Sunday, September 24, 2017

Now that May and Corbyn share the same policy on Brexit, what next?

It was a move in the right direction when Labour recently shifted their position from complete confusion on Brexit to one in which they support an undefined transition period during which the UK would continued to be in the Single Market. Once the transition was over, Labour policy was to continue with their demands for a hard Brexit. It wasn't much of a move forward, but it was at least a shuffle in the right direction. Then along came Theresa May who knocked up a few air miles to whiz off to Florence to give a speech which announced that the UK would in effect remain in the Single Market for a two year "implementation" period. So now that Labour and the Conservatives are, yet again, hand in hand on the key issue of the day, where next for those who think the UK's national interest is going to be hugely damaged by cutting ourselves off from Europe?

It's time for the sensible wing of the Labour Party to make a stand. They have clearly had a modest success recently by being able to make a small change in the Labour Brexit approach but they need to press harder. It is interesting to note that some MPs and council leaders have backed calls today for Labour to support a policy of staying permanently in the Single Market, something on which the Lib Dems fought the last election. We need to work with like minded people in the Labour party on this issue, just as we have to work with like minded Conservatives.

The response of Corbyn however was both disappointing and expected. Let's face it, he's a Leaver, he always has been and he has not changed his spots now. He views the EU as a capitalist conspiracy against the proletariat which stands in the way of his grand plans to nationalise everything. Corbyn is, of course, wrong. Failing banks were nationalised under the last Labour government. The claim that the EU is forcing privatisation is farcical. The Corbynistas claim for example that the EU would stop them nationalising rail. Such an inaccurate claim is already undermined by previous Labour propaganda which pointed out that many of the companies bidding to run rail services in the UK were nationalised rail operators in other EU countries. Furthermore, the EU did not stand in the way of nationalising the East Coast rail service when National Express handed back the franchise. Labour should at least make their attacks consistent.

The reality is however that Labour are led by a Leaver and getting him to shift from this position will be very difficult. Corbyn has the chance to make a real difference. All he will end up doing is to prop up a Hard Brexit Conservative government.

Bottling up my irritation

I arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead this afternoon to visit my friend Richard. He had asked me to get him a copy of the Daily Mirror so I called into the Amigo shop on level 2 of the hospital (in the super-swanky extension built by the Coalition) and bought the required publication. At the till I was offered an unmissable opportunity to buy a bottle of water at a greatly reduced price, thus "saving" me lots of money. Spending money on a completely unnecessary item does not strike me as a way to "save" money. Moving on from the adaptation of our language so that it means the opposite of what is said, why on earth would I want to buy water in a bottle when we can get top quality water for nowt from a tap?

Furthermore, bottled water comes with an obscene cost to the environment. Huge resources are put into the single-use plastic bottles and vast amounts of fuel are used to move, unnecessarily, this enormous tonnage of water around the country (and often around the globe). Then, large resources are used to collect the waste bottles and dispose of them, though lots of them escape into the environment causing untold damage to ecological systems, all so that people can drink something from a bottle that is already freely available from a tap (or if you are on a meter very cheaply available).

No wonder the health of planet Earth is in such a poor state.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pinkie a success at Chase Park re-opening

Chase Park Fair Sept 17 1

Whickham's Chase Park was officially re-opened today after its £1 million refurbishment, paid for by the Heritage Lottery Find and the Big Lottery Fund. I brought along Pinkie, one of my goats, who is always a hit with people of all ages. She certainly was today. I think she must have been in more photos than anything else in the park today.

I came away from the event today with lots of casework and visits lined up to meet a couple of local organisations.

Chase Park Fair Sept 17 3

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Chase Park reopening this weekend

Whickham windmill Mar 17

Major renovation work on Whickham's historic Chase Park has now been completed. To celebrate the £1 million refurbishment, Friends of Chase Park are holding a re-opening event on Saturday, 23rd September, from 11am to 3pm.

The Mayor of Gateshead, Cllr Pauline Dillon, will lead the re-opening ceremony. There will be lot of entertainment, activities and a fair.

Everyone is welcome to join in the celebrations.

Chase Park entrance renovation Jul 17

The renovation of the Park was the result of the Friends of Chase Park's campaign to restore it to its former glory. A partnership of the Friends and Gateshead Council saw a successful bid for £1 million made to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund. The work was carried out during 2017 and includes:
•​Restoration of the listed windmill, entrance gates, paths and ornamental garden
•​Replanting of flower beds and trees
•​Remodelling and enhancement of the toddler play area
•​Resurfacing of the tennis courts and new table tennis installed 
•​New junior play area and skateboard park
•​Outdoor gym/trim trail 
•​Development of community garden 
•​New benches, signs and interpretations of heritage points of interest.
I'll be there with a couple of my goats (Pinkie and Coal) to promote my self-sufficiency project and to sell preserves.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hooray - home at last!

After leaving Bournemouth yesterday, I headed to London where I stayed overnight. This morning I struggled through the rush hour crowds (I am so pleased I gave up the rat race 8 years ago) to get to Kings Cross and caught a train back to the North East. I couldn't return home immediately. On leaving Newcastle Central Station, I got a taxi to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to visit my friend Richard whose condition deteriorated last week. I remained there until 7pm. I'm back home now! Hooray! And it's not long to go before my first council meeting. It's tomorrow, so I'm straight back into activities.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Photos from Vince's speech

Vince Cable arrives for conference speech Sept 17 (2)

In years gone by, I used to take photos for use by the party of conference. That normally meant being part of the photographers' scrum in front of the leader during the speech. I couldn't resist the temptation so I joined the scrum again. Here are a handful of the photos from Vince's arrival and then his speech.

Vince Cable speech Bournemouth conference Sept 17 (12)

Vince Cable speech Bournemouth conference Sept 17 (19)

Vince Cable speech Bournemouth conference Sept 17 (21)

Vince Cable speech Bournemouth conference Sept 17 (22)

The best lunch at conference

British Association for Shooting and Conservation Sept 17 (4)

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation normally, in my humble opinion, put on the best lunch at conference, and this year was no different. My reason for attending, should you choose to believe me, is that I have an interest in shooting. I don't take part in the activity myself, but in my world of self-sufficiency, I trade with people who do go shooting and fishing. They provide me with game which I pay for with jars of preserves, eggs etc.

British Association for Shooting and Conservation Sept 17 (5)

So it seemed perfectly reasonable that I should attend the BASC meeting.And of course the good food was appreciated!

British Association for Shooting and Conservation Sept 17 (1)

British Association for Shooting and Conservation Sept 17 (2)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Another What's-the-point-of-Brexit moment

I see Theresa May is off to Canada for talks on, among other issues, post-Brexit trade. The Canada-EU trade deal (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement - CETA), 7 years in the making, comes into effect shortly. According to the BBC, May wants to use CETA as the model for a UK/Canada trade deal.

But wasn't Brexit meant to give us the freedom to arrange bigger, better trade deals? Instead, we have May announcing that one of the benefits from which we are walking away is to be copied and applied to Britain. Nothing bigger, nothing better, just the same, except for the added costs of negotiating something we already have. So what is the point of that?

Lib Dem mugs - new and recyled!

Lib Dem mugs (2)

Get them while they are still in stock! Lib Dem Image are selling an extended range of Lib Dem mugs thanks to Theresa May's decision to call a snap election. With 4 more MPs than this time last year, it now costs 50% more to have a full set of Lib Dem MP mugs! In a move that will please the environmental movement, mugs of former MPs from before the 2015 general election can now be recycled - mugs of Ed Davey, Vince Cable and Jo Swinson have made a reappearance after 2 years of storage in the Lib Dem Image stock room.

So buy while stocks last and take your mug home - the tea there will be a heck of a lot cheaper than what's on sale at the conference centre!

Lib Dem mugs (1)

Foodie photo op for Vince

Vince Cable at food bank Sept 17 (3)

The Bournemouth Food Bank has a stand at the Lib Dem conference and people can bring donations of food. So yesterday, Vince Cable, at the start of the leader's tour of the exhibition area, handed over 2 shopping bags of groceries. It struck me that the contents of those two bags would have been cheaper than a round of teas, coffees and sandwiches at the Bournemouth Conference Centre tea room where prices are eye-wateringly steep.

Anyway, well done to Vince for his donation and it reminds me that when I get back to Gateshead, I need to sort out a session with a group that helps supply food to low income households. The plan is to use allotment and garden surpluses that would otherwise go into the waste system. More on this on another day.

Vince Cable at food bank Sept 17 (6)

Vince Cable at food bank Sept 17 (9)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Labradors for Lib Dems meet Vince Cable

Vince Cable and guide dog Sept 17 (10)

Glad to see Vince Cable was the guest at the Labradors for Lib Dems meeting today. I hope they didn't give him a rough time when he took himself for a walk around the exhibition area. It was a stroke of luck that I got this photo. I had to paws to take it. etc

I think that's enough........

Vince Cable and guide dog Sept 17 (1)

Vince Cable and guide dog Sept 17 (9)

Admiring my handiwork

Vince Cable at PCA stand Bournemouth Sept 17 (13)

Vince Cable did his obligatory leader's tour of the exhibition area this afternoon. What an ideal opportunity to get a pic of Vince admiring a copy of Parliamentary Campaigner! (Editor is.....ahem....a certain Jonathan Wallace who produces it for the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidates Association.)

Going to Conference stage 2

History magazine Sept 17

So much for planning to leave early this morning. Without the need to get up to deal with my livestock, I ended up sleeping in. It meant I only got on the train at Clapham Junction at 10.40am. The good news was that I found a cafe that served breakfast for only £3 - a bacon role and a cup of tea. That must be a record for London. Two hours to Bournemouth - a good chance to catch up with reading my BBC History magazines which often get neglected as I'm tied up doing lots of other things.

I'm at conference now. Having won the battle to work out how to get on to the BIC's wifi, I will be posting up photos from around the centre. First up is Vince Cable's tour of the exhibition area, at 4pm.

receipt Sept 17

Above - the breakfast receipt proving that breakfasts can be unexpectedly cheap in London. However, back home, breakfast normally costs us nothing - one of the joys of self-sufficiency!