Friday, August 18, 2017

The UK's Trump style wall

One of the key hopes of Brexit supporters is the imposition of extensive border controls. Leaving the EU, they told us, would give the UK the ability to control who comes in to the country. An impenetrable iron curtain of gleaming razor wire, pill boxes and border guards would keep out all those foreigners intent of coming to the UK to work, pay taxes and win medals for us at international sporting events.

Quite how the government's newly announced proposals for our only land border to be "seemless" and totally open squares with the top Brexit demand of taking control of our borders is almost impossible to answer. After March 2019, anyone wanting to enter the UK simply has to come via Ireland. Taking control of our borders? That only works with a Trump style wall and the government has already indicated that will not be built. This key demand of Brexit is therefore unworkable, as is the case with so many other hopes of the Brexit lobby.

Meeting Marley Hill Bowling Club

Jonathan Wallace at Marley Hill Bowls Club Aug 17

Gateshead are undertaking a review of bowling greens and the likelihood is that many will be mothballed if they are not taken over by the clubs currently using them. I strongly support the idea that organisations of local users are better placed to take on the running of local facilities. Gateshead is pursuing this course of action because of austerity. It is something I believe should be implemented regardless of whether or not the government is cutting our funding.

Yesterday therefore I had a meeting with Marley Hill Bowling Club to talk them through what they need to do to be able to take over the bowling green. It was a useful and at times entertaining meeting. Members of the club are keen to go ahead and I have promised to do all I can to help them. Sadly I had to turn down the offer of a game of bowls as I had other tasks to carry out after the meeting.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Blaming the Allies for the Second World War

It seems that the saga of the Trump comments on Charlottesville's white supremacist parade is not going away and is indeed being fueled by Trump himself. His attempt to put some of the blame for the violence on anti-Nazi protesters reads more like an apology for the far right. 

Today he describes the statues of defeated Confederate generals as "beautiful". "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he tweeted. I wonder whether he knows his own nation's history. The people represented in the statues actually wanted to rip up the USA. These statues are now regarded as symbols of white supremacy, racism and slavery. 

I wonder what comments he'll spew forth next? Perhaps he will blame the Allies (as well as Hitler) for the 2nd World War. 

Remembering Elvis

Those of us old enough to be around in 1977 will probably remember what we were doing when we heard the news that Elvis Presley had died (the 40th anniversary of his death was yesterday). It's our Kennedy moment (I missed the Kennedy assassination as I was born only a few hours after he died.) I remember sitting in the living room of our house at Lobley Hill,  Gateshead, and hearing the news on the radio that Elvis was no more. I had not been long out of hospital as I had been in the children's ward at the Queen Elizabeth for a couple of months after being hit by a car while crossing Consett Road.

As this was before the era of wall-to-wall 24 hour news coverage (even the 3 terrestrial channels then weren't 24 hour), I had to wait for the evening news at 5.45pm to see how it was reported. Sure enough, the news led on the death of Elvis. Interviews with upset fans outside Graceland were broadcast. Radio One (then only broadcasting on medium wave) played one Elvis hit after another.

It would be interesting to see how many of today's music stars will be able to rival Elvis's staying power forty years from now. I just hope I will be around to find out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What is the point of that?

The government today are suggesting that a temporary customs union be set up between the EU and UK. Since we already have a customs union across the EU, of which the UK is part, in effect the government are asking for a delay to the full implementation of Brexit to avoid the economy and business prosperity from being dragged over a cliff. All this raises the issue of what is the point of what the government are doing? The government want to demolish the customs arrangements with the EU and replace them with a new arrangement that aims to do  the same, the only difference being that a whole new, expensive bureaucracy has to be created to run the system. It would be so much easier to stay in the existing customs union.

And going into the future, the Brexiteers say they want a frictionless border where customs issues are not relevant. This must surely be the opposite of the UK being in control of its borders. In effect, the Brexiteers want a closed border that is open. "Having their cake and eating it" is something that springs to mind. Let's hope the cake doesn't get stuck for ages at the UK border. Brexiteers eating stale food would be most unfortunate!

Monday, August 14, 2017

It must be summer

The title is not a reference to the rainy weather. Instead, it is about how daft, unrealistic political stories make it into the headlines. August always sees a famine of real political issues so the nation's army of political journalists, rather than shutting up, puts fingers to keyboards to write rubbish (some would argue they do that all year round).

So what are the mad political stories doing the rounds this week? Apparently Jacob Rees-Mogg is a possible Tory leadership contender in the event of Theresa May crashing and burning (again). Quite how the Member of Parliament for the Eighteenth Century can be the saviour of the Tories is not explained but a scenario of Rees-Mogg as PM is more like a nightmare than a summer fantasy.

Then there is the story of calls for UKIP and Plaid Cymru to work together in Wales. Given my experience of working in politics in North Wales over 20 years ago, I'm not sure which of those parties is the worst.

But the biggest joke story of the summer season was the claim by Philip Hammond and Liam Fox that they are both working together in a show of forced unity to keep returning the returning Prime Minister happy. Given a bit of time, the rows will start again.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Rained off at Swalwell

Swalwell Fayre Aug 17 1

The great British summer - don't we just love them!? Well, no actually! I went along to the Swalwell Community Fayre yesterday along with 2 of my goats (Pinkie and Snow), set up our table to sell our preserves and then watched as the rain came down. We sheltered under trees to keep dry. The goats proved popular with the visitors to the fayre. They also chomped their way through brambles growing wild around the fringe of the park, thus saving Gateshead taxpayers a vast sum of money in clearing them!

I love local community fayres but this year I have experienced two that have been rained off. Alas, we cannot control the weather.

Swalwell Fayre Aug 17 4

Swalwell Fayre Aug 17 3

Swalwell Fayre Aug 17 5

Creating space at the Whinnies Community Garden

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (1)

On the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside, in the bottom end of one of the old allotments, was a huge pile of sticks, branches and tree trunks. It was a bit of a hindrance to get into our Farside allotment. Over the past week, I have been helping the volunteers to shred branches and chop logs. The end result is a large new space that can be used by the volunteers in the future and a heap of mulch.

Photos before (above) and after (below).

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And a few action shots:

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shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (2)

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shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (3)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Swalwell Fayre

Swalwell Community Group are holding a summer fayre in Swalwell Park on Saturday 12th August from 12pm - 4pm. There will be fairground rides, animals, stalls and much more. All welcome. Funds raised will help pay for the Swalwell Christmas tree.

Look out for the stall selling jam!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Labour wrangling over Metro investment

It seems as though the Labour controlled NECA is intent on pulling out of investment in the Tyne and Wear Metro if the government pushes ahead with the option of a PFI deal for new trains. The aging fleet needs replacement as it is 40 years old and is approaching the end of its shelf-life. NECA has written to the government threatening to walk away from a PFI deal, even though it was the system of choice for the Labour government. I don't disagree with the sentiment. PFI deals have been expensive and have left the taxpayer with on-going bills. My preference is for the government to invest the capital directly in the system. But the world is what it is. Sometimes we have to live with decisions that aren't to our liking. The Metro is of crucial strategic importance to the region. If it grinds to a halt because the Tory government and Labour council leaders are wrangling over the form the investment should take, the travelling public in the North East will not be very forgiving.