Friday, July 29, 2016

Getting rid of the waste in Whickham

Church Green Whickham July 16

Planting Up Whickham is a group of volunteers who took on the task of maintaining flower beds and public open spaces in Whickham Village after the decision by Gateshead Council to stop paying for the service. The group recently had a maintenance day on Church Green though I was not able to attend. I was however phoned after the event and asked if I was interested in the dumpy bag of grass cuttings for my animals. I agreed to collect the bag but found 3 of them (one of which was full of weeds) when I got there. It was something of a struggle to get them into the land rover but I managed it. The aim is to dispose of the waste in as sustainable a way as possible. I put all the grass cuttings in one of our goat sheds as bedding. The dumpy bag full of weeds was emptied for the ducks and hens to sort through and eat.

Following the recent request to me to clear the thistles from the side entrance to Whickham's Chase Park, it seems I have accidentally picked up the role of the person responsible for the sustainable disposal of garden waste.

grass cuttings in sacks July 16

duck in goat house July 16

grass cuttings in goat house July 16

ducks and grass cuttings July 16

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lib Dem Pint in Gateshead

The Tilley Stone Gateshead July 16 (6)

In Gateshead we have seen other local parties hosting Lib Dem Pint events so we decided to hold one ourselves last night. The Tilley Stone on Jackson Street in the town centre was chosen as the venue and emails went out last week to invite members to come along. Good result! We are likely to hold more in the future. Good to see members who have joined recently coming along.

The Tilley Stone Gateshead July 16 (1)

The Tilley Stone Gateshead July 16 (4)

The Tilley Stone Gateshead July 16 (3)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blaydon Vlog No. 1

My first vlog as candidate for Blaydon, filmed at the Chopwell and Rowlands Gill action day on Saturday 23rd July 2016.

Labour's dithering in Gateshead turned into a work of art

A special Gateshead Council cabinet meeting was held on Thursday morning. It had been called as Labour deferred a decision as to whether or not to join in the North East devolution proposals. That was a decision supposed to be taken at the cabinet on 12 July. And what happened at this special cabinet meeting? Labour voted to defer a decision yet again, citing uncertainty surrounding the position of new government ministers on devolution and funding. This is dithering made into a work of art by Labour. We continue to have the huge uncertainty hanging over Gateshead’s position in the North East region. Are we in or are we out? We just don’t know, because Labour cannot take a decision.

We are continuing to head towards isolation despite the best efforts of Martin Gannon, the new Leader of the Council, to bring the Labour group back to the world of reality. Martin’s position has not been helped by his own position in March when he led the battle against the devolution proposals that saw Gateshead isolated in the first place. That led to a coup that toppled his own Leader Mick Henry. (Coups against Labour Leaders do work – sometimes!). Maybe that’s what worries Martin in the febrile atmosphere of the Labour Party at the moment.

Chopwell and Rowlands Gill Action Day

Chopwell Rowlands Gill Action Day July 16 (2)

Yesterday we held an action day in Chopwell and Rowlands Gill ward. There is to be a by-election there in what has normally been a strong Labour ward. Our aim was to get our Focus leaflet delivered across most of the ward. Apart from a few small patches, job just about done.

I bumped into Labour cabinet member and ward Councillor Michael McNestry who, I am pleased to report, was not at that point working his ward but instead was sunbathing. He made a comment about needing to go to the toilet and that our leaflet would come in handy. I guess he could use all his Corbyn or Smith leaflets for the same exercise, depending on which wing of the Labour party to which he belongs (an unknown quantity as I can't recall any recent political comment that helps to identify his political leanings - assuming he has any.)

Thanks to all those who came from Sunderland and Co Durham to help. Job well done!

Chopwell Rowlands Gill Action Day July 16 (1)

Chopwell Rowlands Gill Action Day July 16 (4)

Chopwell has a history of leftwing politics. So it was with great interest that I found myself delivering Lenin Terrace and Marx Terrace!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Selected for Blaydon

goat milking July 16

I was in the middle of turning 20 litres of milk from my goat Pinkie into cheese this morning when I got an email from the regional candidates' chair saying that I am now officially the Lib Dem candidate for Blaydon constituency. If there is to be an election under the current boundaries, I will be going head to head with Labour's Dave Anderson (assuming he stands again), Shadow Secretary of State for Just About Everything. Dave is a Corbyn loyalist, a view not necessarily shared by all his staff. But he is a pleasant bloke who has found himself at the top of the greasy pole more by accident than by design.

So, to celebrate my selection, I am helping boost the UK's production levels on the day it is reported there is a big slump in economic activity. Sadly, the cheese I produce won't do much to boost the economy. It cannot be sold, or even swapped, until I have gone through registration and inspection with the Food Standards Agency. That onerous job is still on the to-do list. So, in addition to my self-sufficiency activities, I am writing another Focus and an eFocus.

So while Labour are kicking the proverbials out of each other, I'll get on with running an election campaign.

Photo: me last night milking Pinkie.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Photos from Northern Pride

North East Pride July 16 (8)

Northern Pride Parade in Newcastle on Saturday. Here are some of the photos I took.

North East Pride July 16 (7)

North East Pride July 16 (12)

North East Pride July 16 (13)

North East Pride July 16 (3)

North East Pride July 16 (17)

North East Pride July 16 (19)

Northern Pride

I have never before been on a parade (other than for Remembrance Day). But following the Brexit decision last month, I am concerned that some have taken this as a sign to return social attitudes to what they were over 40 years ago. Diversity is now mainstream and so I took the decision to celebrate diversity and show that it should remain mainstream. Therefore on Saturday I joined other Lib Dems on the Northern Pride Parade. I guess I will be on more parades in the future.

This is the video I filmed on the day.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Goodbye Jane

Jane Robinson presentation July 16

Gateshead Council's meeting on Thursday was the last for our current Chief Executive, Jane Robinson. Martin Gannon, Leader of the Council, and myself as Leader of the Oppostion, spoke to thank her for her work and her legacy to Gateshead. She is off to Durham University and both of us wished her all the best for the future. She was presented with a gift by Martin and the Mayor, Alison Thompson, at the end of the meeting.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Labour's cancelled meetings

Labour meetings cancelled July 16

Yesterday I spotted on the screen outside the council chamber in Gateshead Civic Centre the list of meetings for the rest of the day. Alas, all the Labour ones were listed as cancelled. It looked a bit like a train information board with all the trains cancelled! This is all part of Labour's civil war. I can however report that the Blaydon Labour constituency party meeting went ahead earlier this month at which support was overwhelmingly for Corbyn. Apparently the meeting called for action against the MPs who could not bring themselves to express confidence in Corbyn. Blaydon Labour MP and Corbyn fan Dave Anderson has been the beneficiary of the civil war. He was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet with not just one job, but two! Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland and ditto for Northern Ireland. All he needs now is Wales and he has a full set!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Land of Oak and Iron Launch Event

Land of Oak and Iron event July 16 (2)

The Land of Oak and Iron is a landscape and history project based on the Derwent Valley. It had a launch event on Sunday at Blaydon Community Centre and Shibdon Pond. I paid it a brief visit. Looked like a good event and lots of people attended. The project will be building a visitor centre at Winlaton Mill, plans for which were revealed last month. They still need to be finalised but work should be taking place soon.

Land of Oak and Iron event July 16 (3)

Land of Oak and Iron event July 16 (5)

Land of Oak and Iron event July 16 (4)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Pulling up the thistles

thistles July 16 (1)

I was out on Sunday morning in Whickham with my Planting Up Whickham hat on. There is a large flower bed next to the side entrance to Chase Park on Rectory Lane. It was full of thistles so I was delegated with the job of removing them. I spent about an hour pulling them out. The job is not yet finished. About a quarter is still left to do. The thistles have been disposed of sustainably. I fed them to my goats! They love them!

thistles July 16 (3)

thistles July 16 (2)

goats and thistles July 16 (6)

goats and thistles July 16 (5)

Getting my ducks (and chicks) in a row at Whickham Community Festival

Whickham Community Festival July 16 (10)

Saturday saw Whickham play host to the Village's Community Festival, organised by Lighting Up Whickham, of which I am a member. As usual, I brought along some of my animal - in this case a duckling and 5 chicks. I was thinking of bringing one of my goats but the paperwork required to move her off the site where we keep her is significant and time consuming (and time was something in short supply in the past couple of weeks).

I also had a table selling our preserves and promoting self-sufficiency and surplus food swaps. The day went well other than the one and a half hours of rain from about midday. Despite that, I was cleared out of my eggs and most of my jams. (Whoever said under the Lib Dems it's jam tomorrow got it wrong.)

Theme for the day was the 1960s and 1970s. Alas, I had none of my clothes from either of those decades left. And if I did, and I were able to fit in them, I would be rather worried!

Whickham Community Festival July 16 (4)

Whickham Community Festival July 16 (9)

The Brexit earthquake continues

So, Theresa May is to be the new Prime Minister. Having just got home from an advisory group meeting at Gateshead Civic Centre, and a meeting with Council Leader Martin Gannon, I switched on the news and saw it unfolding in front of me. It swept into oblivion the launch of the Angela Eagle campaign to cement Jeremy Corbyn into his role as Labour "leader". From what I understand, the Labour membership surge is based on armchair social media leftwingers joining to protect the position of Corbyn. The Eagle may be daring to take on the "Leader" but she is likely to end up plucked and gutted and passed onto a taxidermist who will convert her into a stuffed trophy for the left who are rampaging through the Labour Party at the moment, destroying all in their wake.

The chances of an early election are, I feel, small, but we need to be ready for it just in case. On that basis I have allowed my name to go forward for Blaydon under the shortened, emergency selection process. It was easier than having my arm twisted.

I have been in politics for 35 years and I have never before lived through political times like this. The Brexit earthquake is still producing aftershocks and it seems that the epicentre is in the Labour Party. Expect the Conservatives to pull together. The big issues that split them was whether or not to be in Europe. In Conservative eyes that has been resolved. If they have any sense, they will let this Parliament run its full course, giving plenty of time for Labour to self-destruct.

Labour are destroying themselves, the Lib Dems are not strong enough to launch a nationwide battle with the Conservatives (though watch out for some interesting local battles) and UKIP have a serious question to answer about what point they serve now that they've had the referendum. The danger now is that Britain drifts into a one party Tory state (with Scotland as an SNP one-party state). The fight is now on to stop that happening.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Blaydon Food Festival

Blaydon Food Festival July 16 (8)

The Blaydon Food Festival was held on Saturday 2nd July. It is run by Transition Towns in Western Gateshead and I have various self-sufficiency links with members of the organisation. I was invited to have a table to sell my eggs and preserves and promote my local food swapping network. Despite the best efforts of the rain, the day went well.

Blaydon Food Festival July 16 (4)

Blaydon Food Festival July 16 (5)

Blaydon Food Festival July 16 (2)

Friday, July 08, 2016

Putting up the bunting

Whickham Community Festival July 16 1

Whickham Community Festival is being held tomorrow from 10am to 2pm so I helped put the bunting up today on St Mary's Green, ably assisted by Cllr John McClurey who did all the scary ladder climbing to get to the top of lampposts. (I did manage to climb a tree however to wrap bunting around a branch!)

There will be live music and entertainment and, in what is now a bit of a tradition, I will be bringing some of my animals - a duckling and 5 chicks.

Whickham Community Festival July 16 3

Whickham Community Festival July 16 2
Me up a tree!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Planting Up Whickham Update

Wild flower seeds Miracle Gro June 16

I went to a Planting Up Whickham committee meeting recently. I had been send a parcel of goodies by Miracle Gro (amazing what a good gardening blog can do for you!). In it was a couple of big bags of wild flower seeds for attracting pollinators. I have given one to the Whinnies Community Garden in Sunniside to plant there but I took the second to PUW in the hope I could interest them in planting up a bed beside the library with them. Alas, I wasn’t aware a member of the group has already made a fantastic job of planting up that bed. I had a look when I left the meeting. (See photos below). I'm still looking for somewhere else to plant the seeds though time is starting to run out.

Whickham Library Garden June 16 (1)

Whickham Library Garden June 16 (2)

New members at our EU meeting

Our membership surge in Gateshead prompted us to hold a meeting for all members last night to discuss the EU, Brexit and where we go from here. There was a good turnout and it was great to see lots of new members attending. We had a panel of speakers (one of them was me!) There was a good debate with many new members contributing. The aim now is to turn them into activists.

In addition, I gave a report from the council. It included the impact of the change of Council Leader from Mick Henry to Martin Gannon; the looming cash crisis for Gateshead which under current trends could see the cost of social care outstripping the income of the Council; the libraries review which could see more branches close and the latest saga in the proposals for devolution to the region.

Members will get a fuller report in their next newsletter.