Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Theresa and May - my two ducklings

ducklings June 17

These two ducklings were hatched in one of our incubators last month. They aren't lame but I couldn't resist the temptation to name them Theresa and May. As you would expect, they are very messy and there's a great deal of cleaning to do after them.


So Ed Davey is not standing for the leadership of the Lib Dems. Without Ed in the fray, it almost certainly means there will be no contest. I am disappointed as I wanted there to be a debate (even though I was edging towards supporting Vince) about the future direction of the party. My hope now is that Vince will spend the summer reaching out to the members and will tour the country, giving both members and supporters the opportunity to meet him and hear first hand what he has to say.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bureaucratic Brexit

The underwhelming offer by Theresa May of residency rights to (some) EU citizens resident in the UK will require a vast bureaucracy to ensure it happens. Inspectors will need to be employed to sniff around people's private lives to show they have been resident for 5 years. Thousands of bureaucrats will be needed to sort out the vast number of applications to remain. All of this, of course, means a reduction in the rights of both EU and UK citizens.

The growing bureaucratic empire of civil servants won't end there. A new immigration system will need to be set up and operated so that fruit pickers can be brought into the country (assuming the fruit farms don't close down - no jam tomorrow with Brexit), nurses can be employed (applications are down 96% from the EU) and GP shortages can be filled.

Then there is the bureaucracy needed to run our own regulatory system which we will need to set up in the absence of the EU system. And don't forget the creation of government departments needed to negotiate separate trade agreements with other countries.

Brexit - looking more and more like an employment scheme for bureaucrats.

Kells Lane Fair

Kells Lane Fair June 17 (5)

On Saturday I spent the day at the Kells Lane Fair in Low Fell, Gateshead. I had a table there to sell eggs and preserves from my self-sufficiency venture. I also took along Whinnie, the baby goat we are raising by hand. He turned out to be the big hit of the day. I didn't need to spend time looking after him - people were queuing up to walk him round Kells Lane Park. Cllr Marilynn Ord bagged the biggest time with him!

Whinnie is now the mascot of the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside and his next public outing will be at the fair at the garden on Sunday 16th July. More about that on a later post.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Roll out the barrel

Piglets Jul 12 2

The gay-hating, abortion-banning, creationist-believing DUP have done a deal with the Conservatives which they say, will last 5 years but with a review in 2 years' time. There will be some in the ranks of the Conservatives pleased that the like-minded DUP have Theresa May in a cage. There will however be many liberal Conservatives who will be very unhappy at the state of affairs.

As long as May keeps rolling out the pork barrels for the DUP to spend in Northern Ireland, she, or at least the Conservatives, will likely survive in office. Let's hope for her sake (though not the sake of the nation) she doesn't run out of pork.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Visiting the Ravensworth Arms at Lamesley

Ravensworth Arms Lamesley June 17 (2)

We had a friend staying with us last weekend so we went out for lunch at the Ravensworth Arms at Lamesley. So this post is to wind up the sneering "socialists" of the Blaydon Labour Party on 2 counts. They attack me for eating in "high end" restaurants (I don't think I've ever eaten in such a place) and they spit venom at me because I keep goats (apparently this is a reason they claim for not taking me seriously.) The Ravensworth Arms is not a "high end" restaurant but is a pleasant pub/restaurant that happens to employ local residents. Indeed, I discovered one of the waitresses is a constituent of mine. She recognised me while serving us. She quizzed me about how our baby goat, Whinnie (we are raising him by hand), is doing. He featured in our general election tabloid so clearly my literature is being read and remembered by residents even if they aren't voting for me in large numbers in the general election! (Local elections are a different matter - the last time I got less than half the votes cast was when I was first elected in 1987, and even then I got 48.8%)

It's good to have a life outside politics. My local Labour detractors think otherwise. It will be interesting to see what attacks they will make on me when I am next up for election!

My chance to protest is slipping away!

I see the state visit by Donald Trump is in question. It is likely that 2 stumbling blocks are in the way of Trump's unwelcome sojourn. Firstly, he doesn't want to cross the pond until the Brits have grown to like him. Million-strong demonstrations against him appear not to his liking. If he is waiting for the prospect of people here conducting a mass uturn and deciding he's a good guy after all, he will be waiting beyond his term of office.

The 2nd stumbling block is the state of the government. The Tories have enough licking of self-inflicted wounds to do without adding to their woes of massive demonstrations against hand-holding Theresa and Donald.

It seems therefore that my chance to protest against Trump is slipping away.

Loathsome Leadsom and the politics of patriotism

No party or political movement has a monopoly on patriotism. Any mainstream political party will want to do their best for their country even if the people has differing views on precisely what constitutes the "best". Indeed, I have no problem with any political party using national flags in their promotional material. But shame on those politicians who want to beat the drum of patriotism to drown out coverage of bad decisions and third rate government. Therefore shame on Andrea Leadsom.

There are great reasons to be patriotic about our nation: we are an open liberal democracy with a free media and relative limits on the powers of the executive. These are great characteristics to celebrate throughout the world. So Loathsome Leadsom's demands that the media should be more "patriotic" in their coverage of Brexit is anathema to traditional British values of free speech. The government should not be telling the media how to report anything. Instead, the media has a duty to challenge authority and inform the people, even mock those in power.

Politicians who equate loyalty to the government with patriotism are unfit to govern. Andrea Leadsom has demonstrated that she should not be in office.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Is it to be Vince or Ed?

Jonathan Wallace Vince Cable Mar 15

With the decision of Norman Lamb and Jo Swinson not to stand for the leadership of the Lib Dems, we now have one declared candidate (Vince Cable) and a possible candidate (Ed Davey). We await Ed's announcement. I hope he does stand though I am yet to decide how I will vote if the contest is between the two. I don't like political coronations. It was a disaster for Labour when Brown was appointed without opposition. The same mistake is now stalking the Conservatives with Theresa May now giving a completely new meaning to "strong and stable".

The party should have a contest and a relatively short debate over the summer about the future direction of the party and especially how we put the brakes on the return to two party politics. So I am hoping Ed will throw his hat in the ring.

Of the two, I know Ed better. I worked closely with him when I was in Cowley Street and he stayed a couple of times in my house in Sunniside, Gateshead, when he had engagements here in the North East. He was very appreciative of our home cooking!

Any contest should be over before conference. The interesting issue is: what happens if the Tories fail to get their slimline Queen's Speech through the Commons and there is an autumn election? The coronation route may be the only option though I think an autumn election is unlikely. Sadly, however, I cannot discount it completely.

Jonathan Wallace Ed Davey Mar 15

Congratulations Jo

I'm pleased to see Jo Swinson elected as the Lib Dems' new deputy leader. I was looking through my collection of photos to add one of her to this post but discovered she is one of the few people who is, or has been, a Lib Dem MP whose photo I have not yet taken! This looks like something that will need to be corrected in the near future.

Her re-election to Parliament earlier this month was one of the results that came through after I left the Blaydon count. We were almost home when the declaration was made. It was a nice bit of news to hear after having been buried under a Labour landslide in my own constituency.

I did not have much contact with Jo when I worked for the Lib Dems up to 2009 but somehow she was able to pick me out in a crowd about 4 years ago. I was at a theatre in London to see a stage performance of the Diaries of Chris Mullin. At the interval, everyone poured outside for a bit of fresh air and late evening sunshine. She was with her husband Duncan Hames (then also an MP) and they chatted to me about self-sufficiency and life after Cowley Street.

I suspect, given a few more years, she will be taking on the role of leader.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thank you Tim

Last Wednesday, just a day after Tim Farron announced his resignation, I attempted to take a day off from politics. I had the day set aside for a visit to Beamish Museum. I was about to head out of the door when the phone rang. It was Richard Moss from BBC Look North wanting an interview with me about Tim's resignation. As a friend of Tim from his Newcastle University days, the BBC were after a more personal view of his decision to go. Richard offered to come to my house so I agreed to do the interview in my back garden at 4pm, effectively knocking an hour off my Beamish visit. When I got to the Museum, one of the first people I bumped into was a constituent (who volunteers at Beamish) who was keen to know my views on Tim's resignation!

Back home and Richard and the cameraman arrived. The interview went ahead. Though I was saddened for Tim personally, my view is that Tim was right to resign as his views on gay sex had become a distraction which he failed to close down as an issue. I also wanted to demolish the point that Tim himself is homophobic. I used the example of his invite to myself and David, my partner, back in 2004, to his wedding (there were other gay couples there as well). This hardly strikes me as the actions of a homophobe.

So thank you to Tim for his leadership over the past two years. Despite the sinful distraction, he ensured we were able to hold our own in the snap election. We now need a new leader who can help us stop the return to the awful prospect of two-party politics in which Labour and their Tory mates swap around with each other the occupancy of Whitehall and Downing Street.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Farewell to Dad

funeral flowers June 17 2

Dad died in May and on Monday 12th June we held his funeral at Saltwell Crematorium. A humanist service and a great send-off for Dad was followed by a wake in the Bridle Path in Whickham (which is also run by one of my cousins). Dad was in good health until last year. He had 85 years of good health and one of poor health. He was proud of the fact he still had a head of hair and his own teeth! I'm hoping I've inherited his propensity for good health.

Dad, we will miss you but you've left us with great memories.

funeral flowers June 17 1

David and Jonathan Wallace Oct 16