Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Printing Focus

Whickham Focus Dec 15

Christmas is over. Hooray! Today I was able to use my time constructively. I spent the afternoon doing self-sufficiency things, mainly cleaning our quail aviary. And tonight, I went to our office in Consett to fold our next Focus newsletter for the Whickham part of my ward. It will be hitting doormats shortly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Delivering in Chowdene

Low Fell Focus Dec 15

Daniel Duggan, who organises our campaigns in Low Fell and Chowdene wards in Gateshead, asked me if I would deliver one of the Focus patches left over from the action day a couple of weekends ago. I agreed to do one patch. At our next meeting, Daniel arrived with a large bundle of leaflets. 207 to be precise, to be delivered in Calderwood Crescent and surrounding streets. I did the whole patch this morning. It was easier than I expected.

Jonathan Wallace Chowdene Focus delivery Dec 15

I'm back home now but I know our print shop is in operation at the moment and I'm expecting the next bundle of Focuses to be with me tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gardening cancelled

Byermoor planters John McClurey Nov 15

We had planned to get a group of residents to do some gardening on the planters at Marley Hill and Byermoor on Sunday. If all went well, we would have done some weeding around the trees in the Kingsway community orchard in Sunniside. Alas, snow put an end to these plans. We will have to reschedule the work. As you can see in the photo above with my ward colleague Cllr John McClurey, the work definitely needs doing as the council no longer maintains the planters.

Church Green in snow Dec 15

This was the snow we endured over the weekend. Thanks to Kevin McClurey for the photo of Church Green in Whickham taken from Chase Park.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Swalwell Community Centre Fair

Swalwell Community Centre xmas fair Dec 15 (9)

Yesterday was the Swalwell Community Centre Christmas Fair. I was due to take Pinkie, one of my goats, who would do an impersonation of a reindeer and help raise funds for the Community Association. Alas, it was raining when I was due to take her down. As goats don't like wet weather, she could n't be moved.

goats Dec 15 (9)

I went along anyway and bought an absurdly large quantity of pies and cakes. It's not exactly a good example of my self-sufficient lifestyle but at least everything I bought was homemade.

Swalwell Community Centre xmas fair Dec 15 (6)

Cllr Chris Ord playing his cards right.

Swalwell Community Centre xmas fair Dec 15 (8)

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Swalwell Community Centre xmas fair Dec 15 (1)

Councillors Peter Craig and Sonya Hawkins wearing this year's must have fashion accessories.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

75th birthday of a Liberal stalwart

Chris Foote Wood party Dec 15 1

Yesterday was the 75th birthday of Chris Foote Wood, a Liberal stalwart in the North East of England who has been active in the party for decades. He had a birthday party in Darlington last night and David and I popped down to it though, sadly, we couldn't stay for long as we had another Lib Dem engagement in Newcastle.

Chris Foote Wood party Dec 15 2

So happy birthday Chris and keep up the good work.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Visiting the North East Refugee Service

Charlotte Sq burnt out building Dec 15

Last week I was contacted by the North East Refugee Service and invited to their HQ to have a look round. So today (Thursday) I went in to Newcastle to meet the head of the service and one of the trustees. They told me about how the service works and how I could help them help refugees now living in Gateshead.

The HQ is next to Charlotte Square, a location which was on the national news last week. A shop had been burnt out there and sadly the owner of the shop owner died in the flat above. I knew the shop, the Card Bar, as I occasionally visited it. My last visit was in late October. As you can see in the photo above, the building has been gutted.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Stocked up for the new year

Land rovers Dec 15

The call went out. Help was needed to get a half tonne of paper to our office in Consett. It had been delivered through the week to the shop of my ward colleague, Cllr John McClurey, in Newcastle. Those with large vehicles normally used for moving goats and beehives were especially welcome to provide transport. So my Land Rover was conscripted to carry half the paper. It may sound an easy job putting boxes of paper into the office - except, of course, for the 24 steps leading to the door. Just wait til we get the new risograph. Getting that up the stairs will be something to experience!

At least we are now fully stocked for printing Focuses over the next few months.

Lib Dem Christmas Dinner at Chowdene

Lib Dem Xmas dinner Gateshead Dec 15 (3)

I was in London from Wednesday to Saturday. This meant I missed the Lib Dem action day in Low Fell and Chowdene. It was meant to take place on the last Saturday in November but a hitch with the printer meant the Focus wasn't ready (we delivered in Dunston Hill, Dunston and Teams instead). Low Fell and Chowdene were rearranged for this weekend but that was after I had sorted my London trip. I understand from Daniel Duggan, who jointly arranged the action day with Cllr Frank Hindle, that Low Fell ward was delivered (a couple of patches were taken by volunteers to do later in the week) and some of Chowdene was done as well though, again, lots have been taken to do later this week.

Despite the best efforts of Storm Desmond to disrupt Virgin East Coast Trains, I was able to get back to the North East and to get to Chowdene shortly after stepping on to the platform at Newcastle. This was for the Gateshead Lib Dem Christmas meal which was held at the Stone Trough on Durham Road. Not a bad meal and good time had by all.

Lib Dem Xmas dinner Gateshead Dec 15 (2)

Lib Dem Xmas dinner Gateshead Dec 15 (1)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Sunniside History Society meeting

Sunniside History Society buffet Dec 15 (2)

The first Tuesday of the month is the date on which the Sunniside History Society meets. I am deputy chairman and the society itself is very active. The December meeting always has a Christmas buffet and therefore we had plenty of food to tuck into on Tuesday.

Sunniside History Society buffet Dec 15 (1)

I somehow managed to get out of entering the quiz as the chairman, Colin Douglas, asked me to be the quizmaster instead. This was a good move by him as I would have been terrible at answering the questions another member had put together - people had to name 24 celebrities from video clips we played.

The next meeting is on 5th January 2016.

On balance the right decision

I can't recall a situation in which the front bench of the opposition have put on such a public display of division. The incredible scene of the Leader of the Opposition calling for one particular policy and the Shadow Foreign Secretary calling for the opposite may be the first of many divisions to come. But on balance, the decision to use air strikes against ISIL in Syria was the right one.

There can be no negotiations with ISIL, a cult that is engaged in genocide, the murder of gays and the brutal repression of the people in the territory they control. As an historian, I can see the parallels with the Nazis once war was declared in 1939. Nazism had to be defeated militarily. So too with ISIL.

Had I been an MP, I would have voted last night in favour of air strikes. We are already involved in the war. Our aircraft have been bombing ISIL in Iraq. The Commons have voted to extend an existing military campaign. It made no sense to restrict ourselves to one part of the battlefield when crucial targets are in the other part. As an internationalist, I don't believe we could stand back when our allies are under attack and ask for help.

What doesn't help are foolish and inflammatory comments by Cameron equating those opposed to air strikes to terrorist sympathisers. People have genuinely held views and in a democracy, everyone has a right to express them. Cameron should apologise. And on the other side of the divide over this issue, there should be respect from those who oppose air strikes towards those who supported them. It seems however that the threat of deselection is stalking the ranks of Labour MPs. And the offices of some MPs are almost under siege with a tidalwave of abusive messages. This is not the gentler, more caring politics Corbyn says he supports.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Momentum runs out of momentum in Gateshead

I was in Gateshead Civic Centre last night having a meeting with my colleague Cllr Frank Hindle. Along the corridor from the opposition office, where we were meeting, is the Bridges Room. It had been booked by Corbyn fanclub Momentum. At 6pm I walked past the Bridges Room, where the door was wide open and glimpsed inside to see, well, not very much. A handful of people were sat, awaiting in a comradely fashion for the arrival of the massed ranks of the Momentum activists. Sadly for them, over the next 15 minutes only another handful of Momentum comrades appeared. We could see what was happening as our office door was open and we could see right down the corridor.

What was interesting however was the arrival of one individual in particular. Martin Gannon, the deputy leader of the Gateshead Labour council group arrived a few minutes after the 6pm start. Martin is the weathervane of the Labour group. Back in the 1980s he was militantly socialist, in the 1990s and 2000s he was more Blairite than Blair, now he appears to be reliving his glory days of the 1980s by meeting up with the Corbynistas.

But if Momentum thought they had momentum behind them, the numbers attending their meeting must have been disappointing. The Labour establishment need fear nothing from such a small meeting. At least at the moment.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Mince pies at dawn

sweet mince pies Nov 15

I suffered an attack of generosity this morning. Last night I made some sweet mince pies, using sweet mince meat I also made myself. At 9am today (after an early start feeding the poultry and goats), I had a meeting with Gateshead Council's Chief Exec and at 10am I was at cabinet. The mince pies were well received at both meetings. Only one Labour councillor at cabinet made a sneering comment. John McElroy said the biscuits that came with the tea and coffee "were better" though he did not sample the pies before making the comment. No pleasing some! His leader Mick Henry, however rather liked his. Looks ,like another Labour cabinet split.