Monday, February 20, 2017

Handing in the Whickham Library Petition

Whickham Library petition Feb 17  (1)

Our petition calling on Gateshead Council to keep open Whickham Library was completed today. I met up with colleagues Councillors Peter Craig and Marilynn Ord at the library to count up the total signatures (1612) and I then took it to Gateshead Civic Centre to hand it in ready for Cabinet tomorrow. Sadly, it's not looking good. The officer recommendation is to close.

Whickham Library petition Feb 17  (2)

The Oldest Swinger in Town

On Saturday evening, I headed back to Sunderland for the Lib Dem thank you party for the Sandhill by-election. The ward had previously been safely Labour but Stephen O'Brien stormed from 4% to 45% for the Lib Dems on 12th January. The party was held in the flat of Cllr Niall Hodson. Before 12th January, he was the entire Lib Dem group on Sunderland Council. He won his seat from Labour in May last year, taking a modest 66% of the vote. Now he is Lib Dem group leader.

The very noticeable point about Sunderland Lib Dems is how young they are. I was the oldest person at the thank you party and I felt as though I was the oldest swinger in town when I arrived. Most of the people there were born after I was first elected to Gateshead Council in May 1987!

Lib Dem youthful ambitions were showing strongly. The party in Sunderland has great plans for growing over the next few years. The Conservatives could soon be displaced as the Official Opposition in the City. And Labour are completely clueless as to how to respond to the new kids on the block.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I was in Sweden last week.....

Stockholm Jonathan Wallace Feb 16 1

I was in Sweden last week, Stockholm to be precise, visiting museums and sampling Swedish food. There were some migrants there, working in the cafes, bars and restaurants. They were nearly all from the UK or Ireland - certainly the ones I spoke to were. There was also an ethnic minority community which appeared to be well-integrated. There were no signs of simmering discontent from anyone other than 3 protesters outside the royal palace who appeared to be from the far right.

So last night I was rather surprised to hear Trump's claim that Sweden had just suffered a major terrorist attack caused by migrants. Terrorist attack? What terrorist attack? There wasn't one. Trump had simply made the whole story up. It seems he is suffering from the political equivalent of Tourette's Syndrome, uncontrollably pouring out offensive claims without any thought as to whether or not they are true. It's worrying that he is now the most powerful person on the planet.

And this is all the more remarkable in that he attacked the media for "fake news" in the same speech.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Video news update: what's happening in Chase Park

As councillors in the Whickham area, we've been contacted by quite a few people who are concerned about the work taking place in Chase Park. Gateshead Council has a proposal to sell off the old stable block and depot area and those who have been in touch with us are concerned that the housing development is now taking place. We can assure you that that is not the case.

The proposal to declare the relevant parts of the park as surplus to requirement has not yet been agreed by the Council cabinet. We continue to fight the proposed sell off.

The work taking place is the restoration of the park as a result of the successful £1 million Heritage Lottery bid. In this video Cllr Peter Craig explains the improvements that are taking place.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Labour's backbone discovered in Great North Museum

Skeleton Secrets of the Animal World Feb 17 (8)

On Friday I was invited to the opening of the Skeleton Secrets of the Animal World display at the Great North Museum in Newcastle. Many of the exhibits have been in storage for years. I did however spot this backbone and was left wondering if it was Labour's spine, evidently missing during recent months. Labour and museum go well together.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Low Fell and Chowdene Action Day

Low Fell Chowdene Lib Dem Action Day Feb 17 (7)

Today, Low Fell and Chowdene wards in Gateshead hosted an action day. The main aim of the day was to deliver a Focus across both wards. I was sent off to deliver a patch in the morning that consisted of 200 houses built into a near-cliff face with each house having typically 20 steps to get to the front door. I think it would have been easier to walk to the top of the Empire State Building!

Low Fell Chowdene Lib Dem Action Day Feb 17 (6)

Low Fell Chowdene Lib Dem Action Day Feb 17 (4)

You can get an impression of how steep the ward is with the 2 photos above.

Low Fell Chowdene Lib Dem Action Day Feb 17 (3)

HQ for the day was Daniel Duggan's house. His mum put on a great lunch! I'm pleased to say the patch I delivered in Chowdene in the afternoon was a bit more level!

In the Independent and Daily Mail

Sage Gateshead Dec 16 1

Our motion to Gateshead Council calling for no council resources to be used on the Trump state visit has attracted a great deal of interest, including from both the Independent and Daily Mail. The Independent did the decent thing and phoned me. I did the interview from one of my goat houses. I was in the middle of cleaning it out when they called. The resulting coverage included material taken from the video of my speech to the council meeting. It is balanced and reasonable and can be read on this link.

The Daily Mail made no contact with me and chose to write instead a sneering article implying Gateshead was a place not to be visited and that nothing happens here. They claimed Gateshead was "mocked" for the refusal to support the Trump visit. And the evidence for this - a tweet from a resident. You can read the Mail article on this link.

And for the edification of the Daily Fail, I've included some photos I took recently of the Sage, one of the best live music centres in the UK, the neighbouring Baltic Art Gallery, one of the biggest modern art exhibition spaces in the UK and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, now one of the iconic modern bridges of the UK (the modernity may be what troubles the Daily Fail). There's plenty going on here. If the journalists responsible for the article want to visit us, I'll happily show them around.

Baltic Art Gallery Dec 16 1

Gateshead Millennium Bridge Dec 16 (4)

Tyne Bridges Dec 16 2

Baltic Exhibition: Disappearance at Sea - Mare Nostrum

Baltic Art Gallery Feb 17 (4)

Gateshead Councillors were invited to the Baltic Art Gallery on the Gateshead Quays on Wednesday for a viewing of the new exhibition, "Disappearance at Sea - Mare Nostrum", which was inspired by refugees making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. It is based on the experiences of the refugees themselves who have often been the victims of criminal gangs and the mafia. Worth a visit.

There was, of course, a short talk from the directors of the Baltic and the Sage about the importance of the two centres to the cultural economy of the North East. Budgets are currently being finalised for 2017/18.

Baltic Art Gallery Feb 17 (5)

Friday, February 03, 2017

Gateshead Labour Leader backs Lib Dem policy

A key Lib Dem Brexit demand is that the people should have their say in a referendum on the deal for leaving the EU. Yesterday, in the debate on our motion to Gateshead Council, calling on the borough's MPs to oppose the current Brexit bill until guarantees are given on membership of the Single Market, Labour Leader Cllr Martin Gannon called for such a referendum. Well done Martin. Amidst all the noise of the Corbynite revolution within the Labour Party, Martin does tend to be a voice of reason (though there are exceptions to that - for example, his call to reject our motion yesterday). Martin does, however, need to be reminded that a destination referendum is not Labour, but is Labour, policy. Well done Martin.

Meanwhile, discipline in the Gateshead Labour group may be breaking down. As well as Labour councillors disappearing from the council chamber during the Brexit debate, resulting in Labour being 20 short of their total. It was only last night at the Blaydon Lib Dem meeting that we realised a Labour councillor had voted with us on our motion. The vote was 34 against our motion, 9 for. But we had only 8 members in the chamber when the vote was taken.

Moving the motion calling on the Council to have nothing to do with Trump visit

This afternoon (Thursday 2nd Feb) I moved an emergency motion calling on Gateshead Council to have nothing to do with the Trump state visit. The motion also called on the LGA to encourage other councils to take no part in the visit and to refuse to offer help and assistance. The motion was agreed unanimously by Gateshead Council.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

My speech on pressing Labour MPs to support staying in Single Market

At Gateshead Council today I moved a motion calling on the borough's Labour MPs to vote against triggering Article 50 until Government assurances on membership of the Single Market are given. Labour voted against though a number of their members disappeared during the debate. In the end, 34 Labour councillors voted against the motion, none in favour. But they have 54 councillors in total.