I was in Whickham this morning to help volunteers plant up the flowerbeds on Church Green. My coat is still soaked through from the experience but all the beds were planted. There should be a colourful display next year.
Before Richard passed away, he said he wanted to see his new great nephew Brodie. So the family came up from Wales and on 21st October, Richard got his wish and was able to hold the baby. This is the video I filmed on the day. Two days later Richard passed away.
The latest edition of our email newsletter eFocus for the NE11 and NE16 area has just been published. Key issues covered include:
Only one more edition to go for the Low Fell Lib Dem Focus Team to reach 100! NO. 99 was published recently and includes:
The appalling murder of Sir David Amess MP has again put the safety of elected representatives into the headlines. In my 34 years as a councillor, I have experienced one person coming into my surgery and intimidating me by pointing out he was considerably bigger than me; one incident of paint being thrown over my front room window; a brick being thrown through my car windscreen and more recently, threatening abuse from a bunch of conspiracy theorists (Gateshead Council took legal action against one of them and I was twice a witness in court).
None of this comes close to what happened to Sir David but none of it will stop me from seeing my constituents. There have been suggestions that more barriers need to be put up between the people and their elected representatives. In some circumstances, there may have to be barriers, but we need to remain as open as possible. I live in the community I represent. People stop and talk to me every day. Many know where I live and if they don't, finding my address would be easy even if all references to it were removed from the internet. It is not physically possible to isolate ourselves and frankly, I would not want to. One of the activities I enjoy most as a councillor is speaking to people. If we lose that, we lose democracy. And the terrorists would therefore have won.
If any evidence is needed that our way of life needs drastic change, look no further than the current state of affairs with energy supplies in the UK. Not only have we made our country dependent on foreign fuel supplies, the sources include some of the worst regimes on the planet, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, we continue to burn fossil fuels at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, even though we have an abundance of renewable energy sources, we have not yet tapped their full potential and we have failed to build the energy storage systems which can be used to soak up the surplus renewables. Meanwhile we are becoming increasingly reliant on imported electricity, produced in the Single Market. That significantly weakens our negotiating position with the EU. They can simply flip a switch to turn off the UK's power. Meanwhile, we are heavily dependent on imported natural gas so an international shock to demand, supply and price hits us hard back in the UK.
Our dependency on foreign food and energy supplies is a national security risk. We have to aim to be far more self-sufficient. And that will probably mean changing our lifestyles, as I know from personal experience.
Lord Frost seems to be everything Brexiteers hate - a jet-setting unelected bureaucrat who gave Britain a rotten Brexit deal which abandoned British sovereignty in part of the UK, while attacking MPs who had the audacity of exercising Parliamentary sovereignty. Now, he wants to junk a significant part of the Brexit deal, the Northern Ireland Protocol. He helped write it. The Conservative government implemented it, despite Johnson's promises there would never be a border between GB and Northern Ireland. Lord Frost tells us that the rules which he wrote are being followed too vigorously by the EU. If there is no new deal, Lord Frost tells us, he will rip up the Protocol.
It seems that Lord Frost wants to mark his own homework and for the first time ever, he is giving his work a score of nought out of ten.
Our stockpiles also stretch to fuel for the house. A friend has been supplying us with firewood - enough to get us through to May 2022. It has cost us half a lamb, a fair exchange in the world of self-sufficiency.
Meanwhile, our solar panels continue to provide electricity to the house and surplus energy goes onto our battery. The drawback is that the panels and battery only work when the grid works. A power cut would stop the electricity supply in its tracks. Fortunately, we have another back up plan. We don't need much electricity on our smallholding, but what we do use is generated from an off-grid solar panel and battery
Our food supplies are also secure. We have 4 freezers full of food we have grown and we still have a potato crop to bring in from our smallholding. We also have a couple of hundred jars of preserves in our garage.
When I was candidate in Blaydon in the 2017 general election, Labour attacked me for growing my own food and being self-sufficient. Labour suggested that someone who was living the "good life" was not a "serious" contender. It seems that Labour were content with people being reliant on complex and long supply chains and anyone who wanted to be more sustainable was to be derided. I don't know if the individual who attacked me on behalf of the Labour party has had his smug grin wiped off his face by recent supply issues but I make him an offer - come and join us in the world of self-sufficiency and sustainable living. And discover just how seriously we need to act now to save the planet.
There was a time when the Labour vote in Sunderland was weighed rather than counted. Those days are now gone. In recent local elections Labour's losing streak has seen a whole strong of seats lost to a variety of opponents. Labour's decades of one party rule is being replaced by multiple parties. Quite how long Labour's majority there will last is an interesting debating point.
One seat that Labour have managed to retain in recent elections is Hetton. They also held on in a by-election yesterday though with only a slender majority of 27, down from 704 in May. The Lib Dems went from 6th place on with 63 votes to 2nd place. With such a slender skin-of-their-teeth majority, Labour will now find that another ward is vulnerable after decades of taking it for granted.
So well done Sunderland Lib Dems and good luck in the battle for Hetton in May next year.
One final thought - Labour are spinning that their conference this week was a success. That didn't help them in Hetton.