45 years ago I had just returned home after spending 50 days in hospital following a road accident. So I was still on crutches when I heard the news that Elvis was dead. Looking back nearly half a century later, can anyone think of a performer and musician who still dominates the music industry two generations after they have passed away? Elvis was of course The King but he gave us some fantastic songs. Long may his record continue.
Monday, August 15, 2022
At the end of July I went with David to Kent to celebrate various family birthdays and a wedding anniversary. We had planned to go by train but the rail strike saw our having to drive there instead. Sally's house (where the celebration was taking place and where we were staying in a tent!) is a converted oast house with a large garden. The large pond there is exactly what I want to put on our farm to boost wildlife and encourage amphibians that will eat bugs on my crops. So, as you can imagine, the pond for me was as much a draw as was the celebration event!
Sunday, August 14, 2022
Friday, August 12, 2022
The latest edition of eFocus for the Whickham area was published tonight. Issues covered include:
- Anti-social behaviour in Chase Park;
- Hospital bus service saved;
- Petition - cut Gateshead Council down to size;
- Whickham Voluntary Library is five years old;
- Chase Park dog show postponed;
- Sunniside phone mast;
- Wood carving at the Whinnies;
- Can you donate a school uniform?
I am no great fan of the Eurovision Song Contest though I did watch the final in May. That said, I am a great fan of the tourism industry so anything that encourages people to visit Gateshead, Newcastle and the North East generally is welcome. It's all about jobs, wealth creation and the local economy. For a successful tourism industry we need reasons for people to visit us and spend their cash in local businesses. So, hosting the Eurovision Song Contest would be a huge boost to the economy here. Newcastle, it was announced today, is on the shortlist of possible host cities for next year's contest. Fingers crossed!
I'm used to activities being cancelled due to rain, snow and cold but we now have to get used to events being cancelled because of extreme heat. The Fun Dog Show in Chase Park, Whickham, due to be held tomorrow, has been cancelled because of the extreme weather conditions. I had planned to spend much of the day there but, though disappointed the show is postponed, the welfare of the people and pets attending has to take priority. Hopefully we will have a new date for the show shortly.
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
- When was it granted planning permission - June last year.
- Who gave it planning permission - officers under delegated powers.
- Who was consulted - the 14 nearest properties.
I filmed this on a day off from politics and farming. A day trip to York - the city is packed with history and is only an hour on the train from home. It is a regular host of Lib Dem spring conference. I'm not sure if York is hosting conference in the next couple of years but if it is, I will use the opportunity to visit more of the historical attractions.
The video was filmed at Clifford Tower, York Castle Museum and The Shambles.
Friday, August 05, 2022
Thursday, July 28, 2022
I've been saying since January that rainfall is greatly reduced this year. Normally in January I am plodding around in mud up to my ankles but the start of the year was damp but not as wet as we would normally expect. Every month since then, rainfall has been minimal, and for many weeks at a time, non-existent. Some areas of the country are now facing drought restrictions but we all now need to start saving water. Do you need to clean the car so often? Do you need to bathe rather than shower (and when showering is it necessary to leave the water running the whole of the time you are in the shower)? Do you need to clean all your towels after a single use.
Water is a resource and should be treated as such. We must be sparing with its use. A few thoughts on this issue in the video above.
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Thursday, July 07, 2022
Okay, so just back from my farm and I've discovered that Johnson is to resign. Alas, one of the Lib Dems' best recruiting sergeants is to exit the stage. So who could be in the running to replace him as Tory leader?
- Priti Patel - aaaargh please no.
- Dominic Raab - needs to spend more time with his small majority.
- Sajid Javid - not to be underestimated.
- Nadhim Zahawi - quietly running his leadership campaign for months.
- Liz Truss - remainer turned Brexiteer.
- Michael Gove - sacked by every PM since 2010.
- Nadine Dorres - Get me out of here.
- Grant Shapps - off the rails.
- Jacob Rees-Mogg - back to the future.
- Keir Starmer - now pro-Brexit, fits the bill perfectly.
Monday, June 27, 2022
Gateshead is part of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority. It is run by a joint committee consisting of councillors from the five constituent councils. Hardly renowned for gripping debates, the committee is unlikely to have a queue of people eagerly waiting to get into the meeting to listen intently to councillors discussing the great issues of the day. Until today, that is.
For today, I am informed, Labour put on a great show in which they manned the barricades and battled with themselves for the role of chair. Labour are the majority party so the role is theirs until such point as they lose their majority. Sunderland is the lead authority and would normally expect to hold the chair but this time, there was a challenge. Gary Haley from Gateshead threw his hat in the ring and went head to head with the new member for Sunderland. No one won. The score was 7 votes each. The vote was run again but as no one had changed their mind, the result was simply a reheat of the first one.
Could it be third time lucky? Yet again, the vote was rerun but no one was in the mood for changing. So it was another score draw. The committee broke up without a chair being appointed. An extra meeting has now been called to be held in a couple of weeks.
And if that fails to resolve the matter, presumably there will be a penalty shoot out.
I thought it was just Gateshead Labour group that were incompetent when it came to filling appointments - they were still making committee appointments 5 months after the annual council meeting last year. I have now discovered that this inability to sort an appointment extends much further in the Labour Party.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
For the first time in 30 years I went to the Newcastle Hoppings last night. We got to Exhibition Park and a sudden and very heavy downpour nearly made the evening into a washout. Fortunately it lasted only 5 minutes. So, one burger, one packet of very overpriced pick and mix sweets and one ride later and we headed back home. You need to watch to the end of the video to find out which thrill ride we did!
Thursday, June 16, 2022
I'm currently sitting in a briefing meeting for Gateshead Councillors with officers from Nexus and Go North East. I'm pleased to report that the 69 service has been saved. Nexus will step in to run it as a secured service. A grant from the government will pay for the service which is vital for many residents. The 69 is the main way for those without a car to get to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Saving it was a priority for the Lib Dem group. It should now remain in place until 2025.
Monday, June 13, 2022
It was the oven ready deal ready to go. All that was needed was a Johnson led Conservative victory at the 2019 general election. "Let's get Brexit done" was the winning slogan. And so it came to pass - the deal was pushed through Parliament and it appeared that the Conservatives could claim "Job done." Except that it is far from job done. It now looks like Johnson is after a fight with the EU. I suspect he wants to take on Europe because he needs to recreate the conditions of 2019 in which Europe-bashing was in part the reason for his election victory. Now he needs to rebuild support on the Tory right while hoping the broken promise of no borders in the Irish Sea is drowned out by the battle cries of an anti-EU campaign. Johnson must also be hoping that in this cacophony of noise, the people will forget that he is the author of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the agreement which is now being savaged by the Conservatives. Johnson got us into this mess. Now it's his job to get us out of it. Don't hold your breath.
Sunday, June 12, 2022
So I decided, for a treat, to attend conference and stay in a hotel but Brighton hotel prices came as something of a surprise! I've got 3 months to get over the shock. Let's hope the rail strikes are all ended by then. I certainly won't be driving there!
Ross Hutchinson, the weatherman on Tyne Tees TV, was a visitor to Sunniside over the Jubilee weekend. He was there to plant a tree on the Whinnies Community Garden (see video above) and he took the opportunity to visit my Nearside allotment to see my goats and poultry. He's a keen supporter of animal welfare and keeps a number of animals himself. It was great to see him in Sunniside.
Monday, June 06, 2022
Monday, May 30, 2022
I was in Whickham yesterday with other volunteers from Planting Up Whickham to help plant up the flowerbeds on Front Street and Church Green. The group raises the money for the flowers and looks after the beds after the council stopped doing this about a decade ago. 2 hours of planting on a Sunday morning and the job was done.
Sunday, May 29, 2022
I guess that Keir Starmer must be regretting that beer and curry in the office of Mary Foy, Labour MP for Durham City and former member of Gateshead Council. While not on the level of the Downing Street party factory, the fact it happened does not read well for Labour. Starmer has been forced to make a virtue out of necessity. If he is fined, there was no way he could remain at the top of Labour given his previous hardline position on Boris Johnson's party going activities. So he is making his offer to resign if fined a position of virtue. If he is then found not to have broken covid restrictions (and my guess is that he won't be fined), he can then portray himself as the good guy who offered to do the right thing before the police had reached a conclusion. All, of course, in contrast to Boris Johnson.
Meanwhile, time to spend a bit of time reading about the government's attempts to address the cost of living crisis. £15 billion and a uturn just to keep the Sue Gray report out of the headlines!
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Monday, May 16, 2022
Sunday, May 08, 2022
I was reliably informed on Friday at the count that the Conservatives are to target me personally in the local elections next year! "You are targeted" sounds as though it's come straight from a Terminator film! But far from being angry that I am to be the Tories' target, I welcome it! But let's put everything into perspective. By May next year I will have represented Whickham South and Sunniside for 36 years. I gained the seat from the Conservatives in 1987 and have taken over 50% of the vote in every election since then. The good people of the ward have chosen me to be their councillor 10 times. Apart from 1987, the Conservative have had a name on the ballot paper but no campaign. Last week, in the ward, the Conservatives were in 3rd place with 346 votes compared to our vote of 1770
Last week, the Conservatives failed to win their only target seat in Gateshead (Winlaton and High Spen). If their strategy is to use resources to fight one of their most unwinnable seats, and therefore using up valuable resources that could go to the better prospect of Winlaton and High Spen, then it is hardly surprising the Conservatives have failed to win a single seat in Gateshead in 30 years.
So let the battle commence!
Congratulations to my ward colleague Marilynn Ord who was re-elected last week to Gateshead Council in Whickham South and Sunniside ward. She took 60% of the vote and had a majority of 1075.
The details are:
- Marilynn Ord (Lib Dem) 1770 (60.1%)
- Labour 695 (23.6%)
- Conservative 346 (11.7%)
- Green 136 (4.6%).
Friday, May 06, 2022
Monday, May 02, 2022
Winlaton and High Spen ward continues to attract attention in the local elections in Gateshead. It seems the Conservatives are pouring in the resources. There have been two visits by cabinet members and I am informed that there have been visits by MPs recently.
From having been rather complacent a few weeks ago, Labour may now be awake to the danger of losing to the Conservatives in the ward. There was a group of Labour members working the ward today and thanks to the wonders of social media (in this case Liz Twist MP's Twitter feed) we now know who was there - 11 Councillors, 2 members, the candidate and the MP. But who is this I see? John Adams? The beleaguered member for Saltwell? Does this mean he is complacent about being re-elected again for Saltwell? Or are Labour giving up in Saltwell?
So, what is the final result to be? I remain to be convinced the Conservatives can pull off victory in the ward. It will be close however, but Labour members must surely be feeling it is a little too close for comfort, hence the reason for shipping in their councillors.
Sunday, May 01, 2022
In previous years there were 2 wards in Gateshead in which the Green Party was thought to have an interest: Saltwell and Crawcrook and Greenside. This year we saw an interesting development in Saltwell. The Green Party candidate of the previous year, Rachel Mary Cabral, is standing again, but without a party description. Somehow, the nomination forms have been handed in without being fully completed. Anyone looking to vote for the Green Party will be disappointed though the Green Party vote is being squeezed heavily by the Lib Dems in Saltwell as the battle to beat Labour hots up.
So what went so wrong for the Greens? Well, I am reliably informed that the candidate went on holiday in late March, coinciding with the opening of nominations. My suspicion is that the form for the party description and logo were not completed before Rachel left the country. Without that form being signed by a party's designation nominating officer, a candidate cannot use the Party description and logo.
When challenged in April about the lack of a description, Rachel explained there was an "administrative error" though quite what that error is has not been explained.
Never mind Rachel, there is a silver lining in the cloud. The Greens got 185 votes in Saltwell last year and they will be looking for a new home. They could help swing the ward away from Labour by voting Lib Dem instead.
I was rather amused by the absurdity of Oliver Dowden's claims of an electoral pact between Lib Dems and Labour. The Tory Party chairman based his fantasy story on Labour standing more candidates in the North while the Lib Dems are standing more candidates in the South. Perhaps Mr Dowden should visit Gateshead where, incidentally, Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems are each fielding full slates of candidates. The actual battle is between Labour and Lib Dems slugging it out in a number of wards with the Conservatives running a small sideshow in Winlaton and High Spen. Even in this one target ward, the Conservatives are more likely to be runners up rather than winners though this is, for them, a major advance on decades in the electoral wilderness in Gateshead.
But anyone looking for evidence of a non-existent Lib-Lab pact should visit Saltwell, Birtley, Pelaw and Heworth, High Fell and Dunston Hill and Whickham East wards in Gateshead. Labour are defending the first four against a Lib Dem onslaught. The 5th ward is a marginal Lib Dem held ward (but with one independent who is not defending his seat.) The ward has a recent Labour history and Labour would love to recover it. No one visiting those wards could possibly believe Dowden's story.
Still, it makes for an interesting distraction from an MP viewing porn, Partygate and the cost of living crisis.
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Gateshead Labour Councillor Anne Wheeler is on a bit of a journey. She arrived on the council in 2010, winning back a seat from the Lib Dems in Pelaw and Heworth ward which we had held since taking it from Labour in 2000. Having served 2 terms Anne moved ward to Wardley and Leam Lane in 2018. Whether this was a voluntary switch of ward or imposed on her I do not know. Either way, it was for her a good move as Wardley and Leam Lane was one of the strongest Labour wards in the borough. Pelaw and Heworth on the other hand was moving back towards to Lib Dems. In 2016 we took one of the three seats by only 20 votes. Labour clung on by around 100 votes in the ward in 2018 but Anne was safe with a majority of 868 in the next door ward.
Alas, things don't look so comfortable for her now. She is no longer Labour candidate in the Labour fortress of Wardley and Leam Lane. Instead, she is back in Pelaw and Heworth facing a Lib Dem majority of 648 from 2021. The sitting Labour councillor has decided to retire and retirement for Anne is now looking likely as well. The ward is a top target for the Lib Dems and Labour's campaign has been rather minimal.
A ward to watch on Friday 6th May.
For the last couple of local elections, the Greens in Gateshead have fancied their chances in Crawcrook and Greenside ward. Labour's majority over the Greens last year was 321, bringing the ward into the realm of the marginal. The Greens last year were disappointed by the result but it was their best chance of winning a seat on Gateshead Council. Since then a change of candidate has probably not helped their cause. Though it seems the Greens are continuing to do battle in the ward, I suspect they blew their chances last year. Expect a Labour hold next week though don't expect the majority to be comfortable.
Sunday, April 24, 2022
It's that time of year - Labour leaflets pop through local letterboxes. There must be an election! Labour's candidate for Whickham South and Sunniside (who lives in Blaydon) has been issued with a map of where to go and the success of this can be shown by the fact I walked past him last week in Sunniside. His election leaflet, which he was delivering at the time, seems almost to have come from a parallel universe. Anyone reading it would be forgiven for thinking Labour do not run the council! According to the Labour leaflet, Lib Dems are responsible for the cost of living crisis!
The leaflet then claims that "There are no outdoor play areas for children in Sunniside." This may be a bit of a surprise to the Whinnies Community Garden where volunteers provide an outdoor play area! There is also Sunniside Park, Marley Hill Park, Frosterley Walk field and Kingsway community orchard. How about Kindred's Wood and Lotties Wood? All outdoor spaces and accessible. What Sunniside lacks (which the leaflet does not refer to) is play equipment, other than what is available at the Whinnies and at Marley Hill. But the Labour-run council withdrew the funding some years ago for play equipment for Sunniside.
The leaflet then claims that we should "not see other areas of the council benefit at the cost of families in Whickham and Sunniside." Are Labour admitting they are using my constituents as a cash cow for other areas of Gateshead.
I just want to remind Labour that they run the council, and have done so for nearly 50 years! Labour are ultimately responsible.
Anyway, good luck with your campaign Mr Hall. I will see you at the count.
Sunday, April 17, 2022
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Consultants have been drafted in by Labour-run Gateshead Council to tell them how to listen to the people! A "Resident Influence Strategy" will be "designed" by TPAS, a "not-for-profit" organisation which will work with council tenants, leaseholders and employees. It would be interesting to know how much this exercise in explaining democracy to the Council has cost local council tax payers. And it will be interesting to know just how far the Labour party is prepared to act on what the people say. If for example residents said, "Stop spending our cash on consultants," would Labour listen?
Wednesday, February 09, 2022
The high flying political career of Newcastle City Council's leader Nick Forbes could be about to come crashing down. With local elections looming in May, Labour selections are taking place and Nick seems to have run into a sticky problem - his ward branch in Arthur's Hill have opted for a different candidate. According to local sources, Cllr Forbes was beaten by a "landslide". It turns out that 4 people at the branch meeting voted for Nick and 13 voted for the other candidate, Abdul Samad. Hardly a landslide and you have to have some sympathy for Cllr Forbes, given that his career has been put in doubt by the actions of a tiny number of Labour activists who turned up on a cold evening for a meeting. Nevertheless, that's the Labour rule book in operation though there is talk of official complaints and challenges to the results.
Speaking as someone in politics who prefers to go when I want to, I wish Nick well. Maybe he will be parachuted into another ward in Newcastle or perhaps given a seat in the House of Lords! (He's a big mate of Sir Keir.) And if he wants time to contemplate his future, he can pop over to my smallholding and help me muck out the goats and chickens. You never know, it could give him ideas on how to sort out the Labour Party!
Monday, January 10, 2022
Last year we donated two goats - Sooty and Sweep - to Birkheads Wild Community Interest Company (CIC) which works with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The goats are brother and sister and were born two years ago. I hand raised them as their mum rejected them. I first encountered Birkheads Wild at a school fair in 2019. I had 2 other goats there (and a stall selling homemade jam) and the CIC were there as well. I got on chatting to Fiona, who runs the organisation, and I was invited to see their facilities.
Sooty and Sweep are now TV stars! They were featured on BBC Look North and Tyne Tees TV news last week. Journalists had picked up on the CIC's appeal for Christmas trees to feed to the goats. Camera teams went in and got some fab footage of Sooty and Sweep chomping their way through trees that would otherwise have ended up in the waste system.
I need to pay them a visit. I'll take my autograph book in the hope of getting some hoof prints!