Sunday, 31 January 2010

A day out in Rowlands Gill

A day with a vowel in, another day on the campaign trail! Today, we were in Rowlands Gill talking to residents. A great response on the doorstep and great to see so many of my colleagues out with me.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Things can only get better with Labour - if you are in the top 10% of earners!

The deputy leader of the Labour Party has commissioned a official government report on equality.

Well the good news is that if you are a member of the richest part of society, under Labour you are richer than ever. Unfortunately if you are poor you have never lived in a more unequal society since the Second World War. Whichever measure of inequality you use, whether its the Gini coefficient or the 90/10 measure, Britain is a less equal society than even under Thatcher.

Blair and Browns right hand man,Peter Mandelson, once said "judge us after ten years of success in office. For one of the fruits of that success will be that Britain has become a more equal society". 2010 is 13 years on. Judgement Day for Brown?

Labour needs to follow the policies advocated by Vince Cable and close the tax loopholes for the ultra rich and raise tax allowances taking thousands out of the income tax system itself.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Secrets of Green Business

A short break from campaigning tonight when I went to the book launch of "The Three Secrets of Green Business" by my friend Gareth Kane. He gave some of the secrets away but I still bought a copy! What he emphasised was the tremendous opportunity for businesses to embrace the opportunities posed by the challenge of global warming and environmental degradation.

You can buy his book here:

lobbyists and crazy eurosceptics

I get a lot of emails from lobbyists as a potential MP. On the whole, I think lobbying must work, or else they wouldn't do it. However, if elected I would put forward what is best for Blaydon and what I believe in.

The lobbyists from the Euroscpetic (or Europaranoid as they often appear) lobby are often the most hard to understand. I thought I would publish in full this slightly bonkers invitation to sign a secret pledge as a classic example of a very strange position:

An open letter to all PPCs standing in the 2010 General Election.
We have over the past weeks received a good deal of support for the aims and objectives of the Albion Alliance, and whilst that support has not always turned into a pledge sign up, the feedback from many candidates has been in the affirmative for the Albion Alliance and our attempts to address the democratic deficit by campaigning for a referendum on the UKs relationship with the EU, by appealing to prospective parliamentary candidates directly.
Here at Albion Alliance we are aware that some of you have been threatened by Party Central Office's, and in one case by a local selection committee, that should you publicly agree to sign the Albion Alliance pledge to work for such a referendum, or to campaign against the EU during the election period, then you will be deselected.
Whilst we understand your concerns, we still feel that PPCs should show the courage of their convictions and publicly sign the pledge but also understand that for many supportive PPCs deselection would defeat the object of the exercise.
So how do we counter these duplicitous behind the scene moves by Party Central Offices.
Albion Alliance have decided that we would be willing to run a secret database for those PPCs who wish to sign the pledge, but do not wish this to be made public at this time.
We will hold your pledges until such time as the election nomination process is formally closed, and publish them at that stage, a time we believe that is too late for any party to publicly deselect any candidate, but still gives you, the candidate, time to let your electorate know that you will support their democratic right to be heard on this issue.
If you would like to participate in our Secret Pledge scheme, allowing you to do the right thing by your electorate, please let us know here on, or use the PPC Secret Pledge tick box selector within the Candidate Pledge area on our webpage.
Let your voters know that you are willing to represent them in Parliament rather than being a respresentative of Party or State.

Kindest Regards
James Higham, Ian Parker-Joseph, David Phipps for The Albion Alliance

For the record for those of you still interested enough to have read through this, I have not been leant on by some sinister central office. I personally believe that pooling some sovereignty within the EU increases our strength as a country and that the European Parliament has a vital role to play in reducing any democratic deficit. It is national government that have resisted such a move. In addition, I am generally against referenda as I think they become hijacked by other issues and are often entirely dependent upon the exact wording of the question. If the UK parliament is the mother of all parliaments, as Europaranoids say, then why try to take power off it?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Give Coal the Boot

I have today joined Greenpeace's campaign to give "Coal the Boot" you can see the site of my boot at:

If, like me, you think that this country should be investing a lot more in proven technologies that reduce carbon emissions now rather than supporting large scale investment in so called "clean coal", which will emit many millions of tons of carbon before such technology is proven, then I invite you to sign up too. The Labour MP for Blaydon campaigns for more coal to be dug up as long as its not in Blaydon constituency!

Our constituency has lots of coal underground, much of it extractable by open casting. If, like me, you would prefer it to stay underground then give Coal the Boot!

A1 needs widening not slowing down

I read today of the governments plan to drop the speed limit on the A1 between Birtley and Blaydon Bridge and narrow the lanes to enable them to squeeze another lane in. This region, and especially Blaydon constituency, is having its potential for growth throttled by a lack of investment in our infrastructure. Very little investment in new public transport has been compounded by a lack of vision on key road routes. The A1 just doesn't have enough width as it runs past Blaydon constituency but cutting speeds means that drivers in non peak times will actually take longer to get about. This will reduce any incentive to travel off peak and the scheme will give the government an excuse to stop investment in the A1 for a generation.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Coal polluted water between myself and my opponent

The outgoing Labour MP for Blaydon today argues in the Journal for much more reliance in the UK on coal mining for our energy needs and champions "clean coal" technology to square the circle that wanting to sound both green and pro coal brings.

Politicians are often described as all the same with very little separating them in terms of opinions, so I welcome this prompt to say how I differ from Mr Anderson on one of his most passionately held positions.

Mr Anderson worked in the mining industry as an NUM official at the time of Thatchers government pulling of the rug from under coalfields communities, who from many years had been discouraged from diversifying their economies by the government. I agree that the government of the time behaved in a disgracefully cynical manner. Of course the miners union played into their hands in the way they conducted themselves but the way in which a virtual state of emergency was declared in coalfield areas and miners were persecuted by the state was wrong.

I suppose it is because I was 8 when my opponent was manning the braziers but I have no nostalgia for the coal industry. My grandparents lived in a coal mining community and I remember the heavy smog of coal dust from peoples fires and the high prevalence of Asthma. At the CAB I manage we see many ex miners with very terrible medical legacies of working underground.

I agree that this country needs a more diverse energy supply and needs to reduce its carbon footprint. But coal is very obviously a carbon intensive fuel. Clean coal technology is a yet unproven technology on the industrial scale needed. So why rush into using it when it will cost hundreds of millions of pounds to make it work, with no guarantees? The coal is not going anywhere!

I am passionate about how the government should promote energy efficiency. The cost of investing in clean coal could be spent to enable the government to lag every boiler and insulate every attic in the North East. This would reduce household bills massively and decrease our carbon footprint. It is proven technology and is the cheapest way to reduce carbon. It also helps reduce bills of the poorest communities, a welcome move in Labour increasingly unequal Britain.

Clarity on our MPs position comes at the same time as the company who applied for a massive open cast proposal at SKons Park in the constituency have agreed to pay substantial costs. If coal is to play a larger part, it is obvious that relatively cheap methods of extraction such as open casting will be needed. The local Labour parties objection to the development of open casting has a hollow ring when its married to a desire to see more coal extraction.

Welcome news for Blaydon

I was really pleased to hear the news today that the former Dairy Farmers of Great Britain creamery in Blaydon has been bought out by Medina Dairies, Britain's largest independent dairy group, and the announcement that production will start soon, with 50 jobs initially. This is good news for the economy of Blaydon and hopefully lead to more jobs in the future.
Losing the Dairy Farmers of Great Britain creamery was a blow for local people. Hopefully the plant will prosper under its new owners. I still believe more could have been done by the council and government to save the dairy and its 300 jobs but this is a fresh new start and great news for a local unemployment situation that has been set back by the deepest recession in over 50 years.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Manufacturing needs Labours support not just supportive words

The other day, Blaydons Labour MP commented on the need for support from the government for Manufacturing. He said "Because I have seen for myself just talking to people in Blaydon that things seem to be getting better, but we could so easily lose that growth if we do not act now to offer support to the manufacturing sector."

The North East has been worst hit during this recession. A recession that has hit the UK hardest of western economies because of Labours support for the City over and above sectors such as manufacturing and retail. There is some evidence that things are not getting worse. However, this is the worst recession since 1921 and worse statistically than the 1930s! So stabilisation is nothing to be proud of. So after Labours disinterest in supporting the steel industry in Redcar, surely they will support the innovative plans to push for an electric car manufacturing revolution from Nissan, based in Washington which employs a lot of people in Blaydon constituency?

Mr Ivan Holdac, representative of EU motor manufacturers has been very critical of the UK government for not showing support for zero emissions vehicles outside of the North East. He told the Journal "When I speak to those in the UK Government they often wrongly tell me you do not have a car industry here, that it is all foreign owned and not their’s to support....We often find that in the EU the UK is the one who plays down support for this industry when actually the question that should be asked is ‘What is the UK Government going to do to support the motoring sector?"

So Labour talks warm words but the representatives of manufacturing firms say that they are not supportive. If we are to support Nissan in the North East our MPs, should be pushing for a national, not regional, network of electric car charging points. Actions not words.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

the best of times and the worst of times

My campaign on the doorstep to persuade people to vote for me has been put on ice in the last few days - literally! The terrible weather has bought out the best in many people. People have rallied round and helped out elderly neighbours and dug themselves out of the snow. This cold snap will go on for many more days so please, if you have an elderly neighbour, call on them and check they are OK for supplies etc.

It has also revealed some naivety amongst drivers. I really think the government should consider putting more emphasis in driving tests about how to drive appropriately in winter conditions and how to prepare for winter. I came across a stranded motorist who really was not prepared for the conditions and whose car was in a precarious position on a main road. They were a relatively young driver and could have done with some more help.

Meanwhile at Westminster we have a bizarre attempted plot by two of the more disliked ex Labour cabinet members - Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, to unseat Gordon Brown weeks before the start of the general election. Quite extraordinary.

But you can see why after another infantile display at Prime Ministers question time. The only question is why the Tories aren't moving to unseat Cameron - his display was equally childish. We need to change how parliament operates - there is a need to improve the ability of parliament to hold the state to account. PMQs is not a good advert for this.

The times they are a changin' - but only with peoples help

A new year but the mood is not changing on the doorstep. I have lost count of the number of people who have voted Labour for years who now want nothing to do with their traditional party.
In Blaydon, people are fed up with this failed Prime Minister. They are fed up with a Labour Party that is more interested in fighting itself rather than getting on with the task of sorting out the economic mess. They are fed up to the back teeth with Gordon Brown and his squabbling party. So am I!
People want a government that is putting the country back on the road to recovery and they are simply not getting that from Labour. They don’t believe David Cameron’s shallow, bland promises and they know he can’t deliver for Blaydon. My message to those people is to vote Liberal Democrat in Blaydon. The constituency is my priority and as MP for the area, I will fight hard for a fair deal.
But staying at home rather than voting is a recipe for no change and the same old, failed business-as-usual under Labour. That’s why I am making a special appeal to former Labour voters to vote for a new MP and real change in Blaydon by voting Liberal Democrat. So make two new years resolutions. First make sure you vote in the General Election and second, if you have been loyal to Labour, vote for a change.