Thursday, August 31, 2023

I think you are forgetting your past, Martin

On Monday, a post from Martin Gannon, Labour leader of Gateshead Council, dropped into my Facebook feed. He asked:

"Got to ask the question. What part does ATC privatisation play here? Just wondering."

It's an interesting question, given the airline chaos of the day caused by a faulty system that came close to grounding the nation's entire air transport. Martin's reference to ATC (Air Traffic Control) is actually a reference to National Air Traffic Services wholly owned by NATS Holdings. This is a public-private partnership and was proposed by Labour in government in 1998 and implemented in 2001. The public sector retains 49% of the ownership. Though a minority, it is the biggest individual shareholder and the government retains a golden share.

Martin has had a number of political incarnations over the past 40 years I have known him. In the 1980s, he was militant Martin. In the 1990s he could out-Blair Tony Blair. From 2010 to 2015, he at least on the surface was comfortable with Ed Miliband. From 2015, his views on Corbyn were difficult to pin down (in public at least). 

Martin's FB post seems to hint at privatisation being the cause of the problems that blew up on Monday. Given that NATS has been in the private sector for 20 years, privatisation as the cause seems very unlikely. He also overlooks who was responsible for the sell off - his Blairite government of which he was a super fan.

Maybe Martin has a need to shore up his support on Gateshead Council with the left of the Labour party. Attacking privatistion, or at least raising questions about its suitability to operate important infrastrucutre, could bolster his support among those Labour councillors who still pine after Corbyn. Quite what those same councillors think about Martin's pursuit of the privatisation of the management of Gateshead Council's leisure facilities would be interesting to know.


I see the government have announced that, for the fifth time, they have postponed the introduction of border checks on EU goods entering the country. If I were a Brexit supporter (I am not) I would be furious at the government's inaction on the borders. After all, taking control of our borders and Britain deciding what comes into the country was a key promise of Brexit. It is yet another promise of beauties of Brexit that have not materialised since we left the EU.

Sunniside leek show


On Tuesday, Sunniside Social Club held their annual leek show. I didn't enter any of the competitions myself (I don't grow show leeks) though some of the people there suggested to me I should give it a go next year!

Well done to all those who did enter the competitions and especially to those who won.

Let me eat cake


A craft fair was held at Marley Hill Community Centre on Saturday and I popped in, hoping that there would be plenty of cake makers. I found only one as I toured the stalls. But that was sufficient. A large piece of lemon drizzle cake was purchased. Obviously I wasn't being self-sufficient when I bought the cake but we are happy to support local bakers and crafts people.

On a general point, I try to visit as many of the community events in my ward as possible. It is a useful way to keep in touch with people, and pick up issues - as I did on Saturday!

Friday, August 25, 2023

A familiar style


Beamish, only a few km from my house, opened the police houses in the 1950s area of the museum in June. During our honeymoon week, David and I visited the new attractions at Beamish. The police houses are built in a very familiar. There are thousands of council houses in Gateshead built to a similar architectural appearance. Police houses have largely disappeared over the past few years though I do remember them in Lobley Hill and Streetgate.

There's much more to come in the 1950s section of the museum. I'm particularly looking forward to the cinema and the rebuilding of the postwar prefabricated houses that were carefully removed from Kibblesworth a decade ago.

The video takes you on a journey through the police houses and you get to see what for some of us is familiar postwar and 1950s furniture, some of which I was still using until about 20 years ago.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

What history taught me about self-sufficiency


I have another speaking engagement, this time in September. I will be speaking about what history taught me about self-sufficiency to Sunniside History Society. A combination of two interests close to my heart - history and sustainable living, Come along if you are interested.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Booked for conference


A few weeks ago I took the decision to attend Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth. Last year I had my conference pass, transport and hotel booked when the passing of the Queen put an end to the annual gathering (it was meant to be in Brighton). Before that, covid had ensured conference didn't happen in 2020 and 2021. So I am now booked up for Bournemouth. Travelling there will be something of a drag as it will take hours to get from Newcastle to the south coast. I may split the journey by travelling to London, fit in a museum visit, and then head on to Bournemouth. The hotel cost came as something of a shock! However, since we haven't been on holiday for 8 years (try finding someone to look after a farm for a week!) the holiday budget is in something of a surplus, so I won't be sleeping out on a camp bed on the beach!

I've had a quick look through the agenda and found a motion on food and farming. I may put in to speak! I haven't read the other motions yet. That's something to do over the next 4 weeks.

So, I'm looking forward to meeting up in person with friends I haven't seen for a few years. Let's hope they still remember who I am!

Tell Keir

I spotted an article this morning on the Journal website about the deficit that councils are facing. The national figure was a shortfall of £5 billion by 2025/26. The figure for Gateshead was £45.9 million. This is not an unfamiliar figure on the council as the state of the finances of the authority are regularly discussed by councillors. The ruling Labour side blame the Lib Dems in coalition for every problem the borough endures but the Labour blame game could unravel if Labour win the next general election. They have already made clear there will be no additional spending. As with so many issues, a Labour government after the next general election will be a change in management, but not a change is direction. Perhaps Labour in Gateshead need to tell Keir that the country needs more than a watered down Conservative party in power.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Opening King Arthur's garden


The Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside has a new area - King Arthur's garden. It was opened by the Mayor, Cllr Eileen McMaster, on 29th July. The video covered the opening ceremony.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Wilko worries


We have 2 Wilko stores in Gateshead, one at the Interchange, the other at the Metrocentre. Both are substantial in size and lots of residents work in them. The announcement yesterday that Wilko have gone into administration is worrying for both the staff and the local economy. Let's hope the company is able to find a buyer though that does not guarantee stores will remain open.

Wilko's store is the biggest in the Interchange Centre and its closure will be a significant blow to the viability of this location. I am not someone who visits any shops regularly but I did sometime use Gateshead Wilko to buy an eclectic mix of goods, from hardware to beer making kits. The loppers pictured above came from that store a few years ago. Ironically, as the news of the company going into administration was released yesterday, my trusty Wilko loppers disintegrated while chopping fuel for our stove.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

History Society meeting

 Last night I chaired the monthly meeting of Sunniside History Society in Sunniside Social Club. An interesting meeting that included a video produced about 20 years ago by the Society of Bronte country. The next meeting on 6th September is the AGM followed by a talk by me about what history taught me about self-sufficiency. The meeting starts at 7pm. £1 for members, £2 for non-members.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Low Fell eFocus no. 127

 Team Low Fell have just published their latest eFocus, no. 127. Issues covered include:

  • Council backs down on Valley Drive;
  • Trees on Dryden Road;
  • New bus shelter on Durham Road;
  • Chowdene Bank cut back
  • Albert Drive lighting.