Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Microscope at the ready

This has to be one of the worst Labour leaflets I have seen for some years. It is Labour's election leaflet in my ward of Whickham South and Sunniside. It is littered with meaningless statements and incomplete sentences. The photo however takes the biscuit. The candidate is a tiny figure against a huge monolith. You almost need a microscope to see him. 

This is the sort of photo that is used in training sessions on taking photos for leaflets. 

Vote for change by voting no change - Labour


It may be a late arrival but nevertheless, it's still funny! Yes, Labour have produced a leaflet in Low Fell for the local elections. For Labour, Low Fell is a place where they fly tip their failed candidates and rejects from elsewhere in Gateshead. Their current candidate is Robert Waugh who, until May last year was councillor for the neighbouring Saltwell ward. 

Saltwell had been solidly Labour since the dawn of time so Mr Waugh can lay claim to the title of "He who lost a rock solid Labour ward to the Lib Dems." So what nuggets of political though has Mr Waugh dreamt up during his enforced leave from Gateshead Council? Well, this one caught my attention. "Real change for the area can only be made by the party in power." In other words, the party in power remains the same and change only comes about within that party. Meanwhile, the rest of us hold the view that change requires one political party to be replaced as the governing party by another party (or parties).

The idea that voting Labour in Gateshead is a vote for change is ludicrous. Labour have been in power on the council for 50 years - the entire time Gateshead Council has existed.

But stick with Labour's logic for a moment. If they are arguing that people should vote for the party that is in power (as they do in Gateshead), to be consistent they are presumably arguing at the national level that people should vote Conservative. After all, "Real change for the area can only be made by the party in power."

Meanwhile, Mr Waugh states that the Lib Dems have been in power for the past 14 years. History is clearly not his strong point.

And finally, Mr Waugh claims that if elected he would be the "loudest" of the Low Fell members. Sadly, many other people are yet to experience even a fraction of a decibel from him. Last year when the council debated the Lib Dem amendment calling for funding to be made available to keep leisure centres open in Gateshead, then Councillor Waugh had nothing to say on the matter. Rather than being the loudest, if appears he took a vow of silence.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Take a "Chanse" on me

The Green Party have changed their candidate in Crawcrook and Greenside in Gateshead. Ordinarily, that is not a significant issue....except Crawcrook and Greenside is their target seat in Gateshead....or so it was. The change of candidate hampers the ability to win, for any party in a ward that is of interest to them. I hear from people on the ground that there is less activity from the Greens in the ward this year, compared to previous elections. Labour are defending the ward. Before the Coalition, it was a Lib Dem held ward. And before that, it was Labour.

The new Green candidate is called Pat Chanse. The Greens' chances of winning anywhere in Gateshead are remote. The non-continuity of their candidate in Crawcrook and Greenside simply makes the Greens' task that much more difficult.

However, the Greens' focus may have moved. They are putting in some effort into Bridges ward, where Labour hold all 3 seats but their reach into the ward is limited. Typically they get amongst the lowest vote of any winning candidate in Gateshead. There is no such thing as a safe seat.

Ione on the campaign trail


I was in Ryton again yesterday, campaigning for Steve Kelly. I was delighted we were joined by Ione Rippeth who retired as Councillor for Ryton in 2012. She is still remembered fondly by local residents after 12 years. This ward will be one of the ones to watch in the early hours of Friday morning.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Where are the Green policies?


The Green Party in Gateshead have added Bridges ward to their list of hopefuls in the local elections on 2nd May. The hopeful list is rather short however - the only other seat they are targeting is Crawcrook and Greenside. (But it is better than the Tories who have no target seats here) I was sent the Greens' Bridges ward leaflet recently. Presentationally, it is an improvement on other Green leaflets I've seen. What is more interesting however is the almost complete lack of any Green policies. The candidate is seen out and about in the ward but, apart from a passing reference to cheap public transport, there is nothing else Green in their leaflet. Nor is there any use of the word "environment".

Perhaps the Greens have taken a leaf out of Labour's campaign manual - don't mention any policy. Starmer would be proud of them!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

This is like gold dust


This is like gold dust - a Conservative local election leaflet in Gateshead! I haven't seen one of these for about 30 years. I picked this one up in Ryton last week. I don't reckon for a moment that this is evidence of the Conservatives taking an interest in elections to Gateshead Council. Instead, this is everything to do with the general election and changed constituency boundaries. Blaydon constituency (Labour held) has been broken up with the western part (including Ryton) being merged with a neighbouring County Durham seat (won by the Conservatives from Labour in 2019) to make the new constituency of Consett and Blaydon. So, territory won by the Conservatives in 2019 is being defended by them with new territory added to it.

The chances of the Conservatives winning Consett and Blaydon are microscopically thin but they clearly want to go down fighting. Hence the local election leaflet.

The Liz Truss car crash interview


Not one for the squeamish! Liz Truss, briefly Prime Minister in 2022, was interviewed by Sky News this morning. Her explanation for why things went wrong was because everyone else messed up, but not her. She then went on to attack Net Zero. And finally, asked who she wanted to win the US Presidental election, she immediately said Trump, whereas the answer should have been, "That's for the American people to decide." The whole interview was a car crash. Please please please everyone, contact the broadcasters and demand more of Liz Truss on prime time tv! The entertainment value alone is worth her weight in gold, regardless of the damage she does to the Conservative party!

Campaigning in Ryton


I was in Ryton yesterday campaigning in the local elections for the Lib Dem candidate Steve Kelly. We were on the main road and used a couple of our newly arrived large diamond posters. We certainly got noticed by passing motorists. Thumbs up from lots of people plus two fingers from one person and another who shouted "vote Reform" at us! This latter person may have difficulty trying to cast his vote for Reform. They have only one candidate in Gateshead (there are 22 wards),  in Chowdene, some considerable distance from Ryton.

We also had a team out doing what I call the mop up. In other words people were delivering the final few patches of leaflets. Response from people they spoke to was that many of them had already voted by post for Steve.

So anecdotally, the feeling is positive. We are certainly expecting a significantly improved performance in the ward.

Published and promoted by Andy Coleman on behalf of Steve Kelly (Liberal Democrats), all at 5 Wealcroft Court, Gateshead, NE10 8NR

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Low Fell eFocus no. 133

 Low Fell Lib Dems have just published edition 133 of their email newsletter - eFocus. Issues covered include:

  • Sewage on Durham Road;
  • Daniel and the Focus Team need your support;
  • Clean up on Kells Lane/Home Avenue cut;
  • Call to scrap "snails pace" Gateshead High Street plans.

You can read Low Fell eFocus on this link.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Candidates in Gateshead

With postal votes starting to arrive in Gateshead, I thought I would look at the candidates on offer. Polling day is Thursday 2nd May, and one third of the council is up for grabs. This is the last local election under the current boundaries. In 2026, the new ones will come into use though the changes are relatively small.

There are 22 seats on the council up for election. Labour, Lib Dems and the Conservatives are fielding 22 candidates each. There are 18 Greens, 5 Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and 2 independents. That is not the whole story however. There are a splattering of other parties. Firstly, Reform UK are fielding one candidate in Chowdene and none elsewhere. Given their current opinion poll ratings, the lack of any Reform candidates in the other 21 seats suggests Reform UK have failed to grow any grassroots. The party may just be a creation of the opinion polls and has no party machine to speak of. Yet this is crucial for delivering winning council and general election campaigns.

The North East Party is fielding one candidate. I have no idea what they stand for. Perhaps they want independence for the North East. My prediction is that they are facing a an uphill struggle.

Another party that has only one candidate is "Save Us Now", standing in Dunston Hill and Whickham East, The key message of this "party" is that they believe that lamp posts are killing people through some kind of radiation. They have stood previously and got nowhere. I can't throw any light onto what else they believe in.

And finally, what is it about the Conservatives and "Ventnor"? There are 4 candidates with addresses in Ventnor Crescent and Ventnor Gardens in Saltwell. Interestingly, Saltwell was the most marginal ward in Gateshead last year when the Lib Dems won the seat from Labour by just 58 votes. In the consultation on new ward boundaries Labour lobbied for Ventnor Crescent and Ventnor Gardens to be moved to neighbouring Low Fell ward, a strong Lib Dem area. The Lib Dems in Gateshead have developed significant skills for squeezing the 3rd party. Labour would have had a better chance of winning in Saltwell in 2026 without the Ventnors. Sadly for Labour, the local government boundary commissioners decided to keep the streets in Saltwell!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

What's the point of privatisation of Thames Water?

The recent default of Thames Water on loans in the past few days has highlighted how the funding of the water industry and infrastructure has fallen apart. There is talk now of renationalisation or some degree of government intervention.

Privatisation of water back in the late 1980s was done because of the need to raise capital to invest in and modernise the water supply service. After decades of neglect in the public sector, starved of money by governments which had other priorities, the transfer to the private sector relieved the government of the need to stump up the capital needed to move the industry on from its decrepit state. Private companies could raise the capital needed by borrowing at commercial rates or issuing new shares or a combination of both. Pension funds in particular were interested in becoming shareholders as water was regarded as a good long term investment. But of course, in the case of Thames Water, it has all gone horribly wrong.

Add to the financial crisis the impact of climate change and the company is facing a battering. Climate change with increased rainfall will lead to a drainage system that is already unable to cope becoming an even bigger problem. The country has made the mistake of draining rainwater into the sewers so the risk of sewage pouring into overflows and water courses is now a national scandal.

There are no easy solutions to this. One of the most touted is full nationlisation. I believe this is a non-starter. It would mean public money would be used to buy out the other shareholders leaving little if anything to invest in the infrastructure. And nationalisation without compensation would mean stripping the pension funds that have invested in the company of their capital - remember that is cash that belongs to you and me, future or current pensioners.

Do nothing is also an option but is not realistic. It seems to me the only realistic option is a part nationalisation of Thames Water. The government would need to stump up the cash but it will be in the form of new shares in the company. There would be no dividend for years but a recovery by the company could lead to the sale of the publicly owned shares.

It is not ideal and would require public sector investment. At least it keeps the water supply service on its feet rather than crashing and sinking under a flood of debt and sewage.

Monday, April 08, 2024

What if the Entente Cordial was never signed?

Changing of the guard today at Buckingham Palace was different from usual - French soldiers were taking part as part of the celebration of the Entente Cordial which was signed back in 1904. The decision to commit the UK to involvement in the affairs of Europe by aligning ourselves with France in the face of a growing German threat to the stability of the Continent was strengthened over the following years both militarily and diplomatically. 

It was not necessarily a foregone conclusion that the UK was ready to make a Continental commitment before 1904 but gradually British governments (both Conservative and Liberal) realised that what happened in Europe directly impacted on Britain. Far better to be involved in the affairs of Europe to shape outcomes that were more favourable to Britain.

Imagine however if Balfour's Conservative government decided not to sign the Entente Cordial in 1904, and that policy continued by the following Liberal government. If we washed our hands of Europe, German power would have grown to the point where France would have fallen into the orbit of Germany and become a satellite state. Any confrontation between Germany and Russia would have gone in the former's favour as the Tsar would have been without allies. Italy would have continued as a Central Power, adding further to German hegemony of the Continent.

Across the Channel Britain would have bobbed along in the wake of a militaristic and wealthy Germany, isolated and buffeted, gradually dropping in power and status to something similar to France. We may have avoided the First World War but the cost to Britain would have been even more tremendous.

Let's hope that we don't make the mistake that we avoided in 1904. As a European nation we need to influence what happens there. Europe united without Britain  is a danger to Britain. Let's just hope we are not too late to learn that lesson - or are we?