Sunday, October 23, 2016

Helping at the Whinnies CommunityGarden

Whinnies Community Garden Oct 16 (2)

Yesterday morning I gave 3 hours of my time to help out at the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside, a minute's walk from my house. Much of the work involved moving large quantities of branches chopped from the extensive hedges on the site. I took them to my goats (which are also kept on the site). It was the equivalent of fast food for them.  I also helped weed some beds and build a raised bed (see photo above). I left at 1.30pm as I had another event to attend.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Village community looks to take on local facilities

Marley Hill tennis courts Oct 16 1

I was contacted recently by a friend and constituent in Marley Hill to ask for advice on taking over the running of the tennis courts in the village. I went up last night, after finishing a meeting at Gateshead Civic Centre about appointing a new council chief exec.

The courts in question have largely been ignored by the council over the years, even when money was available for the council to look after such facilities. Kids have often painted their own lines on the ground and put up makeshift nets.

The proposal from my constituent is that he takes over the running of the courts and uses one for football for kids, the other for tennis. I said he is pushing at an open door but suggested he moved forward gradually, walk rather than run to start off. I advised that he does some low level maintenance such as sweeping up rubbish and clearing vegetation from around the edge of the site and on the courts themselves where it is growing through the tarmac.

So hopefully, a community group will be established which will turn a neglected facility into a community asset.

Marley Hill tennis courts Oct 16 3

"Cruelly" inflicting Focus deliveries

I awoke this morning to the voice of Labour’s Tom Watson MP explaining why falling to 3rd place and a reduction in the Labour share of the vote in the Witney by-election was a good result for Labour. He had a go at the Lib Dems for sending 100 peers to a constituency he claimed we knew we couldn’t win. He said it was “cruel”! I have lots of bundles of Focuses still to deliver so I’m happy to cruelly inflict them on anyone who wants a bit of exercise on local streets! The fact is however that we had a pretty good result on Thursday in Witney, caused by the resignation of David Cameron as he makes a quick getaway from politics. Rising from 4th to 2nd place and 7% to 30% was a healthy performance. Watching UKIP collapse into 5th place was especially enjoyable.

We need to avoid reading too much into one by-election result. Nevertheless, it was progress but there is still a long way to go.

And if you want to deliver some Focuses, get in touch.......

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Delivering in Ryton

Ryton Focus Oct 16 (1)

My campaigning job today was to deliver 140 Focuses in Ryton. The newsletter led on the news that dumping at nearby Pathhead landfill site is to stop at the end of January. Also included was a bit about my selection as candidate for Blaydon. We also had a bit in about voting and how many people regret voting Labour since the local elections in May. We had slipped in a bit about the turmoil in UKIP as well but given the continuing UKIP car crash, it was a bit out of date!

Ryton Focus Oct 16 (2)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dog's breakfast boundary review

Boundary review Oct 16

We had a meeting on Monday of a Gateshead Council advisory group to consider the review of Parliamentary constituencies. Under the electoral quota, Gateshead is entitled to 1.89 constituencies. We currently have 2 that are fully within Gateshead (Blaydon and Gateshead) and a couple of wards in Jarrow. Under the new proposals, we will not have a single constituency fully in Gateshead. Instead, we will have bits of 6. It is clearly a mess though clearing it up does not look easy.

What struck me was the expectation held by Labour that others, particularly the Conservatives, will pull the irons out of the fire for Labour. A belief that Conservative MPs will force the proposals to be abandoned was expressed by some Labour councillors. Others talked about public opinion needing to be won over to get the plans thrown out. One said she had already talked to "people" in her ward who expressed concern that the proposed constituency was so vast, it would take ages to get to "constituency meetings". And there lies a typical problem of the current Labour party: they talk to themselves, not the people outside the Labour party.

I warned the meeting that this was an issue that was barely on the radar screens of ordinary residents. Generating a public campaign of opposition to the boundaries was very unlikely to happen. I also pointed out that the system of single-member, first-past-the-post constituencies, supported by Labour, is always going to be a mess in terms of boundaries. To be fair to Labour, one of their members did say that winning over public opinion was going to be very difficult as people generally are favourable to reducing the number of politicians.

My own constituency of Blaydon is completely broken up. The biggest chunk, including my own ward, is joined up with a part of western Newcastle. Given the complexity that will need to be overcome when general and local elections are held on the same day, the last job in the world I would want to have is an electoral officer!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lone Woolfe

So, Steven Woolfe, so committed to the UKIP cause he aspired to lead, has abandoned them to go it alone, citing the ungovernable mess and the "rotten" state of the party. A rather sorry state of affairs but sadly for UKIP, one of their unique selling points now seems to be under threat from the Conservatives. Previously, UKIP had been the home to all the swivel-eyed loonies, obsessive, anti-European fruitcakes and anyone who hated the modern world. Step forward Conservative Councillor Christian Holliday, who believes those who argue in favour of the EU should be regarded as engaging in treasonable activity and be sent to prison.

Presumably, under Cllr Holliday's system of justice, Boris Johnson would have been arrested 2 days before he joined the Leave campaign.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Speaking at the pro-Europe rally in Newcastle

I was invited to be one of the speakers at the pro-Europe rally at Grey's Monument in Newcastle yesterday. I was on at 2pm, just before John Shipley, former Lib Dem leader of Newcastle Council and now a Lib Dem peer. My speech concentrated on the dangers to foreign businesses and jobs of Brexit and on the dangers of the Right using the referendum vote as a sign to take the UK back to the social conformity of the 1950s, rolling back the decades of the growing acceptance of diversity. Overall the speech seemed to go well. You can see it on the video above.

Fugar- the video

Yesterday, the Sunniside History Society and the Mayor of Gateshead, Cllr Allison Thomspon, unveiled the information panel about Fugar House as part of the Hidden Heritage project we are running. The House has been largely forgotten and the project aims to draw out the history not just of the house but of the Washingwell/Watergate area.

My job was to provide the medieval catering for the day!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Unveiling the Fugar information panel

Fugar information panel unveiling Oct 16 (4)

I have been helping to run a project with the Sunniside History Society about the Fugar/Washingwell area in my ward in Gateshead. There are thee parts to the project: 1269 to modern day, the Roman period and the restoration of the derelict historic orchard at Fugar. We are still on part one of the project though it is nearing completion with the installation of an information panel about Fugar House which was demolished in the early 1950s. The unveiling of the panel took place this morning, Saturday 15th October, by the Mayor, Cllr Allison Thompson.

Fugar information panel unveiling Oct 16 (9)

My role was to be the medieval catering chef for the event. I made a big pan of medieval pottage. I tried to make it as close as possible to how pottage would have been made in the 13th century. It contained pigeon, rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, beans, cabbage, onions and half a nutmeg. I brought it to the event ready made in one of our large catering pans wrapped in a duvet in the back of our Defender. Attendees seemed to like it!

Fugar information panel unveiling Oct 16 (1)

Fugar information panel unveiling Oct 16 (2)

Beating the rations to win the Swalwell quiz

Swalwell Community Centre quiz Oct 16 1

Last night Swalwell Community Centre had their pie and pea supper and quiz. I decided to go but as I normally bomb out of quizzes, I wasn't expecting to win any prizes - sport, entertainment and mucis rounds are usually killers for me. I was on a team named the Goat Lovers (not my idea!) along with my David, my brother Andrew, his friend Matt and Whickham North Councillor Sonya Hawkins though she valiantly struggled through a recent bout of illness to get there.

Contrary to expectations, we won the first bonus prize for the question, what was the last food to come off rationing and in which year? (Meat, 1954 - June to be precise.) Prize was a box of chocolate brazil nuts. And we managed 5 out of six on one of the music rounds. We ended up coming first in the quiz. Top prize was a box of Celebrations and £20 (which we donated back). So a good evening out.

Swalwell Community Centre quiz Oct 16 3

Swalwell Community Centre quiz Oct 16 4

Swalwell Community Centre quiz Oct 16 2