Saturday, 31 October 2009

A tale of two Saturdays

Its a beautiful morning in rural Northumberland - crisp and clear - and the autumn changing of the leaves makes it even better. Off to Great Whittington, where the Angus family have thrown open their home to the village / locals for coffee, and a chance to meet and grill me. These events have been very successful and we do roughly one a fortnight throughout the constituency: given that the patch is over 1,100 square miles there are plenty of villages to cover!

However, the mind cannot forget that next weekend 30+ of us are going to Glasgow North East to give Ruth Davidson a hand in the battle for Michael Martin's old seat. The area is one of the most deprived in the UK,with some of the worst poverty rates and health problems. For those who think everything is rosy in the state of the UK in 2009, they should see what we will see next weekend.
We are taking 10 or so keen as mustard students - I am not sure who should be more scared - NE Glasgow or the students...
For full details of the by election, and why a Labour loss would be the mother of all disasters see The Times.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Battlesteads Inn - Wark Supper Club

To Wark for an amazing evening organised by Olive Archer and the Womens Committee - 50 came on an evening that was sold out weeks ago; a great night ensued as we were fed and watered well. The pub is going from strength to strength [find them in Sawdays] and Olive had organised a singer and two amazing local musicians to serenaded us through the evening with everything from Daniel O'Donnell to local songs and war time numbers - all accompanied by the two gents who played an accordian and harmonica.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Fentimans of Hexham take on the state of Maine ... in the battle of Lemonade

Fentimans make great soft drinks.
I say this as a customer, but also because they are based in Hexham, because I have been round the Hexham premises and because I know some of the team there.
But apparently the USA State of Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse disagree. The puritan state has objected to the 0.5 percent of alcohol in the lemonade - even though it complies with legal laws for soft drinks and has less alcohol than mouthwash!
For the full story see the Courant.

Thus far these is no boycotting of Maine produce locally, but sales of Fentimans have gone through the roof, I am pleased to say.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Horse racing brings all members of the House of Commons together

To the House of Commons for the all party racing group as the guest of Hexham Racecourse. The meeting was to support the racing industry, which is going through difficult times. What was great was both the all-party representation, and the number of racing people who had made the trip to London. Met and talked to Ronnie Campbell, MP for Blyth Valley, and Jeff Ennis MP for Barnsley East - who chairs the all party racing group. Jeff is a mad keen racing man and told great tales of when he was his dad's chalk boy in the late 1950's when his dad ran an illegal bookies next to Grimethorpe pit. He is a good man and doing great things for the Injured Jockeys Fund - a cause very dear to all of us jockeys' hearts
Also had a good chat to Nic Coward who runs the BHA and Clare Balding of the BBC.

Monday, 26 October 2009

How bad is our debt situation? We are heading for the Austerity Alps now...

How to describe this in one phrase that all will understand....

Try this: The Government's plan for reducing the deficit over the next four years will merely bring the national overdraft down to the level it reached in 1976, when Denis Healey had to beg a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

In September 1976 there was the humiliation of Healey's dash from Heathrow and the application to the IMF for a £2.3 billion rescue – at that time, the biggest-ever call on its resources, so large that it had to borrow the money elsewhere to lend it to us....of course back then £2.3 billion was a lot of money

Put simply we aren't even in the foothills of the austerity Alps we have to climb: we need to go further, faster. This applies to all political parties; I am pleased that we are at least leading the way in addressing the problem, but we need to do more to identify what we are going to do, as this is a problem that will not go away.

Friday, 23 October 2009

November 7th Dilemma - Glasgow not Pro Bono!

Am delighted to have been nominated for the Barristers Pro Bono Award for 2009; this is my third nomination and I was lucky enough to win in 2007 - it recognises volontary work for free by lawyers in the community.

However, this year I am nominated as part of the team that helped open justice up to individuals by developing Proctective Costs Orders and specifically for the campaign to prevent closure of hospital units.

My problem is that if I win I will be on the tough streets of East Glasgow fighting the by election, not at the ceremony! But Scotland it is - and a brave band of candidates, Conservative Future students and local councillors are to give the Scottish Conservatives a hand in the battle for Michael Martin's old seat

There is still space on the bus [although over 20 have confirmed] if anyone wants to come - just get in contact with me or Barbara in the office.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Flood Defence Plan Update

Recently attended the multiple local agencies briefing on the revised flood plan for Northumberland
All details are available on the NCC website.

If you are worried about your area I urge you to get involved and see the hard work the team are doing on our behalf to minimise the effects of local flooding

The consultation period runs until early November and the team are doing a great job; however, they accept they are not perfect and have asked for local input to make the flood plan and defences better; as we all know this affects all of us - not just the obvious target areas for flooding. There is much to consider - particularly for locals in Ponteland, Hexham and get involved and make a contribution.

Success for Hexham Road Safety Campaigners

Great news for John and Alison the campaigners for Allendale Road!
After a massive effort they have got a speed camera and a 20 mph zone to help road safety in the area around the school...this has been a massive campaign with thousands of signatures. I am delighted to have helped them in a very small way. Also very interesting that we were able to work locally with the liberals - the original presentation was with the local councillor Derek Kennedy in the village hall in Stamfordham.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Surveying Northumberland

The Hexham campaign team as seen recently out delivering surveys in east Hexham
We have been carrying out a lot of surveys and have been delivering them over the last month - in hexham, ponteland, corbridge, prudhoe and many of the other smaller towns and villages - 5,000 have been distributed at no cost to the taxpayer [and it is available online]
The whole idea is actually to ask people what they want their money spent these very straightened times ...with a lot of debt on the way

All explained and covered in The Journal recently.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Stamfordham Get Together

We have been spending lots of time in Stamfordham - at the western area committee, leafletting and surveying the area and then last night at the Jacksons for a party, when they kindly threw their home open to friends and neighbours.
Was extensively grilled but the striking thing was this: people are so passionate about his election. They really want to get involved, help and generally take on this government

Whittonstall open cast mine

Once again there is the prospect of another huge open cast mine in the constituency; this time it is between Stocksfield and Whittonstall. I have met the one of the locals / lead protesters yesterday and got more of an understanding of the scale of the problem both from him and the visit I did on thursday. This is a decision ultimately for Northumberland Unitary Council, which is run by the liberals
The papers have reported it in full.

The village is beautiful with a school one side of the road and a pub on the other - I could not make the public meeting last week but the villagers clearly do not want a mine on their doorstep - with everything that it involves.

The Halton Lea Gate open cast mine [see earlier posts in the winter of 2008 and spring 2009] will be up for a decision this winter ... which should give us an understanding of what the liberal council's view is of this sort of issue - as they now have two such applications to deal with in short succession.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Michael Bates comes to Hexham

A great evening last night as our fourth supper club saw a large group come together for dinner at The Tyne Green Golf Club in Hexham: Lord Michael Bates was the speaker: Michael is the former MP for Langbaugh, is now on the local government team in the Lords and is famous for his recent walk from Lindisfarne to Durham this summer to raise £14,000 for Tomorrows People North East.

He told great tales of the 1991 by election when aged 29 he fought Langbaugh [with a young William Hague as his minder] in the last days of the Thatcher / major government, and then spoke really well as to the changes a new Conservative Administration is going to bring in both nationally and locally; he attempted to describe the madness of the present system - and gave a description of the Labour government plans to scrap the Learning Skills Council ...but replace it with 15 different quangoes in its place.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Radical Days in Manchester

So how radical is David Cameron and the modern Conservative Party?
On the basis of what I have seen in the last 4 days ...VERY.

The interesting bits in Manchester were the issues that are now taking centre stage:
- welfare reform based on the centre for social justice report by Ian Duncan Smith
- schools reform can transform parent choice - Michael Gove will clearly be given free rein to change secondary education
- prison reform - I was at the CSJ Prison reform fringe meeting and the number of interested groups desperate for change to the shoddy prison systen that does so little to rehabilitate was amazing
- and economic change - we have gone some way in Osbornes speech but need to go further because the debt is off the scale

You can tell that the mood is shifting. As Labour collapses there is a window for us to jump through - but we need to be radical.
The public debate is turning. People are really begining to realise just how bad a situation of debt and difficulty we are in.

We are in for a very interesting next 12 months.