Monday, 31 May 2010

Europe, the CAP and Conservatives

I was flicking through the channels tonight and came across a debate on BBC parliament. It was a debate between MEPs from different countries about the Common Agricultural Policy. It featured a number of European MEP, among them a UK Conservative MEP. Being very interested in Europe and the European Parliament, which I visited as part of my candidature for the European Parliament last year, which saw our excellent Lib Dem MEP Fiona Hall re-elected. Like many, I see the fact that the Tories split off from the centre right grouping in the parliament and joined a rag tag bunch of right wingers to form a new grouping and the antics of populist Conservative MEPs like Daniel Hannan as a sign of negativity towards Europe.

But the Conservative MEP, Richard Ashworth, was full of praise for the Common Agricultural Policy. It was a small price to pay for food supply, apparently and had "an image problem". It was left to the MEPs from France and Denmark to criticise the CAP and the EU for paying the top 20% of richest farmers the vast majority of CAP payments. So I suppose this leaves us with an interesting question on the Conservatives stance on the CAP. Are they for reform, reduction of subsidy and help for smaller farmers or are they happy with the course of the EU in this area at present?

You can catch it here:
and judge for yourself. I suppose it goes to show that the medias line that the Lib Dems are rabidly pro European, the tories implacably Euro sceptic and Labour in between might be a bit simplistic. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

state earnings link to be restored

I was pleased today to see so many Lib Dem policies in the Queens Speech today. In particular I was pleased to see the proposed Pensions and Savings Bill, which among other things proposes to bring about "the restoration of the link between earnings and the basic State Pension". Long overdue and why labour didn't do it for 13 years is beyond me. It is essential that the state pension rises so I welcome this. Too many pensioners I met during the election were living in poverty. I trust Labour MPs will support this.

The full list of bills and actions proposed can be found here:

Monday, 17 May 2010

The New Politics - how can we make it real?

There has been a lot of talk in the media about the New Politics in this country. I personally think the new coalition government has the potential to help us get away from the old tribalism and encourage people to think more and condemn less. It, and the country, will only succeed if we listen more and lecture less. That challenge is there for all parties but is of course very relevant to the Liberal Democrats, as a party that has been preaching Pluralistic politics for many years and now has to work out how to practice it.

We in the Lib Dems also have to work out how to fashion a new way to engage with our supporters and then get enthusiasm for our positive political agenda. I was struck at the election during a hustings how we had gone about 20 minutes into the session without any of the three party candidates talking about policy. The debate was focusing on how the leaders did in the debates and how voting for one of the other parties was a waste of time. In addition of course the other two parties returned frequently to the idea that a vote for the Liberal Democrats was of course a sneaky way of supporting their opponent!

I believe that lie has been disproved. As I have detailed in some of my earlier posts, voting Lib Dem this time has meant that a significant amount of our policies are to be put into practice.

It is clear to me that all the parties are going to have to have a rethink about how to engage with voters. I hope that the day of the negative attack leaflet is on the wain. I think there was some evidence during the campaign that this worked less well than before for all three major parties.

Voters are keen for more personal contact and new activists want to do things differently.

I would welcome people getting in touch with ideas of how politicians can engage positively with their communities. I have some ideas, which I will probably pad out in further posts, but I am aware that I do not have all the answers. Contact me at Neil at

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Birmingham and back

After the stress of the election, I was hoping for a relaxing Sunday. But it was not to be. Earlier this week, the Liberal Democrats decided to call a special conference so members could have their say about the coalition deal. I felt it was important to go as it feels like we are seeing history in British politics being made.

So myself and three members car shared and went to the NEC in Birmingham. We had about 60 delegates speaking to a conference of over 2,000 delegates. Of those three were unhappy with the coalition agreement. We passed a number of amendments to the motion approving the coalition. This reaffirmed or commitment to a number of issues such as reform of the digital economy act and abolishing tuition fees. Reading the papers, it sounds like there is a lot of dissent in the Lib Dems. Out of over 2,000 delegates called to Birmingham, less than 20 voted against it. All the amendments that were meant to be limiting to the leadership were accepted in full.

A good day to be involved in politics and a good day to be a Lib Dem. You won't see similar conferences in the Tory or Labour party. That's because they are not as democratic as us.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Thanks for the thanks

Well tonight was a great night. About 60 of our volunteers and supporters came along to Blaydon Rugby Club to let us say thanks for all the effort they put into the campaign. Cllr John McClury came up with a very good quiz. Lots of money raised and lots of new members signed up.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A great moment for Civil Liberties

I was pleased to see that the coalition has managed to agree on a package totally getting rid of Labours nasty 13 year assault on our freedoms

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion. A freedom bill to repeal ID cards, and stop the horrible excesses of power under Labour. Hopefully no longer will a peaceful protester be arrested for reading out a list of our war dead.

Our agreement says that we will implement:
  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.

  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.

  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.

  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.

  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.

  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.

  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.

  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.

  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

  • Further regulation of CCTV.

  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.

  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
Part of why I am a Liberal Democrat as opposed to a Tory or a Labourite is that I believe not in an authoritarian state that knows best. It seems that the Tories have agreed with this agenda. That is good news. Will Labour agree to not reintroduce the database state if re-elected? It would be good to get a cross party consensus agreeing the previous government went wrong here.

The brilliant Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberty charity Liberty said of the coalition agenda,
“We welcome the way that the new coalition has bound itself together with civil liberties. It is Liberty’s job to hold it to its word. We celebrate the end of ID cards."

Green Business support praised by Monbiot

A good post by my friend and fellow Liberal Democrat Gareth Kane, who is a Green business expert.

Does blue + yellow=green business?

In it he references the positive news for green business support.

Respected environmentalist George Monbiot is surprised with the greenness of the coalition agenda:

"So it's better than I had expected. The agreement's environmental policies are more Lib Dem than Conservative, and more progressive than most of the other proposals in the document."

Like me he thinks there "is too much coal in the coalition" but I suppose Blaydons own King Coal (the Labour MP!) may approve if he wasn't so Tribal!

Cables agenda for banking reform

Great news reading the coalition agreements on banking reform:

The parties agree that reform to the banking system is essential to avoid a repeat of Labour’s financial crisis, to promote a competitive economy, to sustain the recovery and to protect and sustain jobs. We agree that a banking levy will be introduced...We agree to bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector; in developing these proposals, we will ensure they are effective in reducing risk.
We agree to bring forward detailed proposals to foster diversity, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.

So a levy on the banks to help pay for the mess Labour allowed, a crackdown on the banking bonus culture and in particular a move to promote mutuals. I wonder why Labour couldn't do this already?

I banged on during the campaign on how we needed to get credit flowing to Small businesses. The coalition agreement thankfully talks about this too:

We agree that ensuring the flow of credit to viable SMEs is essential for supporting growth and should be a core priority for a new government, and we will work together to develop effective proposals to do so. This will include consideration of both a major loan guarantee scheme and the use of net lending targets for the nationalised banks.

So not just words, the presence of net lending targets and loan guarantees is a very welcome detail. Vince Cable, the new Business secretary, will do a much better job than the lord of darkness, Peter Mandelson, did on this. It will be a revelation for the Business department to have someone who actually is trained in economics running the department!

NHS to get funding increase

I was pleased to see in the coalition agreement the following section:

The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament

Although the Lib Dems argued that nowhere should be off limits, I think this is a good guarantee which will reassure people worried by Labour lies that the new coalition will slash and burn in the NHS. It means NHS staff can plan for the future and that NHS settlements will go up above inflation even during the hard times the government is facing. This is a good thing, as I know from my previous experience as a NHS non-exec board member that rising costs in the NHS for things such as innovative treatments often put pressure on budgets.

Good news.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Vote Brown, get Cameron

During the election both my Tory and Labour counterparts were sure of one thing - a vote for me was a vote for the other party! My conservative opponent kept inviting me to sign his silly pledge, which invited me to "never ever vote in parliament to support a continuation of Gordon Brown and Labour in Government" (presumably he wouldn't have voted with the Conservative whip in previous parliaments to support Labour then!). My Labour opponent put out charming postcards saying "A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Cameron"

Now the silly season is over we have seen a change. My natural instinct, as a northerner with a memory of the Tories decimation of Northern industry, would have been reluctantly to work with Labour. However, it is quite clear that Labour have intentionally set out to wreck any coalition talks whilst pretending they want them. Yet again Labour are putting tribal instincts above the national instincts. Two examples of this were an absolute refusal to talk to the other minor parties who would have been essential if Labour wanted to keep in power and the way in which many senior Labour politicians were briefing against a Labour - Lib Dem coalition.

They desperately want to get back into opposition so they can label whatever government takes over and has to clear up their mess as being a vicious pro cuts party. So when your Labour candidate comes round with the usual rubbish at the next election, remember if you voted Labour you voted for a Tory government. I trust that our negotiating team will push for a fairer tax system, civil liberties improvements and political reform. That would be more than Labour gave the people for 13 years.

Thank You

Please come to our Thank You Party at Blaydon Rugby Club this Saturday. There will be lots of helpers and members from across Gateshead who gave so much to the campaign. Cllr John McClury is promising a witty quiz - so this is worth coming for itself. All welcome.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Thank you

Well it didn't happen. We failed to win Blaydon constituency. To the 13,180 people who voted for me, thank you. Congratulations to my friend Ian Swales for winning Redcar from Labour with a sensational swing. As I said in my speech, the people round here have been very warm to me and we in the Liberal Democrats will continue to speak up for our vision for Britain and Blaydon.

If you believe that Blaydon needs a change, ironically now is the time to get involved. If we are to get our message across we need more activists and support.

Right off to bed now! I am off to show some solidarity with our Local candidates tomorrow and go to the local count. A great team that deserve my support.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Please vote

If you are reading this and haven't voted please do so. This election is on a knife edge and its between myself and Gordon Brown's man. I hope you will consider voting for real change and a country you can be proud of.

We've been going round the constituency getting the vote out and getting a great response. I'm sorry if I haven't been able to call on you in this election but I hope to do so very soon!

Vote for change

Today I am out of interesting things to say - please get out today and vote for change in Blaydon. I will not let you down and be a hard working MP for this area. We can do it!

The final countdown

Well an amazingly busy last day getting the last minute message across. I saw that Labour sent out a national mailing warning people that voting for me would mean they would get Cameron. Rubbish. There is no risk of the Tories winning here. It is a straight fight between me and Labour. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for a high turnout. If you want a fairer society and real change, vote Lib Dem today. Polls close at 10pm!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Campaign Ahead of Schedule

I never thought I would hear these words! But thanks to all the help I'm receiving we finished our work today ahead of schedule. So we are fitting in additional work. Great support from the team and people are coming out to help us in large numbers.

A nasty and rather desperate Labour leaflet surfaced today, saying vote Lib Dem get Cameron. Let me be clear. A vote for the Lib Dems is just that. And with the Labour party in third place, it is them who need to answer who they would support. We are a positive party and the idea of us supporting Cameron and Osborne is hard to imagine. The Labour candidate has appeared to agree with my Conservative opponent a lot recently, there really is no difference between the two of them.

After campaigning I went for a meal in Nishas in Swalwell and then for a pint in the Sun at Swallwell. Both lovely!

School Debate

Was in Lord Lawson school this morning for a debate with the other two candidates. It was with sixth formers and was good fun. My Labour and Conservative opponents made it clear they opposed electoral reform. The Tory even went so far as to say the number of MPs should not be related to the number of votes! All he wanted was strong government. Government is not strong if it does not listen to the wishes of the people. All in all more of the same from the Labservatives. I wished the Lib Dem candidate in the mock election race the best of luck. The Tory candidate told me he wasn't a Tory but they couldn't find one who would admit it in the sixth form!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Positive Press from Tory Supporting Newspaper

A friend of mine drew attention to a big spread in the Tory supporting Sunday Times. It is about the new election battleground created by the debates and the growing popularity of Liberal Democrats. It highlights Blaydon as a "key marginal" where the Liberal Democrats are a "serious threat"

It states that Blaydon is "the best chance of a gain in the Tyneside conurbation" and this [seat] could fall"

encouraging stuff but its votes in the box that count. The campaign is going well but it is really important that people get out and vote to make it happen. People with postal votes not yet completed should probably now take them along to a polling station. Also yesterday, I was asked if you can vote without a polling card. You can, all you need to do is turn up at the polling station and tell them who you are, subject to a quick check for irregularities.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

BNP - the correct response

Had a great morning today at the second makers market in Blackhall Mill. It was great event with a much bigger turnout of both stalls and people, which is great. I spoke to a lovely lady who runs a ferret refuge from her home in Chopwell. She tells me the Ferrets are very well behaved and are very well house trained but when the BNP leaflet came through their door all of them chose that moment to have a call of nature on the door mat. Anti Fascist Ferrets. I approve!

More foot leather worn

Another day out and about delivering leaflets and talking to people. I know some people think they get too many leaflets at the election and I have some sympathy but I get just as much feedback from people who don't think they get much through their door from the politicians.

A good response and three more people volunteered to help today, which is just as well considering all the work we have to do before Thursday!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

5 Days to go - Lib Dems live long and prosper!

Today has been a busy day, mainly in the office returning calls to voters who have got in touch with me over the past week. Its great to talk to ordinary people and find out whats bothering them. I wasn't even tempted to call them bigots! I think some Labour voters who are considering switching are concerned with Labour lies that we are about to strip ordinary working people of tax credits. This isn't the case and I was able to reassure them on this front.

This election is hotting up with national mailings hitting the doormats from both ourselves and the Labour candidates. They seem to think the endorsements of celebrities is a good thing to go on about. Personally, I have a lot of respect for Patrick Stewart as an actor, for example, but the views of someone who is mega rich and spends most of their time in the US are not who I am interested in when it comes to politics!