Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Need for an end for childish ways in parliament

So John Bercow was elected speaker and immediately the talk is how Tory MPs hate him and want to get rid of him. We hear he has to perform or he will be out! How ridiculous. Whatever the speaker, the reforms are down to MPs. It does strike me that the pension package and other benefits for the speaker are amazing - perhaps this should be the first thing Mr Bercow changes?

Monday, 15 June 2009

Calman and Barnett: Fair funding for the North East

It's not often that I'll comment on Scottish, Welsh or indeed Northern Irish politics. This usually isn't of much interest to residents in Blaydon or the North East.

Some will remember the doomed referendum in the North East about a North East Assembly. The North East roundly rejected the idea of a regional assembly. Friends of mine said that they weren't voting for it because it didn't have enough powers. They were right. I argued at the time that an assembly could act as a voice for the region and gradually gain more powers.

If Scotland is anything to go by, I was right! The three main national parties are proposing a major increase in devolution through the Calman Commission, which proposes that Scotland has more control over its tax.

So Scotland has more control over its affairs with the increased costs of the parliament. But no Scottish body is proposing abolition of the Barnett Formula, the spending formula that allocates more to Scotland per head regardless of need.

I believe that money should be allocated by need and the North East is the area with some of the worst social problems and has been hardest hit by the recession. Billions of pounds more would have been allocated to the region, and lots more to Blaydon, if this formula had been flexible rather than set in stone over thirty years ago. Even Joel Barnett, the former Labour minister who invented it, agrees.

No Scottish MSP wants to lose it and Labour shows no signs of changing its rigid policy of sticking to an unfair allocation (as did its Tory predecessor). It strikes me that after 11 years under a Labour government with a large number of North East MPs in its ranks, we have a right to expect more. With no North East Assembly we have no one else to back our case. Labour has let us down in Blaydon. Again.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Blaydon dairy closure is a tragedy

The closure of the Blaydon site of Dairy Farmers of Great Britain, as announced today (http://www.journallive.co.uk/north-east-news/breaking-news/2009/06/12/almost-300-jobs-go-as-dairy-farmers-of-britain-collapes-61634-23865180/) is a sad end to a bad story.

It means milk will be driven further, there will be less choice and there is an increased chance milk will have to be imported. In addition lots of farmers are in problems and hundreds of workers are out of work at a terrible time. It's worth noting that this was a Co-op dairy until a year or two ago and has largely failed due to the withdrawal of the Co-op contract.

It seems like madness and it was a shame that local agencies couldn't have enough time to work with management. Much less seriously, it is also causing problems for local councils that provide school milk in traditional third pint bottles as this is the only local dairy that does them in this format.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Dairy Farmers Receivership Highlights Problems

The news from the Dairy Farmers of Great Britain base in Blaydon is grim and a worrying development. The organisation went into recievership last week, with 260 workers jobs at risk. The company puts the reasons for its problems on the decline in world milk prices and also because of the loss of the Co-op contract. DFOGB is a co-operative organisation and much of it was of course the Co-op dairy originally.

It is a great shame that the Co-op has shown no support for fellow co-op movement members as they move to being ultra commercial in their mentality. It is interesting to see that now if, as seems likely, the depot closes our milk will be from further away. Last year apparently the UK was a net importer of Milk as dairy farming was in retreat. It seems a shame that despite all the EU subsidy of farming, milk is not suitably profitable for UK farmers. The supermarkets have to bear a share of the blame as they push wholesale prices further and further. Purchasers need to buy British and be prepared to pay a small premium if they value reducing food miles.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Tremendous European Election result

Well done Fiona Hall and the European election team. The North East has re-elected a great MEP in Fiona and the result was a good one, in the face of a very euro sceptic media. Fiona beat off the challenge of UKIP and the BNP, whilst the Labour party saw a 9% fall in their vote. The local result in Gateshead was very encouraging, with Labours vote falling.

Blaydon Burn Festival

Well the important news - not the European elections but the Blaydon Burn Festival. A great event and well attended. I was dismayed to hear that it is to be the final event as funding has run out. A real shame and I hope that Labour can find the funds to continue it.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Thank You

I just wanted to thank everyone who got out and voted - espcially those who voted Liberal Democrat. The turnout was low in some areas, but not as bad as some aspects of the media would seem to like.

I also want to thank all of the people who were so friendly and welcoming - people are still angry about the expenses row but are still polite and receptive to politicians who bother to knock on their door and try to engage with them.

Britain needs fresh ideas - not more back stabbing

I couldn't leave my blog without mentioning the utter chaos that the current high level bickering in the Labour Party. Whether it happens now or in a year, Gordon Brown is finished. His government is made up of political pygmies and is in its violent death throws. His internal opponents are not worthy to serve either. They have shown more interest in back stabbing than in coming up with new ideas.

Now more than ever, Britian needs a government with a legitimate mandate and a fresh team at the helm. If Gordon Brown won't call an election, Labour MPs should resign to force a debate on the direction for Britian.

And to make this country even more of a laughing stock abroad we lose at cricket to the Netherlands!

The BNP must be challenged

The European elections saw a swing to minor parties, it is clear. ONe of the beneficiaries was the BNP. I spoke to a person who had voted for the BNP already. She voted for them because she wanted to "stop immigrants getting all the jobs". When I asked her if she was against her Asian neighbours she said that "they won't suffer, they were born here". How misguded. People are being fooled into thinking that the BNP are a respectable party for people to vent concerns about the economy and a feeling of alienation. They are not. They are a party of sexist, Holocaust denying racists. Most politicians are tempted to ignore the BNP. We all need to take them on and challenge every person who votes for them. Sometimes that will mean engaging them in debate. However unpleasant, it needs to be done.

An exciting campaign now we wait!

It's been an exciting Euro campaign, now we wait till the count on Sunday. I hope that the voters have rewarded Fiona Hall with another four year term in recognition of her hard work. She is without doubt the hardest working North East MEP, speaking more, asking more questions and with a great attendance record. In Blaydon constituency, she has had a local profile unusual for an MEP. She has fought against open cast plans supported by Labour and has got the petitions committee of the parliament to investigate the disgrace that is Pathhead landfill.

So I hope she wins! I was up at 5 am for a 6 am start. "Good morning" leaflets then normal leaflets urging people to vote until late. I got round much of Whickham and got a good reception. The ballot paper was very large and turnout was low. I had a great conversation with a lady who was walking to the station and was very confused about how the European election voting system works. I think she voted Liberal Democrat. An exciting day but we need to take nothing for granted. I had a call from a resident that the BNP were illegally hanging banners over road bridges on the A1. Apart from being distracting for motorists, this is symptomatic of a cynical BNP campaign, whcih has avoided talking to people and tried to achieve maximum exposure with minimum contact, as they know that the vast majority hate them.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The day before D-Day

Out again today in the constituency in the morning in Rowlands Gill. More hard slog getting our message across. A short lunch at the Golden Lion in Winlaton Mill (great food and lovely well kept real ale BTW!) then back onto the campaign trail. Off to Winlaton and Blackhall Mill. Blackhall Mill has a great community centre and it's a real shame that a ceramic mosaic in front has been vandalised some time ago.

It was great to leaflet the terrace at the end of River View. Lots of community activists live there and I was pleased to see a poster saying "no BNP leaflets here". Well done that person, it's absolutely vital that we all stand up to the fascist threat. I received a text from an Asian friend of mine telling me all her friends are voting for the first time - they see the threat of extremists to our British values of tolerance.

It's essential everyone votes - the BNP has much more chance on a low turn out.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Leafletting and a principled campaign

After work I was back on the campaign trail, delivering leaflets in the constituency. A lovely day for it. It has been a very unusual campaign with the Labour government losing credibility at a rapid rate. The expenses scandal has hurt all the mainstream parties but I get a feeling from the doorstep that the Liberal Democrats record of hard work in the constituency of Blaydon is helping people realise we are not all the same.

One thing that always makes me happy is when my party fights a campaign for what it believes in regardless of how it polls with a focus group. Our European campaign is a case in point. Britains press is undeniably euro sceptic but we believe as a party that its better to be a strong part of Europe, arguing for reform. Suddenly almost every party under the sun in the UK is arguing that we should pull out of the EU or not sign up to the Lisbon reform treaty - even though it reduces the democratic defecit in the EU.

So suddenly our principled stance means that if you support a prinicpled stance in Europe and if you agree with our stance "stronger together, poorer apart", we are the only party offering such a choice. As the Independent said yesterday, "the Liberal Democrats who have been the most consistently constructive British party on the European Union, a stance which has given their honest criticisms of Brussels' shortcomings all the more credibility."

I think and hope people are looking for a positive honest party. If so and that is you, please consider voting Lib Dem on Thursday. Our manifesto can be found here: http://europe.libdems.org.uk/