Friday, 30 April 2010

6 days and counting!

A busy day in our office, preparing for the election week ahead. Was also great to welcome two extra volunteers to our team. One is a former paper girl for the are she now is delivering leaflets in so knows it really well. It's great to have the support of so many young people. I thinnk many of them feel the excitement about the possibility of changing things that I had when I first started getting interested in politics and now have in spades during this campaign. Good stuff!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Stuffing Debate


A great night out in Blaydon canvassing, met a former regional chair of the Liberal Party who had been waiting for a canvasser to come for a few elections. So glad I chose to knock on that door!

Anyway, after a busy day some of my small team went to Swalwell Social Club for a small debate party. Just an excuse to watch the debate amongst friends. I also got my colleagues to help with some letter stuffing. Never waste a good opportunity!

The debate was a good one and Brown confirmed his stature as the most unconvincing of the three leaders. I had a chat about it with the non aligned punters at the bar. They thought Clegg and Cameron perfomed well but could never vote for Cameron after "what the Tories did to us in the 80's" - I think we may have one or two extra voters!

Gordon - just go

Just seen the footage of Gordon Brown being completely two faced by being nice to a Labour voter to her face and then calling her a bigot when she couldn't hear. Or so he thought!

The man is a disgrace and not fit to be a prime minister. He should recover his dignity and resign now. Labour must be desperate to have a leader so bereft of personality and humanity.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hustings


Tonight was the one and only hustings in the constituency at St Jospehs Centre in Birtley. A good event and thanks must go to the centre for organising it. Met some lovely people but the debate was the usual one to have with the old parties. Both other candidates promised no cuts and of course cling to the myth that efficiency savings will solve all the countries financial problems. A fantasy.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The mid week election awards


Had a busy week today as the postal votes hit peoples door mats.

But a few awards need to be handed out by this blog:

First Lib Dem vote in the bag here - surely from a lovely woman I met in Ryton who had already posted her postal vote and crucially voted Lib Dem in both the local and national elections.

Most repulsive pitch of the day: The BNP who in their leaflet show Nick Griffin with Winston Churchill, the pro European former Liberal who fought right wing extremism.

Most ridiculous claim of the day: The areas outgoing Labour MP, who in a letter to postal voters claims that its between Labour and the Tories round here. A perfect excuse to show the bar chart on this blog, which shows the result last time. With only 8% of the vote the Tories are well behind. Only the Lib Dems can beat Labour here.

Most consistent claim of the campaign: That a vote for me is a vote for either Cameron or Brown. The Tory consistently states that voting for me will prop up Brown, whilst the Labour candidate claims I will prop up the Tories. They both agree on one thing, that you shouldn't vote for me! The same old red/blue club trying to stop real change. Let me be clear - a vote for me is a vote for Liberal Democrat policies and for me. Not for anyone else.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Busy sunday

A very busy day in our office and a great day for people to start helping. We have had a number of small donations from local people. These are great as our campaign is not funded by the Trade Unions or the City of London like the Labour and Conservatives. We also welcomed new volunteers who just walked in to help. All this is a great boost and something I have not seen in such numbers before. The campaign is really picking up. Today our leafletters worked their socks off and I joined in. We got a lot of areas leafletted spreading the message that, in this area, we are the challengers to Labour and that we will bring positive change to this country.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Fun in the sun


A great day out in the lovely weather today. Early doors and it was time to pop into the street surgery in Swalwell, which was being held on Milton Road. The Whickham North team hold regular surgeries like this and we got a good reception, with lots of offers of cups of tea! A few people wanted to talk about the issues at the general election so I was pressed into service. I had a lot of feedback that people saw Nick Clegg (or the "fresh one" as one person put it) and liked what they saw. I also spoke to a few people who had been helped by our excellent councillor team for the area.

Then it was off to our office on Whickham front street for a campaign chat. Then it was down the hill for a bit of leafletting followed by canvassing. Then home and a quick read of the papers. Our policies are getting more attention, which is how it should be.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Radio gaga

Well it was another busy day at Team Bradbury! I was up at 8am to go to Durham market to be involved in a debate on Radio Newcastle. You can probably still catch it on the BBC iplayer. I was debating against the Labour candidate for Newcastle North (again!) and the Conservative hopeful for Durham North. I think it went OK.

Then it was out to Chopwell and Rowlands Gill to deliver leaflets, then back to Blaydon to knock on some doors.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Birtley and the Debate

Out campaigning in Birtley today, got a good response. Then back to our office to try to co-ordinate the increasing number of volunteers coming to our office in Whickham to help out. The challenge is ensuring that we have the right stuff for them to help with at the right place and the right time. Still it is really positive to see the number of people willing to help out.

After it all I went to a friends house in Gateshead to watch the debate on Sky. I think Nick Clegg came across well again and Brown continued to just attack everyone else. It seems after 13 years he has run out of ideas. Cameron performed better but there is something false about him to me. He certainly didn't get any big hits in and just was competent, as opposed to his disastrous showing last time. Interesting article from the pollster Angus Reid predicting the "strange death of Labour England". However, I believe that the Lib Dems will only succeed in winning seats if we give the electorate something positive to vote for, which is why I am working hard to convince local voters. At my friends house was a voter from Ryton, who was a natural Conservative. I hope he was persuaded to vote Lib Dem. The host certainly was and she is a member of the Tory party! She is going to deliver some leaflets for me. She recognises that a vote for the Tories round here is a vote for Gordon Brown.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Carers Matter

Today I was pleased to be invited by the Gateshead Carers Action Forum for a general election hustings. I was joined by the Labour and Conservative hopefulls for Gateshead constituency. It was a really good session. the Conservative candidate stated her opinion that Carers allowance should be doubled and the Labour candidate expressed his desire to remove the problems of accessing respite. But Manifestos are only a guide apparently and there could be no promises in this hard economic time.

Well I (and the Liberal Democrats) beg to differ. We have a fully costed manifesto that makes our guarantee of a weeks respite for intensive carers and for restoring the earnings link of pensions possible. You can get these things if you want them.

I then had a chat with a resident of Wrekenton. She felt like she was at the edge of the constituency and felt she had more in common with Washington and Gateshead. I reassured her that, if elected, I would work hard for all these areas and hold regular surgeries in all the communities in the constituency.

Then it was back to the office and out canvassing. A lot of people out tonight but when I managed to find people they were very nice. People are genuinely thinking about how to vote in this election, which is only a good thing.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Candidature approved and a good response in Axwell Park


Well today a letter arrived in the post from Gateshead Council approving my candidature for Blaydon. I am the Lib Dem candidate alongside the two Labservative representatives and a BNP candidate.

I was out tonight on the Axwell Park estate in Blaydon. good response again, with a lot of people coming round to our message. It is still really close round here so every vote will count.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Change that works for the North East - delivering for Blaydon

This morning went to our office to set up two new enthusiastic volunteers with work for the day. Then over to Kingston Park in Newcastle to help launch our manifesto for the North East, which outlines the policies in our manifesto that can help the North East. a good event and it was good to catch up with the other Lib Dem parliamentary candidates to see how it is going. Well, I think!

Anyway, it was back to reality as I went out with the volunteers to deliver in Blaydon and then in Kibblesworth. A positive reception from the doorstep. My wife was chased down the street by someone wanting to discuss policies! This is great and its really good that people are interested in ideas, that is what it should all be about.

Then back to the office for a meeting to discuss the campaign with my team. We are forging ahead but it was great to have a meeting to work out where we were going to be for each day of the campaign. I have a great team of excellent Lib Dem councillors and campaigners and they are helping me keep calm and focus on delivering our message!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Amid the gloom, hope

Today was a very gloomy day with very overcast weather. We decided to go around the constituency in the morning to reach out to voters less likely to vote. I met an old woman who is not on the electoral register and has not been for ten years for fear that she would be found by people threatening her son. I reassured her that she can ask for her details to be excluded form the public access register. I hope I persuaded her to register and to vote.

It was also another day when I met new people eager to help my campaign to break the mould here in Blaydon. i am really grateful for peoples support and the more the merrier I say. Contact me at neil@blaydonlibdems.org.uk for info on how you can help.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Fiona on the doorstep - vive la difference!


The leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, Fiona Hall MEP, dropped in today to help with canvassing. She got stuck in and helped us get round a number of estates.

I was struck by the number of ex labour supporters who were thinking again and considering backing me after seeing Nick Clegg on the debate show. I am not getting carried away with all the very positive press stories and opinion polls. What is important is that people get out and vote for change!

I had a fascinating discussion with a teacher, who was very disillusioned with the fact that she is teaching very large class sizes that are un streamed, meaning she has to teach too wide a variety of needs. Her trade union had told her that the lib dems would basically remove collective national pay deals. In fact our pupil premium policy guarantees additional money for schools that are failing to get results or are working with hard to engage children, which could mean schools could pay more to staff or reduce class sizes. in addition when I explained our policy to abolish the National Curriculum, she was very happy and will be voting Lib Dem for the first time.

The it was off for an evening meal with my mum and dad to celebrate my dads birthday

Friday, 16 April 2010

A day on the doorsteps - we are making a difference

I spent today knocking on doors and talking to voters. Many people had seen the Leaders debate and everyone seemed to be impressed with what they saw of Nick Clegg and his policies. The Economy is the big concern. A few people mentioned the poor foreign exhange rate and made the link with the astronomical fuel prices we're seeing at the moment.

I believe our policies of getting the banks lending to free up small businesses and our agenda of making tax fairer by raising the personal income tax allowance to £10,000 is going down well now people are starting to think much more seriously about our policies. The pound will only strengthen and the cost of imports go down when we start to get businesses back on their feet and return to being a country that makes things.

However I really got into trouble for giving my wife a delivery round that is very long and has lots of long gravel driveways. We all muck in and help in the Lib Dem team here and I really appreciate Donnas help but I think putting up with me at home plus this round may be the straw that broke the camels back! She has gone out with friends from the NHS tonight so hopefully she will have a good politics free night!

The campaign is going really well but if you are reading this and want to get a fresh start in Blaydon, email me to volunteer your help. There are lots of ways you can lend a hand, just get in touch with me personally at neil@blaydonlibdems.org.uk

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Lakes and the Leaders

I must confess, I didn't catch the Leaders debate live. I was out canvassing till right up to the start of the debate. I stopped then because I thought interrupting the debate might be bad form! I was out with our team on the "Lakes Estate" in Winlaton, estates largely made up of social housing but also many "right to buy" properties. A great response and many residents knew our councillors there personally, a tribute to their hard work. All night I didn't find a single Tory voter which shows the total absence of support in these areas.

I got asked some interesting questions about tax and immigration, which I think satisfied the people asking.

I then got back home and watched the debate, which I had recorded. I am now watching Sky News analyse the leaders every move and analyse opinion polls for each section, which is a bit boring even for me. However, I thought for what its worth, Nick Clegg did very well. I think when you look at our policies on a level playing field they are strong. When people actually start to consider Nick Clegg as a potential leader of this country, people say that (much like they do with Vince Cable as chancellor) they would prefer it.

I am officially a candidate!

Got out early today to get the ten signatures to nominate me as a candidate for Parliament. Then down to Gateshead Civic Centre to get our paperwork checked. It passed then I had to pay £500 for my deposit (I thought I should pay, to reinforce my confidence we will get more than 5%, the threshold for getting it back!) and I was approved!

Labour had returned their nominations and I believe the Tory agent was queuing behind me to get their papers in! I have also heard word that the BNP will be standing. I am a believer in peoples right to say whatever they think but, hopefully, along with the other candidates I will be working hard to counter the hateful lies of the BNP.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Winning in Blaydon

Had another day at work. Currently applying for funding for the CAB I manage from the Legal Services Commission. Very bureaucratic system and quite stressfull and time consuming! Had to be done, you can't just abandon this type of important work, election or no election!

Then out of the office and into a brilliant evening canvassing with our veteran councillors Ione Rippeth and Brenda Osborne as well as my wife Donna coming out to help too. Our campaign is really hotting up with 5 seperate canvasses going on tonight. Met some interesting people and was really pleased to see that our messages coming out of our manifesto launch today are making an impact. You can see our manifesto here. Our fair tax agenda, raising the personal allowance to £10,000 goes down particuarly well and there is strong support for our mansion tax.

I also met two people who had been persuaded to change to Lib Dem after watching Nick Clegg on TV tonight. They asked me about it but of course I was out campaigning!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Vigo and then bed

Went to my work today for the first time in a week or so. Needed to catch up on a few things and then went off to Vigo for a spot of leafletting and door knocking. Good reception. Then home for a bite to eat with my wife and then to bed!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Just another manic monday

A bit of early morning delivery followed by time in the office with our new volunteer office manager Amelia, who quickly got me organsised!

Then out on the doorsteps in Winlaton. A good night with a positive reception. I heard from a pensioner annoyed with tax credits as claiming one pushed him beyod a benefit threshold meanning he had more money deducted from his income than the benefit gained. Then I talked to the owner of a small IT firm who was concerned about the costs being loaded on his business and how he felt Labour had a very anti small business philosphy.

I then talked to parents concerned about the costs of university for their children and told them of the Lib Dems continuing desire to remove tuition fees.

Then I delivered more leaflets to our local leaflet deliverers and came home to tidy the house a bit, which has become a bit of a tip as my wife is very kindly coming out to help me on the campaign trail and I am a one man mess machine!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A busy day


Sunday was a busy day. I started by going to launch the Makers Market in Blackhall Mill. This is a great market for local people making things. There were soaps, perfumes, needlework, table sets, cushions, artwork, jams, jewelery. Basically lots and lots. Really good and I spent £30 very quickly. There is a lot of artistic activity going on in Chopwell and Blackhall Mill, entirely voluntary and not supported by the council. Fiona and Dean, who organised the event and are seen on the left with me and my shopping, have another planed for Sunday 2nd May from 10am. Well worth a trip.

Then I welcomed my parents, who have come out of retirement to help! They are not political but volunteered to come as have virtually all of my family. It is a big support and all I can say is that no one had better mess with my mum who stands for no nonsense!

Then I went delivering with my dad and the team whilst Donna and my mum stayed in the office and sorted out our printing office. Then a lovely pizza in Deanos in Whickham.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Swalwell Surgery and more leaflets

Off this morning to one of the regular street surgeries run by our Whickham councillors, this time in Swalwell. The sun shone and it was a lovely excuse to talk to residents with some issues. Then we headed back to the constituency office, where I bumped into one of my rivals for the MP position, who was wandering about on the front street. It was nice to meet him and I reiterated my desire for a debate in every area of the constituency. Then it was off to Rowlands Gill to deliver some leaflets with our team of helpers for our local election candidate Ray Callender. Got a good proportion of the area done and then popped into the Tesco for a celebratory lolly in the sun! Bumped into Andrew Graham, our councillor for Winlaton and High Spen, who was doing some shopping in between canvassing slots. Then I popped into Flower Designs over the road for a bunch of flowers for my long suffering wife. It really is a lovely shop.

Back home for a lasagne then over to whickham to record a "podcast" with Brenda Osborn, one of our other councillors for Winlaton and High Spen. I do think I have a face for Radio, so this is an ideal opportunity for me! Good to see Nick Clegg in Gateshead for one of his public question and answer sessions. I heard he gave a good account of himself, I wish I wasn't too busy with this campaign or I would have gone to see him.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Fences and benefits in Winlaton, issues in the Spen and then some leaflets

I am suffering from a bad head cold but now is not the time to be ill! I went to Winlaton to help with two casework issues with our excellent councillor Andrew Graham. The first issue was about the fence being constructed around the pitch of WInalton Vulcans Rugby club. There are some concerns that it might block rights of way and I promised to investigate. Then I met a resident with a familiar complaint, that the ob Centre Plus had rejected a claim for Contribution based Jobseekers allowance. This is a very tricky area of benefit law and many who feel they have paid their NI for years do not qualify. There are two issues. First is benefits legislation right? No it isn't. And is the Job Centre Plus right in its assessment? It often is.

Then off to High Spen, where I met community activists and then canvassed some residents. A lovely old lady told e she was switching to us after 70 years of voting Labour.

Then off to deliver more leaflets and then an impromptu meeting with my agent, Noel Rippeth. Then I returned to find a pile of casework emails, which I like to deal with myself. Now off to bed because I have a busy day ahead.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Go North East

I have had a conversation with Peter Huntley, Managing Director of GO North East today. It was a very positive discussion and we got through a few topics of concern for residents in a relatively short space of time.

GO North East has rcently taken over the majority of former Arriva services in the area, namely the 602,604,673, 684, 687, 688, 801, 804 and the x66 (now the X12), the buses on these routes are of a poor standard and are not accessible for disabled people. Peter reassurred me that they are to be replaced this year, eiother by new buses or reallocated buses.

I then asked him about the bus bottlenecks in the area and the Blaydon roundabout was identified as a problem. Peter sees it as a block to quicker bus services (its a block to everything!) in and out of the west of the constiuency. He was hoping that Gateshead council would look at using planning gain money but there has been no progress.

I then asked him about the issue of the teen travel pass. He confirmed that this was a result of Nexus budget cuts, a bit disingenous when they are presenting it as a saving.

Anyway, I would be interested to hear of people bus and other public transport issues. Post below in the comments section.

When 25% off is 25% on!

Had a very interesting email from a resident of Winlaton Mill. His daughter, a student travelling to Newcastle College got a leaflet from Nexus stating that the Teen Travel card is being got rid of and replaced by a 16-19 ticket. It says that this is "a saving of 25% on our standard ticket". That may be true but it represents an increase of 25% on the cost of a 4 weekly ticket when compared to a Teen Travel Ticket. This means an extra £10 a month for a teenager to travel to college, a lot of money and I am concerned this will put people off getting an education.

Our excellent local councillor Brenda Osborne is on the case so watch out Nexus! It's really important that local residents let us know about these things.

The ultimate irony

My Conservative opponent is now attacking the Lib Dems for taking Non Dom money! Well I suppose attack is the best method of defense! According to him we have taken £680,000 over the past 6 years from people not resident in the UK for tax purposes.

I'm afraid it does somewhat pale into comparison with the £6,779,076.33 the Tories have recieved from Lord Ashcroft alone (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/mar/01/lord-ashcroft-non-domicile-donors-conservatives-labour). None of our parties non dom donors have major roles in the parties campaign, unlike Lord Ashcroft, and we have proposed a number of measures to tax non dom residents more heavily, ie the mansion tax (a tax on properties worth more than £2m). No one is perfect but I do think the Liberal Democrats have come out of the whole depressing recent expenses and funding revelations better than either of the Labservative parties

He is very proud that his campaign recieves no support from Conservative Central Office. This is surely because, like anyone who knows Blaydon well, they realise that this is a two horse race between myself and Labour and that voting Conservative only helps Labour stay in power.

He has asked me if I am funded by Non Doms. I will be publishing a full list of donors to my campaign after the election (I haven't stopped taking donations yet!) but I can confirm that my campaign is funded through donations from a combination of local supporters, my own pocket and from one or two friends - all of whom live in the North East.

The size of these donations is not huge but we make them go a long way by having lots of keen activists who pound the pavements delivering leaflets and knocking on doors. The Liberal Democrats do not have the deep pockets of Labour or the Tories as we are not funded by the trade unions or big business. Many see this as a disadvantage but I think it means we have to spend every penny wisely. That means printing much of our own literature ourselves and getting our hands dirty! It keeps you grounded and I think people realise we are passionate about what we are arguing for as a result.

As a local CAB manager, I'm afraid I do not earn the big bucks of my Tory or Labour opponents so probably can't give as much as they do to the campaign but I think people can see if you are working hard even if some of your leaflets are a bit inky!

If elected, I pledge to be Blaydons most transparent MP yet. All my expenses claims, plus copies of reciepts, will be published reguarly on the web when they are submitted and I will publish a link to the electoral commission website showing where our funding comes from to pay for the leaflets you see coming through your door. It's the least the public deserves.

And so it begins

Well the worst kept secret is out of the bag and the general election is on the same day as the local elections on May 6th. After work at the CAB I manage, it was on the campaign trail delivering some of our leaflets to kickstart the local and general election campaigns. A lot more supporters and helpers came out tonight. I then went back to our office to do some printing and then went to various campaigners houses and on my way home popped into my Agent Noel Rippeths house to check in. Noel and Ione (his wife) are great local councillors and also great company. It was 12:45 by the time I got out!

Then home to answer casework. We have had a lot of support for our campaign against congestion in Blaydon and I have had a lot of emails urging me to show support for the BBC and oppose the closure of BBC stations. I am going to read the pledge that has been put forward in detail tomorrow before I take a view on whether I support it.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Saturday ... deliver leaflets!

It's Saturday and as its a day with a vowel in it I decide to join the gang for some Lib Dem leafleting. A good response from people in Blaydon, Birtley and Rowlands Gill (I get about!). Then back to our office to help with the printing of new literature as we scale up for Gordons likely calling of the general election.

Friday, 2 April 2010

A Good Friday for campaigning

I ususally try to take Easter off to enoy the long weekend and catch up with friends and family. But not this weekend as it the general election is so close by and I haven't had a chance to talk to enough residents. So a lot of canvassing preceded from leafletting. I was also really gratefull for all the people who came to help today who I hadn't seen on the campaign trail before. One person even came from Rochdale to help!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The FSB not seen on Spooks

I had a meeting with one of the Federation of Small Business (FSB) north east staff about the needs of local businesses. These can be summed up as:

*Get the banks lending and get casflow to small businesses
*Work on minimising tax increases. Here the FSB want to look for savings and to identify the most important issues, a commendable approach
*Ensure that parking in local centres is free, which chimes with our major campaigns against Gateshead Council charges in a few locations.

All in all a use full meeting and I want to hear from local businesses about issues in the area.