Saturday, 31 October 2009

Campaigning in Blaydon

Spent much of Saturday campaigning in Blaydon, talking to residents and shopkeepers. Our excellent local spokesperson, Kelly Todd, is a local shop manager and is in touch with local residents so a good person to have with you.

I had the pleasure of bumping into Dave Anderson who was in the area delivering his literature, which is paid for by the taxpayer of course! Pleased to report that mine is funded by myself and my colleagues in the Liberal Democrats so they're not quite as glossy but at least you're not paying for them!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Birtley visit

I joined local activists to deliver leaflets in Birtley yesterday. A great day and a lot of literature put out. Birtley is a great place but a lot of residents there don't realise they are in Blaydon constituency - clearly both my opponent and I need to do more work!

I don't do commercials for estate agents but I had to feel sorry for the guy who set up the firm on the pictured board. It's hard enough selling houses at the best of times but even harder when you might be confused with the architect of the current downturn!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Newcastle Brown campaign continues

We had a great constituency meeting today at which we discussed the situation about the closure of the Dunston Brewery. We resolved to make representations to take action on the moving of production of Newcastle Brown Ale to Yorkshire.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Website Launch

Well I am very pleased to announce the launch of the New Blaydon Lib Dem website, It's early days but I hope you keep coming back to check the site for the latest news from the campaign and to find out what your councillors and campaigners are doing.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Britain plays catch up with Vince

Last weekend Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable was up in the North East. Twice I listened to a call from him to separate banking into safe retail banking guaranteed by the UK government but closely regulated and Investment banks, free to pay large bonuses and take risks but not be bailed out by the government. He has been calling for this since well before I first heard this call at the Lib Dems spring conference and the launch of his acclaimed analysis of the financial crisis, The Storm.

Like his call for nationalisation of Northern Rock, it's been derided as impossible. Now Mervyn King has called for the functions of banks to be split. Apparently the Tories are now saying that it's an idea they are interested in. The government says its impossible. It does annoy me to see billions being poured into a dysfunctional banking system when reforms outlined by Vince almost a year ago would help minimise the chances of it happening again. Vince has been proved right time and time again. I wonder how long it will take the government to change their mind.

A third runner enters the 2 horse race!

I've received news that Blaydon has a new parliamentary candidate. The Tories have finally selected a candidate, Glenn Hall. The Conservatives have not yet put any information about him on their website but I welcome him to the race. I look forward to seeing him on the campaign trail. We don't see many Conservative politicians round here!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Out and about in Kibblesworth

Great day today getting the word out in Kibblesworth. A lovely village and got talking to a few residents about some anti social activity in the village. The Millennium centre in the village is a great facility and a great community venue.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Vince visit

Lib Dem Deputy Leader and all round economic guru was in Gateshead today for a packed North East Lib Dem regional conference. It was interesting to hear his opinions on the economy and what is needed to turn it around. It's clear that tough decisions will have to be made about taxes and spending over the coming years. Vinces proposed "mansion tax" has been criticised by the tax but I really do feel that a simple tax on owners of very expensive houses is not as controversial with the public as the media make out.

Vince was also keen to hear from us about the economic situation in the North East, in particular about the role the Regional Development Agency, One North East, plays and the future of Northern Rock. In respect of the Rock, he warned against plans to sell it back to the state too quickly at a cheap price, costing the taxpayer billions. Very thought provoking.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

MPs Expenses

The latest chapter in the expenses saga is a curious one. Much focus has been put on the latest letters saga. However, I back Nick Cleggs call for "flipping" to be thoroughly investigated. It is wrong to change your second home between your constituency and your London home constantly to benefit from expenses and capital gains taxation. MPs have profited much more from this than all the gardening bills combined. It needs to be investigated. Could it be that the fact that this appears to be a common behaviour at ministerial level be what is holding back the enquiry?

Tadcaster Brown Ale

Doesn't have quite the same ring to it does it? My Opponent at the next election has been busy signing Early Day Motions (EDMs) again. On Tuesday before turning his attention to a removal of seating in the MPs cafe ( he managed to sign an EDM deploring the closure of the Federation Brewery in Dunston and with it the moving of production of "broon" to Yorkshire.

It's really sad to see the loss of an iconic brand from the North East. Even more sad is the gradual closure of the Federation Brewery. Scottish and Newcastle brewery (they might want to review that name!) bought the Federation brewery some years ago from the federation of social clubs, a mutual body owned by local businesses. They also had a number of nice beers, which have been swept away. Now Newcastle Brown is a small brand in the wider Heineken multinational. A visit to their website confirms it at the bottom of the "other brands" section.

Multinational beer brands push one or two brands. History shows that Newcastle Brown Ale will become an increasingly peripheral brand, although it is apparently popular in the USA. The history of the Theakston brand perhaps shows whats in store. Theakstons was an iconic beer brand in the real ale market, famous for its "Old Peculiar" beer and for its brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire. It was bought by S&N and production moved to Tyneside. It was initially heavily promoted but gradually S&N rationalised its brands and John Smiths was promoted instead. In the end it was bought back by the Theakston family and production has gradually been brought back to Yorkshire, ironically reducing brewing activity at the Tyne. Beers local roots are important. The sadness is there is very unlikely to be a Tyneside brewery for Newcastle Brown to return to when Heineken grow tired of it.

I do wonder why after granting a special geographical restriction on Newcastle Brown, the EU allowed its production to be moved. In the short term I hope that alternative employment is found for the staff at Dunston, just down the Hill from Blaydon constituency. More widely, I think there is a case for the Brewing industry to be looked at to encourage local brands to flourish. I also am looking for reassurances about the future of the very popular Lancastrian function suite on the site.

Monday, 5 October 2009

High Speed Rail - additional benefits

Today I went down to Lamesley to have a look at the rail goods yard. Its a real shame that Birtley and Lamesley have big populations that commute to Newcastle and have to travel by bus or car though one of the most congested areas - south Gateshead and the Team Valley - when they have a mainline rail line running through their community. There was a station in Birtley for many years. So could we reopen it and provide a cost effective solution to reducing congestion? Yes but the East Coast main line is very busy and can't have more communter trains slowing down the main trains. The solution? Give the North East the high speed rail link it deserves and put more commuter trains on the old line. Some of the Beeching cuts need to be reversed.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Tomatoes, Ginger Cake and Coco

My earlier post prompted me to take the Liberal Democrat focus team to Blackhall Mill to conduct a residents survey. My colleague John McClury (councillor for Whickham South and Sunniside) had to bring his dog Coco, who went down well with the local youth.

Many residents told me this was the first time in their life that a politician had called in person! There are a number of issues that residents have raised with me that I will be pursuing. But it's not all hard work. I bought a great bag of greenhouse raised tomatoes from a guy opposite Fife Terrace and then was able to call into the Community Cafe, the first one for a while I believe. Its run by the community for the community and the Ginger Cake was excellent. The Community association do a great job and the building has numerous green innovations, including ground source heat pumps.

I was also able to indulge my guilty secret (I like cars!), by seeing a lovely Triumph 1960s convertible. Not a bad morning!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Blackhall Mill website

Blackhall Mill is a wonderful small village in the constituency on the border with County Durham. I spotted a wonderful website today run by the community:

a great example of community spirit