Sunday, September 05, 2021

Word on the streets

I went to Whickham this morning to deliver my latest Whickham South and Sunniside Focus. Unlike the past two weeks, today we had sunny weather, bringing people out into their front gardens. This always slows me down as I end up stopping to talk to residents. So, the issues raised today by people with me included some recent casework, the latest news from my smallholding, where's my wheelbarrow and libertarian policies. Quite a selection!

400 focuses meanwhile were delivered.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Dog Show


Well done Friends of Chase Park and all involved in putting on the dog show at Whickham Chase Park on 21st August 2021. There was a great turnout despite the rain! And lots of prizes were won.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Not predicting the unpredictable

Politics is sometimes bizarre.  Labour's Martin Gannon has called on me to resign today because I did not predict the Covid pandemic in 2018.  Yes, you read that right!  But if Martin knew what was coming, why didn’t he say anything?

Some background is in order. There have been long rumblings from within the Gateshead Labour party about my blog. This is nothing new. It seems that a fair proportion of my readers are the comrades of the local Labour party! Sadly, I’ve just not had the time in recent months to update the blog on a regular basis. The brothers and sisters have therefore had to delve back in time for a good read.


Labour Deputy Leader Catherine Donovan seems to have started the ball rolling by referring to a post “from about two years ago” at the full council in July. Catherine is someone on the Labour side of the council chamber who I like as a person but whose politics are far different from my own. She suggested I had written that a pandemic “would never happen”. I searched my blog posts from the 2nd half of 2019 and found nothing that reflected this.


So after a number of emails that were pinged between us, I eventually got a reply as to when the post in question was written. Not “about two years ago”, but rather, it was nearly 3 and a half years ago. So, not on the eve of the covid pandemic but April 2018, nearly two years before the covid pandemic reached our shores.


And yes, it was a post about pandemics, or rather, about planning for them. The matter was discussed at a committee meeting in Gateshead and my point at the time was that this was a waste of money. My thinking was influenced by the fact it was 100 years since we had had a pandemic and we had in the previous decade lived through scares about ebola, MERS and swine flu, which though serious as outbreaks, were nowhere near being pandemics. So, I reasoned, why spend resources on something that looked very unlikely to happen at the time.


Okay, so as far as predictions go, I got it wrong. But no one in 2018 was predicting a pandemic unless they happen to be endowed with magical powers in 2021 to see everything through the benefit of hindsight. It seems the Gateshead Labour party has developed such powers! A quick look at their raging comments on Facebook and you would be under the impression that Labour had cracked the challenge of time travel. The trouble is, I didn’t hear anyone in the Labour party (or indeed anyone else on the planet) predict in 2018 that within two years we would have a pandemic on the scale of 1918-20.


I’d rather be in a position of making predictions that don’t come about than being wise only after the event.

Friday, July 16, 2021


 I joined other volunteers from Planting Up Whickham on Sunday to help plant up the flowerbeds. Here are a few of the photos I took.

Friday, July 02, 2021

When poor is good

Oppositions are normally expected to win seats they are defending comfortably. What went wrong with Labour in Batley and Spen? A 7% drop in their share of the vote compared to the general election (and Labour's share was down 12.7% compared to the 2017 general election). A majority slashed by 90%, down to 323. In a sign of Labour desperation, Labour were spinning this as a great result. In reality, it is a demonstration that Labour are in serious trouble. 

When Starmer became Labour leader, my assumption was that he would be a voice of reason who could pull together a shattered Labour party after the lunacy of the Corbyn years. I was wrong. His leadership may not be questioned in the immediate future but his hold on it may be under threat once the Batley and Spen dust has settled. Starmer may well survive a future challenge but his party under his leadership is failing in its principle task - to be the opposition to the government. 

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Delay to removing barriers


Gateshead Council were planning to remove barriers that had been installed in various town centres throughout the borough. It was dependent on the government's announcing of the end of covid restrictions. As this is delayed, implementing the plans are on hold. We now await the government's next announcement about ending restrictions on 19th July.

RIP Andrew


In May, my brother Andrew lost his short battle against cancer. Yesterday was his funeral at Mountsett Crematorium near Dipton, Durham. We were restricted in the number of mourners able to attend but we ensured he had a great send off. RIP Andrew.

Monday, June 14, 2021

What's in a name?


This is a great illustration of the one-party state mentality of Labour in the North East. Martin Gannon, Labour leader of Gateshead Council, doesn't like the fact that the Sunderland Echo carries lots of stories about the local Lib Dems. With what appears to be an example of too much time on his hands, Martin fired off some shots via Twitter over yet another article in the newspaper about the Lib Dems (this time a call to add Sunderland to the name of Newcastle airport.)

Such unadulterated coverage in the press of political opponents has rather wound Martin up. He has suggested instead that the newspaper be renamed "The Lib Dem Voice-piece"! Surprisingly, Martin has not been so dismissive about the occasional anti-Lib Dem stories fed by Gateshead Labour members to the Newcastle Chronicle, owned by the Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror. Nor indeed has he raised any concerns that I am aware of about the Daily Mirror being such a pro-Labour publication.

Nor did Martin, as far as I am aware, publicly raise any worries back in the Blair years (when he was a superfan of Blairism) about The Sun backing Labour. One rule for Labour, a different one for other parties.

I have heard on the grapevine however that Labour are to launch their own newspaper. Rumour has it that it will be called The Daily Hypocrite!

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Labour's uplifting offer


In other years, it would have gone unnoticed: a political party offering lifts to people to get to the polling station. But this year it was a definite must-not-do because . Alas, Labour in Saltwell in Gateshead decided to ignore the restrictions on car sharing and giving lifts. As the above leaflet shows, Labour were offering lifts to voters to polling stations. We helpfully drew the attention of the Labour leader of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon, to the offer in the leaflet.

Cllr Gannon replied, "Regarding the attached leaflet can I assure everyone that all Labour Party election staff are aware of the regulations and will ensure complete compliance."

It rather begs the question therefore, why was the offer of lifts included in the leaflet if the people producing it were "aware" that lifts shouldn't be offered.

Or was this simply a case of Labour putting the need to get votes before people's health?

Friday, May 07, 2021

Seeing off the bullies

Labour in Gateshead decided to adopt bully-boy tactics in their battle to win Low Fell from the Lib Dem Daniel Duggan in the local elections. Desperate tactics and a smear campaign failed to deliver what Labour wanted. Daniel won convincingly. Well done Daniel, you won and you beat Labour's bullying tactics.

The result was:

Lib Dem 1730

Labour 1167

Conservative 312

Green 186

Well done Cllr Mohammed

I am delighted to report that I have a new ward colleague, Jonathan Mohammed, who was elected for Whickham South and Sunniside in the local elections yesterday. Well done, Jonathan, you are now part of a great team in the ward.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Trips abroad and dirty streets


This is one of the slides Gateshead Lib Dems created to go onto Facebook. More to follow.

eFocus on NE16 and NE11 edition 157

The local Lib Dem Focus Team published the latest eFocus last night covering NE16 and NE11. Edition 157 covers:

  1. Can you help to plant up Whickham;
  2. History talk in Sunniside;
  3. Fund boost for Whickham Library;
  4. Dunston Leisure Centre to reopen;
  5. Tidy Whickham clean up campaign to be launched;
  6. Marley Hill Hedge replacement;
  7. Vote in the Gateshead Awards.

You can view eFocus on this link.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Low Fell Focus no. 89

Yet more eFocuses from the Low Fell Lib Dem Focus Team. Edition 89 was produced recently covering:

  • As postal votes arrive, Daniel and the Focus Team need your support
  • Wrong colour tarmac used in Ravensdale Crescent
  • Gateshead Awards - have your say
  • Computer facilities in Low Fell library
  • Opposing plans to cut Gateshead Schools' Music Service

You can read eFocus on this link.

Time is running out to use your postal vote


Time is running out to use your postal vote in the local elections. Please make sure you get it into the post to arrive at the Council on Thursday 6th May. You can also take your completed postal vote to your local polling station on Thursday. (Polls close at 10pm)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Backfiring in Labour's face!

Labour in Gateshead last year created a traffic management scheme that has added enormously to congestion and air pollution. Lib Dems exposed the cost of the fiasco - £500,000. Labour are not happy and in their typical one-party state approach, they are pursuing a complaint against Lib Dem Councillor Daniel Duggan who first exposed the costs. 

The traffic fiasco has not gone down too well with residents. Indeed, it has been an appallingly bad news story for Labour, but in their wisdom (or lack of) Labour keep banging on about it on social media. Yesterday they reposted the Labour post attacking Daniel to the Felling Group Facebook page, which has a readership running into thousands.

Alas, for Labour, their regaling of the traffic fiasco (which they claim is "fake news") has backfired spectacularly. There have been hundreds of comments from residents and, excluding the pro-Labour comments of the Labour activist who first reposted to the page, there are no positive or supportive comments about Labour and their traffic management scheme. Indeed, residents were lining up to put Labour through the shredder. Here are a few of the comments:

"Perhaps it’s time to vote a different way and lose the “I’ve Always voted Labour” Mentality in this area and give someone else a try."

"What a joke they should investigate themselves for all the money they waste , hopefully they will be out soon enough"

"Labour council for Gateshead has wasted a lot of publics money it's about time the people of Gateshead know what is going on!"

"Looks like labour are trying to deflect the point that they closed roads they created the chaos they spent the money"

"What Gateshead Labour Party did with that fly over was an absolute disgrace, not only costing the local taxpayers money we could ill afford to spend, it caused absolute havoc on the roads at a time we were already suffering under COVID rules. .... And what are our Labour council doing to apologise to its voters? Nothing. Not a single thing! Any apology to its electorates ? NO! Instead they are “investigating” some Lib Dem councillor for keeping it in the public attention!"

"Don’t think this post is going well, especially for the labour council."

"this post isn't getting labour any votes its doing the opposite"

"He [Lib Dem Councillor Daniel Duggan] does a good job for sheriff hill and low fell"

Why Labour were silly enough to repost about their attempt to silence Daniel is beyond me. It was an open invitation for people to get angry with Labour. They have done a great job for the Lib Dems - on the eve of the local elections they have put back into public consciousness what is for Labour a bad news story. Well done!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

And the winner of the worst election video is.....

The Oscars have just been held. I wonder whether Labour in Gateshead will be entering one of their videos in the category of "Worst Election Video". The likely winner would be Calvin Lawson's cringe-making 7 second video in which he lip syncs to "If you're feeling like you need a little bit of company" by Dua Lipa. If you are feeling up to the task of viewing it (warning: strong constitution needed) feel free to click on this link

Interesting use of music which is, of course, copyright. Reproducing it requires various licenses and appropriate royalty payments which will need to be included in election expenses returns!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Labour talks up the Conservative vote


This is a Labour leaflet circulated in Saltwell ward in Gateshead. I was rather amused by the appearance of a bar chart, given Labour's regular attack on Lib Dems for using them! As you can see in the last local election in the ward, Labour were comfortably ahead and the 3 opposition parties were within 110 votes of each other. The headline of "Keep the Tories OUT" may come as something of a surprise to residents of Saltwell, indeed to residents across Gateshead. There is zero campaigning from the Conservatives in Gateshead. We are aware of only one ward in which they have distributed an election leaflet (and it isn't Saltwell!) and it went out after the postal votes were distributed.

So why talk up the Conservative vote in Gateshead in Labour literature? (And then use much of the rest of the leaflet to attack the Lib Dems?) The answer is that Labour knows they hold on if the opposition vote is split between different parties but they fear the consequences of non-Labour voters lining up behind the Lib Dems. After all, that has delivered victory for the Lib Dems in a number of wards in Gateshead. Perhaps Labour fears this happening across Gateshead.

Finally, the first para of the Council Tax article is a classic example of how not to write a leaflet! So a thank you to Labour for focusing on what is for them a bad news story, thank you for quoting one of our key anti-Labour messages and thank you for the admission that Gateshead's council tax under Labour is the second highest in the country!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The arrogance of Labour


The Labour Party in Gateshead tend to view the area as a one-party state and any opposition to them tends to be treated as insurrection and insubordination. There is an uncomfortable level of arrogance from Labour who have run the Council since it came into existence in 1974. Take a look at the above Facebook post from Labour candidate for Low Fell Calvin Lawson which was posted last year when it was announced the local elections were to be postponed. He hadn't been elected (the ward is Lib Dem held so is treated by Labour as an area of insurrection) yet he talks of Low Fell being a personal chattel. No mention of needing to win an election, just a bald statement that the ward will be his. How arrogant can someone be?

I prefer to let the people decide who represents them on the council. Await the outcome of the democratic process first Mr Lawson. And whoever wins a ward, on any council, should always remember that it is not theirs, they hold it in trust on behalf of local residents until such time as those same local residents decide to elect someone else.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Labour's imprint problem in Gateshead

Labour seem to have an imprint problem in Gateshead. Perhaps their literature skills are a bit rusty. We have local and Police Commissioner elections on 6th May. Labour therefore have come out of hibernation and have started to produce joint leaflets about the upcoming contests. But there is a problem. Inclusion of an imprint for the PCC is required if the literature refers to the PCC candidate, and Labour appear to have overlooked this legal requirement. I think Labour will need an industrial paper shredder to resolve that problem! We have of course brought this to the attention of Labour via their council leader, Martin Gannon. He has suggested we need to speak to the police.

We are considering our options.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

eFocus on NE16 and NE11 no. 155

We recently published edition 155 of eFocus for the Whickham/Dunston/Swalwell/Sunniside/Lobley Hill/Marley Hill area. Key issues covered include:

  • Leisure centres start to reopen;
  • Whickham Library is now open for Ring and Read;
  • Local elections to go ahead on 6th May;
  • Poultry lockdown ends;
  • Call to keep Gibside School as a centre for education;
  • Make derelict Beggarswood golfing range into community garden and allotments;
  • Tour of Britain cycle race to come to Gateshead again.

You can read eFocus on this link.

Our first Gateshead Lib Dem election video

We have now launched our first election video in Gateshead, looking at Labour waste in the borough, including the central Gateshead traffic management plan (£500K), the new Quarryfield car park which is soon to be ripped up (£750K) plus other sums on refurbishing the Labour leader's office in Gateshead Civic Centre and repairs to crematoria equipment that was scrapped months later. We have lots of other examples as well but I wanted to keep the video relatively short!

Monday, April 05, 2021

Lawless in Low Fell


Calvin Lawson is Labour's failed candidate in Low Fell, Gateshead. His attempts to snatch Low Fell from the Lib Dems in previous elections have not exactly been beacons of success. As he drifts further and further behind the Lib Dems, what could he possibly do to turn around his fortunes so he can realistically mount a challenge in the ward? Well, don't try this at home, but Mr Lawson's election leaflet has taken the need to get noticed to the extreme. He informs the good people of Low Fell that "Calvin is actively involved in everything from street crime to bake sales."

Yes, you read it correctly, his leaflet does say he is not only "involved" but is "actively involved" in "street crime"! Oh dear, no doubt this is just an embarrassing error for everyone to read on the front page of his election leaflet. Quite how Mr Lawson and his hapless agent Cllr Leigh Kirton managed to miss this glaring statement leaves me scratching my head. Assuming the statement is not true, and that he meant to say that he is "fighting street crime" (at least I hope that is what he is trying to say), what next for Mr Lawson's campaign? I assume it is too late for a change of agent (and we would encourage Mr Lawson very strongly to keep Leigh Kirton in place).

So, is it time for the shredding machine to be brought into use? If it is, can I have the shredded paper for bedding for my livestock? At least that way, Mr Lawson's leaflet will at last serve a useful purpose.

Meanwhile, I must read up the Lib Dems' policies on the rehabilitation of offenders actively involved in street crime. After their punishment, we must ensure they can be turned into something useful to society.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Storming Starmer sinks

This week, we note that Keir Starmer has been in post as Labour leader for a year. He was an improvement but if that is the only test of his success, he is hardly in line for any performance awards. Corbyn was dire, a millstone around the neck of Labour. A cardboard box full of sand would have been a significant improvement. Starmer has the advantage of being able to hog the news coverage that would generally be shared across the opposition parties. His messages seem to be: wave the Union Jack, don't mention the EU and always vote with the Tories in Parliament on restrictions. Those who thought Starmer was going to lead Labour to victory by storming the Tory barricades must be bitterly disappointed. He has, at best, been flat, and at worst has failed in his duty as an opposition to hold the Conservatives to account. What a sorry state.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Low Fell eFocus 87

 Low Fell Lib Dems have recently published another edition of eFocus, no. 87. Issues covered include:

  • Daniel Duggan chosen to be Focus Team's candidate in Council elections
  • Kells Lane Park to get makeover!
  • Council promises to open some services, but not Gateshead Leisure Centre
  • What's happening with the proposed Anderson Green housing development? 
  • Thank you to those who have signed up to our litter picks
  • Fly-tipping reported

You can read eFocus on this link.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Low Fell eFocus 84

 Another eFocus from the Low Fell team. Issues covered in this edition (no. 84) include:

  • Council increases Council Tax by 4.99%
  • Plans to remove Low Fell's recycling facilities
  • Demanding better for Kells Lane Park
  • News in brief
  • Trip hazards

You can read eFocus on this link.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

On the campaign trail

So, Boris Johnson was in Scotland today for a fleeting visit. No meetings with the Scottish government or council leaders. Just high profile visits to factories and vaccine distribution centres. With the media in hot pursuit, denials were made that this was a campaign visit despite appearances. Well, I keep an open mind on the real reasons for the trip. It's a good job for the PM however that he doesn't apply the same ban to prime ministerial visits that he has applied to political literate which is now banned if delivered by volunteers.

I remain open minded about what the government has done to ban opposition leaflets while keeping Johnson on our TV screens. But I can't help feeling that the government has set out to silence opposition. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Covid vaccination working too well

I caught a news story on Tyne Tees TV lunchtime news today (Thursday) which reported on rumours that the government was to cut the number of vaccinations in the North East so that other areas could "catch up" with the region. The roll out of the vaccine here has been successful but never in a million years did I expect the government to take such a decision.

The issue was raised by Gateshead Leader Martin Gannon at the start of the council meeting this afternoon. While I don't buy his conspiracy theory that the region is being punished for not privatising health services, I did, as leader of the opposition, say that the move was unacceptable, as was letting the political leadership of the region learn about it from TV news broadcasts rather than from ministers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Well worth the wait

I hope Mr Trump remembers retirement is for life, not just until the next presidential nomination contest. 

Low Fell eFocus no. 81

 Another week and another eFocus from Gateshead Lib Dems, this time from the Low Fell Team. Issues covered in edition 81 include:

  • Proposal to build 18 apartments in Low Fell amended and resubmitted
  • Council budget - have your say
  • Resurfacing work
  • Fixing potholes

You can read eFocus on this link.

Friday, January 15, 2021

A victory for the small player

Some good news to do with the pandemic, at last! Insurance companies will now have to do what businesses pay them to do - pay up on insurance claims. Battered by lockdown and their businesses forceably closed, it was so obviously clear that this was an interruption of trade against which many businesses insured themselves. Frankly the behaviour of the big insurers in having to be dragged to the Supreme Court was a disgrace. Let's hope they now pay up as quickly as they take insurance premiums from businesses. We live in hope. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Happy fish

Jacob Rees-Mogg announced in the House of Commons that fish in our territorial waters are "better and happier" because they are "British". Presumably now that Britain controls her own borders, the fish will turn back towards the British coast if they foolishly swim towards the UK's maritime borders in the Channel and North Sea. Are the fish happier? Well, not being fished by the UK fishing fleet because of the massive mountain of paperwork Brexit Britain needs to export fish to the EU will bring pleasure to all those lobsters, mackerel and other sea foods. Another Brexit good news story.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Low Fell eFocus no.79

 The Low Fell Focus Team published their latest edition of eFocus (no. 79) yesterday. Issues covered include:

  • Happy New Year from the Focus Team
  • Changes planned to social distancing measures on Durham Road
  • All Gateshead Council gyms now closed
  • Calls for better signage as 11,365 penalty charge notices handed out in just over six weeks
  • New 20mph speed limit zone planned
  • Future lane closures on Gateshead Flyover in January 2021
  • Reports of cars being damaged

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year

So, it's New Year Day. Happy 2021, which everyone believes will be much better than 2020. That's not a big ask! As it's a bank holiday, I will avoid political comments, though I can't resist saying that while most of you were happily warm at home, I was trudging around my smallholding checking on pregnant sheep and goats and feeding poultry that continues to live under a DEFRA lockdown. Fortunately I'm back home now, sitting at my dinning room table which passes as my office but which is a serious contender for Most Untidy Desk 2021 competition. So, everyone, stay safe, do your bit to help others and live sustainably.  Meanwhile, watch this space. No doubt I will have much to say in 2021.