Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Rural Conference - Climate Change

To Close House just outside Heddon for the Rural Conference. Had a good chat with Ian Brown of One North East, who was chairing the day. The Climate Change presentation impressed a lot - much discussion of the water shortages that face us in the future. The Climate Change lecturer reminded us of the great trusim that - "In the past we have fought wars over oil ...in the next 100 years we will fight wars over water"

Dismayed to read a poll that says that people are less concerned than in yesteryear about the environment / climate change.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Slaley Auction

The great thing about this job is the people you meet. I have been lucky enough to get to know Albert who runs an amazing charity auction that is known locally as "Albert's Auction". It raises money for the Parkinsons Disease Society. Albert is retired having worked many years for the National Park. But his passion is antiques of every variety. Down the years Albert has raised thousands of pounds by collecting and then auctioning off donations from antique chests to linen to a wheelbarow of garden gnomes.
This year was the last ever auction and the village hall in Slaley was packed. I arrived late after an event in Haydon Bridge to find the auction in full swing and the professional auctioneer in fine voice. My favourite of his sayings was when he waxed lyrical about a picture, before adding that "this would cover a big hole in the wall!"
More importantly there was an amazing sense of community, that needed to be seen and felt to be understood. Slaley is a village on the edge of Hexham Shire but the village Community and the Hall itself is more active than a town 10 times its size. A great afternoon.

Friday, 24 April 2009

A day in Newton + Ovington

Spent the day in Newton with former Councillor Fiona Hunter, who really knows her patch, and is another of the Tynedale Councillors who will be sorely missed. We were out and about in the village of Newton and the surrounding area all morning and popped in briefly to Mowden Hall ... To all of our surprise we were asked to stay for lunch with the kids. The children were amazingly well behaved, and clearly very happy. Asked the kids on my table who were the best teachers and one replied with a mischievous grin - "the gap year students, as they let us get away with more!" It is a wonderful school.
In the afternoon we were on the campaign trail in Ovington - am coming back to campaign here on June 3rd during the Euro election and wanted to spend time there beforehand.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Budget Blues

It does not matter whether you are rich or poor, black or white, Christian or Muslim, Tory or Labour ...sadly it is patently clear we are heading for the deepest recession since the 1930's. The level of government borrowing needs to be seen to be believed. I know I am not the only one who believes we cannot spend our way out of recession but the government seems fixated on spending at all costs. At some stage we will have to pay for this - and the problem will be our children's and our grandchildrens.
How we got here matters less, right now, than how we proceed. The growth forecasts are fanciful [compare the government to the CBI] and future borrowing is extreme.
Long difficult days lie ahead

Friday, 17 April 2009

Acomb canvassing

Out on the campaign trail with Councillor Terry Robson in Acomb; Terry is the new mayor of Hexham, a very busy councillor, and well known in Acomb. We leafletted for 3 hours, chatting to people as we went, admiring the spring's effect on the gardens, which are late this year. Good response on the doorstep.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Easter in Northumberland

A day hiking the Pennine Way around Bellingham - suitably fortified by the amazing home made food from the Bellingham Bakery.

Old sages say that you know that spring is here when you hear the sound of curlews in the air; out on Wark common the curlews filled the air with their telltale high pitched call...Westminster sometimes seems a million miles away but the bizarre thing was that in the pub last night they were still talking about Jacqui Smith and Damian MacBride

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Hexham Canvassing

Out again tonight knocking on doors in West Hexham with the lads from Ponteland and Councillor Paul Dixon. A good response as we worked our way through the Liberal heartland. Stopped off for a pint in the pub in Stamfordham on the way home.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Grand National Days

As a child I was always fixated by the Grand National - having been brought up on tales of my dad riding in it in the mid 1960's.
I am fond of a punt and I have been tipping the horse "State of Play" all week each way.
However, the pressure was on this morning when I was asked to
a). give the speech at the European Womens Coffee Morning in Corbridge, and
b). give my tip for todays race
One of our most famous members Olive immediately announced she was putting the money down that morning.
Hoping State of Play was feeling well I drove south down into the beautiful Allen Valley - it is a raw, sharp beauty down there - full of the biggest skies and the strongest winds - but everyone who lives there loves it. There is a wonderful sense of community. We had an amazing constituency lunch in Allendale, with enough food to feed the 8th Army and a great collectionof people to talk to. Unlike previous Allendale events I was glad not to be asked to make a speech - not least as I did not want the pressure of another tip.

At 4.15 I knew my fate: State of Play led at the second last but faded into fourth - but close enough for the each way punters to recover their stake and make a small profit. Still wished I was riding in it. Maybe one day ...

Friday, 3 April 2009

Hexham Annual General Meeting

Annual General Meetings are a good barometer of the state an association is in: tonight's meeting in the Beaumont Hotel was well attended by a broad cross section of the community, from Bellingham to Ponteland, featuring young and not so young - from all walks of life. The great thing about this association is the way it is so united.

After the formal business of the election of the officers and the Chairmans report the head of the Unitary Council Conservative Group, Peter Jackson, gave an update on what the Councillors are doing in the brave new world of Unitary. Putting it simply they are making the best of a bad job. Then Peter Atkinson MP gave a speech outlining the view from Westminster and the efforts David Cameron and the team are making to combat Brown and the slow slide into a ever bigger morass of debt. He also explained with relish how he was looking forward to taking me on the Summer Tour - with all the trips up byways and dead ends that it so wonderfully features!
After that it was my turn to explain what we are doing locally, the campaigns we are running in West Prudhoe, Hexham, Ponteland and Corbridge, the extensive details of our 3 1/2 week plan for the Euro Election campaign and the increased activity in the association - with supper clubs, a new conservative future, and a sense of optimism and going forward.

James McCardle had found a wonderful quote from the minutes of the 1950 address by the then new prospective parliamentary candidate Rupert Spier, which described how upon standing he was received with "rapturous applause and acclamation". I told this story and indicated that I accepted that times had changed and that I did not expect such a reception...

After the formal business we all went to the bar and put the world to rights ... a good evening all round

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

April fool? Sadly no - its a Unitary Council..

It is surely fitting that the new Unitary Council is launched on April fools day.
Barely a few years ago after a vigorous campaign the present plan was roundly opposed - ignoring the people's vote the Government pressed ahead.

The biggest tragedy is the loss of Tynedale and Castle Morpeth District Council. This was well run, in credit and had excellent councillors of all political hues; they will be sorely missed. There was evidently great sadness at the demise of Tynedale, and a huge loss of jobs. Its loss is clearly a tragedy.