepping all Parliamentary representation.

Were we to crash out of the EU without an agreement, it is almost certainly the case that the government will need emergency powers to deal with the crisis that will arise from what effectively is our own, self-imposed siege of our own borders. Perhaps the Raab idea of proroguing Parliament is a hint of how governance will operate under a Raab premiership.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Marking D-Day in Whickham

Thursday 6th June is the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy Landings. A service, led by Revd Barry Abbott of St Mary's Church, will be taking place at the War Memorial in Whickham on Thursday at 10.25am. The Last Post will be played and minute's silence will be held.

All residents are invited to attend.

Meeting Trump

I had planned to be in London yesterday for a meeting of Lib Dem group leaders. Alas, the meeting was postponed until later this year. Frankly, I didn't want to be in London at the same time as the Trump visit and the demonstrations taking place against him. The postponement also allowed me to go to the Sunniside History Society meeting last night. As chairman, I had already arm twisted someone to stand in for me so I was able to relieve them of that burden.

And now for something rare: praise for Corbyn! I think he was absolutely right that he tried to seek a meeting with Trump. Corbyn is a waste of space but he is, sadly, Leader of the Opposition. In that capacity, he should have been given an audience with Trump. In the nightmare scenario in the years ahead of a 2nd Trump term of office and a Prime Minister Corbyn, the two are going to have to deal with each other. A meeting should therefore have been held between the two. After all, if Trump could find time to meet Nigel Farage, whose party has no seats in Parliament, he should find time to meet Corbyn.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Where were you when we needed you Mr Corbyn?

Jeremy Corbyn attended the anti-Trump rally in London today. This seems to be a break with recent practice. Where was he when the People's Vote rallies were taking place. Nowhere to be seen. Trump's anti-EU comments must be music to Corbyn's ears.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

What negotiations?

After the European election results were announced, the Brexit Party demanded a seat at the negotiations with the EU over how we leave. The same demand has just been made by Trump, in his capacity as self-appointed leader of America First. This all strikes me as rather odd. The Brexit Party demands a No Deal Brexit. So what is there to negotiate about, at least in terms of how we leave? And if we leave without an agreement (the key Brexit Party demand), it is highly unlikely that there will be any negotiations on a future relationship. So quite what role there is for the Brexit Party in negotiations they believe should not happen now and won't happen in the future is not clear.

Trump has always made it clear that he backs Brexit. In terms of world politics, he wants no competition to his country's superpower status. America First means negotiating from strength with smaller countries many of which have smaller GDP than some of the big states of the USA. Such an approach is destroyed by the existence of the EU, itself a bigger economic superpower than the USA. The UK has an economy a fraction of the size of the off the USA. There is no way that negotiations between the UK and USA on trade could be anything other than totally one-sided in favour of America. That is why, in the Brexit negotiations, the EU has the upper hand - the UK is a fraction of the economic strength of the EU and in negotiations that is what counts. When Brexit Britain goes out into the big wide world to negotiate our own trade agreements, we will constantly bump up against the same problem. We will, of course, have thrown away the advantages that go with being part of the economic powerhouse of the EU.