Wednesday, January 10, 2018

First Focus of the New Year


Focuses Jan 18

I was back in the Lib Dem office in Consett last night to print one side of the first Focus of the new year in Gateshead. A whole pile of them came off the printing machine and are currently sitting on the desk waiting to have the other side printed tomorrow. I expect to be walking the streets soon with a large bundle of leaflets in my hands!

Monday, January 08, 2018

Berated for being Labour in Sunderland by-election

Pallion by-election Jonathan Wallace Jan 18

I headed over to Sunderland yesterday to help the Lib Dem candidate Martin Haswell in the Pallion by-election. The ward is a Labour stronghold, home to the late leader of the council, Paul Watson, who died after a long battle with cancer in November.

I set off in the morning to deliver 200 letters and then, in the afternoon, I was sent to an estate to deliver a Labour squeeze leaflet. For more years than I can recall, I have knocked on doors and delivered leaflets as a Lib Dem. And once in a while I get shouted at and receive the occasional bit of abuse as a Lib Dem. All that I can cope with! But yesterday, a gentleman started shouting at me about how we haven't done anything for years in the area despite controlling the council! I explained that I was a Lib Dem, not Labour. He looked again at the leaflet and on looking at the inside, accepted my protestations of innocence. I guess the big headline on the outside of the leaflet saying "Inside: Labour's plan for our area" could inadvertently and momentarily give the incorrect impression that it was a Labour leaflet when clearly it was from the Lib Dems.

Anyway, the gentleman in question explained he had voted Labour in the past but was now fed up with them and was voting for us. He gave me back the leaflet, telling me he had already had lots of them from us and his mind was already made up to vote for us.

Let's hope this is a good omen for the result on 1st February.

Norman Lamb in Sunderland

Norman Lamb Sunderland Lib Dems Jan 18 (1)

Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb MP was in Sunderland last Friday to help out in the Pallion by-election and to be the guest speaker at a local Lib Dem dinner at the Arabesque Egyptian restaurant in the evening. I was busy through the day but I was able to attend the dinner. Norman and I worked together 10 years ago when he was Lib Dem Shadow Business Secretary and I was the party's policy officer dealing with the DTI. So it was good to catch up.

Norman built up a strong and positive reputation while he was care minister in the Coalition and it is very much down to him that mental health issues are taken more seriously by the NHS. He spoke about this in his speech but also talked about the millions of people who feel dispossessed from politics because of a failure by the parties that represent them to engage with them. Sunderland is of course a classic example of this as Labour have been running the council for as long as people can remember yet outside an election, the ruling party is noticeable for its almost non-existent profile.

So, a good speech by Norman and a great event, attended by 40 people, which helped to boost the Sunderland party's funds.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Goodbye 2017. Don't ring us, we'll ring you

So how was it for you? 2017 I mean! For me it was not a vintage year. My Dad died in May and his sister, my Auntie Hazel, died on Christmas Day. My friend Richard has been in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for most of the second half of the year. He was rushed in by ambulance in early July and on his times out of hospital, David and I have been his carers. Much of what I planned for the second half of 2017 therefore simply didn't happen. And much of what I planned for the first half of the year was sacrificed to that bloody general election campaign with its worrying return to two party politics. This was meant to be the year off from elections in Gateshead. It turned out to be nothing of the sort. 

Meanwhile Brexit is all-consuming and Trump reveals his innermost thoughts on Twitter (easily done given the restriction of 140 characters on tweets.) Politics has been something like a bad dream in 2017 from which it has been impossible to wake up.

Meanwhile, on the self-sufficiency side, my beautiful billy goat Spotless died suddenly in April. Spot, one of our nanny goats, rejected one of her two babies and we ended up hand raising a kid during the election campaign. Sadly, he died suddenly in June after winning lots of fans at the Whinnies Community Garden where he lived. In January, we found all our bees had died (fortunately we have since been able to replace them but we have therefore had no honey production this year).

So 2017, thank you and goodbye. In 2018, things can only get better. Now, where have I heard that before!?

Friday, December 29, 2017

"Green crap" fuels clean energy revolution

2017 was the UK's greenest year yet in terms of generating electricity. Low carbon sources in June generated more electricity than coal and gas combined for the first time ever. In April, we had our first ever 24 hour period in which coal was not burnt at all. Since 2012, carbon emissions by the electricity industry have halved. All great news.

Go back to the Coalition and you will be reminded of the discontent in the Conservatives' ranks about the Lib Dems' green policies which we were implementing. Remember how even David Cameron referred to it as the Lib Dems' "green crap." That same "green crap" is fueling the clean energy revolution, another one of the many benefits of having Lib Dems in government.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Putting Whickham on the map

The consultation on boundaries for the new Parliamentary constituencies came to an end earlier this month. The previous proposals would have taken a wrecking ball to Gateshead and the borough would have been split between 6 (or was it 7? - I have lost count) constituencies. The new proposals create a Gateshead West constituency (covering the old town of Gateshead, Whickham and Birtley), a revised Blaydon (covering Blaydon, Rowlands Gill, Ryton and, more controversially, a chunk of western Newcastle) and Jarrow and Gateshead East (the Gateshead bits are effectively the Felling area).So, in summary, Gateshead will have one full constituency and two in which wards of Gateshead form a significant part.

These proposals taken together are a significant improvement. The issue now is the name of the Gateshead West constituency. I believe that Whickham should be included, so my submission to the Boundary Commission's consultation made a case for this. It is a view not universally held: when it was discussed at a Gateshead Council advisory group, Labour Leader Martin Gannon dismissed the proposal to include Whickham with the words, "Not on your life!"

Anyway, here is my submission to the Boundary Commission consultation:

The proposed Gateshead West constituency covers a logical and sensible geographic area and avoids communities being split. However the name could be potentially misleading. A further 5 wards of Gateshead Council to the west of the Gateshead West constituency will be in the revised Blaydon constituency. It is therefore not an accurate description. The name of Gateshead on its own has significant historical recognition in terms of the old Gateshead town forming the eastern part of the new constituency.

Furthermore, Whickham is the 2nd biggest town in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, beaten only by the town of Gateshead itself. The name "Whickham" appears in three of the 22 wards in Gateshead.

The only other town in Gateshead to appear in the name of more that one ward is Dunston which appears in two (Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward and Dunston and Teams ward). Dunston historically is part of Whickham. The historic area of Whickham will therefore constitute nearly 40% of the constituency.


I therefore propose that instead of "Gateshead West", which could be confusing to many, the name of the new constituency should be "Gateshead and Whickham".

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Hilarious Labour by-election leaflet cock-up

Labour leaflet Pallion Dec 17-page-0

There is a by-election in Pallion ward of Sunderland Council. At the last by-election in the city in January, Labour got an absolute kicking from the voters when their vote was slashed by two thirds and the Lib Dems went from 4th place on 4% to 1st place with over 40%. So, for Pallion, Labour are a bit more prepared....or are they?

This time, Labour have learnt that getting leaflets through doors is an important campaigning technique. Sadly (for them) they haven't learnt to check content! Have a look at the Labour leaflet above. Ignore the crassly posed photo and the unconvincing finger pointing. Read the text instead. Suggesting that one of your own "senior" councillors is responsible for the litter, fly tipping and dog fouling in the local community is probably not what they intended claiming. Labour really should have got someone to read through it before printing it and then putting it through every door in the ward.

I guess it should be a lesson to all of us!

I understand that litter and dog fouling are important issues in this by-election. Labour are posing as the saviours to sort out the problem. Residents however are unlikely to be fooled by finger-pointing poses in photos. They will, of course, recall that the council has been run by Labour since the Stone Age and they've had plenty of time to sort out the problem.

Sunniside Focus

Sunniside Focus Dec 17-page-0

Before Christmas, we delivered our latest Focus for the villages of Sunniside, Streetgate, Marley Hill and Byermoor. It led with the issue of the rejection of plans for the land to the south of Marley Hill to be used for motorbike scrambling and 4X4 off-road driving. Also included were articles about the Sunniside Christmas tree, Marley Hill Community Centre asset transfer, house-building at the former Marley Hill school and Vince as party leader.

Sunniside Focus Dec 17-page-1

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Is this UKIP leaflet legal?

UKIP leaflet Dec 17 (1)

This UKIP leaflet was delivered with the post by the Royal Mail yesterday. Wanting a moment's amusement, I sat down to read it. Point one: it has no imprint. Is this legal, especially given that this is a leaflet paid for by the "Europe of  Freedom and Direct Democracy" group in the European Parliament, financed by European taxpayers?

Point two: on the back page is a photo of the North East's UKIP MEP next to a photo of Nigel Farage. I have a small confession - I cannot remember the name of the current UKIP leader and frankly, I can't be bothered to look it up. Farage however was 3 or 4 leaders ago (sorry I've rather lost count). It doesn't say much for the recently elected Mr Forgetable that his own MEPs won't mention him in UKIP literature.

Point three: the leaflet claims UKIP have proposed "390 ways to cut the money the European Union spends from our taxes each year." Can I suggest number 391? Don't spend EU money on UKIP leaflets such as this one! I understand this leaflet is going out across the country, regionalised as appropriate. That's a great deal of taxpayers' money that could be saved.

Point four: we live in a democracy so I have no problem with political literature coming through my door with which I disagree. Others receiving this leaflet who do agree with the contents will have difficulty contacting UKIP as there was not a single bit of contact information. No email address, no website, no phone numbers, no postal address. Nothing. This is a classic howler for any political party, though in this instance I'm not complaining!

UKIP leaflet Dec 17 (2)