Sunday, March 31, 2024

Take your seat


There has been a bench next to the Kingsway/Sunniside Road junction in Sunniside for as long as I can remember. It wasn't in a great state but that problem has been resolved. Planting Up Whickham, the new group of volunteers aiming to plant up areas in Sunniside and keep the village looking good, has paid for the bench to be replaced. The work is now done.

Letters and leaflets

We are now well into our next cycle of literature in Birtley ward. I was part of the team out in the ward yesterday. We shifted a significant quantity of both Focuses and letters. I was keeping my eyes peeled for literature from the other parties. I spotted nothing.

I will be back on Tuesday as I still have 2 patches left to deliver. My shoes have not yet been worn out but I suspect I will need a new pair by May.

History Society meeting on Wednesday


The next meeting of Sunniside History Society will be on Wednesday 3rd April at Sunniside Social Club (7pm). The speaker will be Geoff Purcell-Smith who will be speaking on Victorian social reformer Josephine Butler. All welcome.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Late arrival


I had planned to go to Lib Dem conference on Friday last week but a request for a goat meant a change of plan! I am often invited by Whickham Library to bring animals to their fairs. Unfortunately the Library's Easter fair coincided with Lib Dem spring conference so I took the decision to take a couple of goats to the fair on Saturday morning and then head down to York. Ant and Dec, our two young billy goats, were chosen as the animals going to the Library. 

Fortunately the rail journey from Newcastle to York is only an hour so I was at the conference by about 2pm. Now that I am officially old, I have a seniors' railcard, knocking a third off the price of a ticket. As the return fare was only £25, I didn't bother to book a hotel. I simply headed back home in the evening, saving me a ton of cash on hotel bills. It also meant I wasn't forking out on overpriced booze at the conference hotel!

I was back in York on Sunday morning, in time for Alistair Carmichael's speech which was quite entertaining. And of course there was Ed Davey's speech which was notable for a couple of issues which tend to be ignored by politicians generally: proportional representation and Europe. I was back home by 3pm.

Friday, March 15, 2024



This morning I was in the Lib Dem office printing hundreds of letters for Whickham South and Sunniside. Fortunately the folding machine was working, something of a new experience for me! The big job now is to get the letters stuffed into envelopes and then delivered. Expect some shoe leather to be burnt this coming week.

Missing conference

I had booked up for Lib Dem spring conference a few weeks ago with the expectation that I would be attending for the full three days (starting today). And then I got a message from Whickham Voluntary Library asking me if I would bring some animals to their Easter fair tomorrow. I didn't want to let them down and the appearance of lambs and goat kids outside the fair is always popular. So I told them I would bring a couple of our billy goat kids but would leave the fair at 12pm so I could catch the train to York for conference. It was useful that I hadn't got round to booking a hotel for my conference stay. Instead, I will travel down on Saturday afternoon, return home in the evening, then head back down to York first thing on Sunday morning, returning again in the afternoon. The train journey only takes an hour. It works out much cheaper than getting a hotel!

Is this news?

I'm not sure this merits the title of "news" but the PM today announced that there will not be a general election on 2nd May, the same day as the local elections. Is this a case of stating the bleedin' obvious? No PM is likely to voluntarily go early when his/her party is experiencing the loss of over half of their vote share. So, summer, autumn or winter it will be. I believe the latest date for the general election is 25th January. My money, were I a gambling person (I'm not!) would be on late October. That way the UK gets the election over before the US go to the polls. Imagine if we go after the US instead and all our worst nightmares come true and Trump wins. Imagine Labour and the Conservatives trying to explain what sort of relationship they would have with a Trump Whitehouse. That in itself could become a major election issue. 

Sadly, for the UK as a whole, we have months ahead of us of the Tories fighting themselves. While they are kick boxing themselves into potential oblivion Labour will be mouthing vacuous statements in a bid to tell voters nothing about their policies for fear of alienating the great British public. Looks like 2024 will be a year to forget!

Camera shy


We have become so used to online meetings over the past 4 years that in-person meetings now feel rather odd. So, on Tuesday, we had the odd situation of sitting with colleagues at the Gateshead Lib Dem exec at the Civic Centre. We even had sheets of paper rather than sharing something on a screen! The bulk of the meeting was about the local election campaign though Ron Beadle also gave quite a comprehensive report from the council group. That job used to be mine but I happily passed on the baton to Ron when I retired as Group Leader last year.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Dinner time


It seems Lib Dem local parties in the North East have developed a knack of organising fundraising dinners. Last autumn, Gateshead hosted Simon Hughes and Sunderland hosted Wendy Chamberlain MP. Coming shortly to Newcastle is Vince Cable but last week, Sunderland hosted another dinner with Jamie Stone MP as the guest speaker. Jamie is one of the Lib Dem MPs I barely know. He was elected many years after I stopped working for the Lib Dems so, other than his constituency (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) I knew next to nothing about him. He turned out to be quite an entertaining speaker. One of his claims to fame is that he was first elected in 2017, an unexpected victory for the Lib Dems. Given the drubbing we received, his gain of the constituency from the SNP must be regarded as something of a modest miracle!

On a brighter note, though the raffle seemed to go on for ever, I was one of the winners. The bad news is that the scented candle (not quite my thing) will be alighting at the next Sunniside History Society as a raffle prize!