Thursday, 31 December 2009

Hexham Highlights of 2009

It is traditional to do a highlights of the year package so here goes - I admit this is purely personal:

Hexham Political Highlight: Helping local heroes John Rourke and Alison Hands bring the Hexham road safety campaign to fruition
Hexham Sports Highlight: winning the local point to point as a jockey at Corbridge on Lowlander on March 1st
Hexham Best Food award: although the French restuarant won on Gordon Ramsays programme this autumn my best local meal was at the Pheasant in Kielder
Hexham Best cafe award: easily won by the Italian Cafe = La Piccola at 22 Front Street, my regular Prudhoe lifesaver
Best Small Northumberland Village Show: Kirkwhelpington - which had the best tea by far!
Political Highlight in the North East: Linda Arkley winning the North Tyneside Mayoralty
Political Highlight worldwide: the election of Barack Obama
My Hexham Hairiest Moment: being chased by a very large dog whilst canvassing in Prudhoe during the Euro election!
Funniest moment on the campaign trail: being mistaken in Ponteland for the new Newcastle Airport air traffic controller - a man I now clearly have to meet!
Most Moving Moment: Rememberance Day service both in and outside Hexham Abbey in November.
Best non political Moment: being there on August 23rd at the Oval on the last day of the fifth test when we won the Ashes.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Green Alliance

I am delighted to have been asked by the Green Alliance to meet with them to attend their Leadership Programme on Climate Change on January 14th - it is a special event organised for would be MP's on Climate and the Environment.
The climate is changing, fossil fuels are a finite resource and we need to be thriftier with our energy, our planet and our childrens future.
There may be doubters but as I put it at the Hexham Debate recently - if 9 out of 10 people tell you your house is on fire do you leave your family inside or sort it out? This seems to me to be way to approach people in climate change denial

As one great leader once said:
“No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy — with full repairing lease”.
Who said it? It will suprise you but it was Margaret Thatcher...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Peter Jackson sets out the reality of the Northumberland CC Mismanagement

A good letter from Peter Jackson in the Christmas Eve Courant that sets out the problems we face: the present Liberal adminstration are just not performing: this is not our words but the independent Audit Commission

Big decisions lie ahead but Peter's letter puts it best when he says:
"Direction, decision making and financial management have all been sorely lacking over the last two years. I can only hope that, for the good of the county, the radical reforms proposed in the Conservatives’ alternative budget will be accepted and essential services will be protected."

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Latest Economic Figures and even the Guardian is against Gordon

Todays figures make sobering reading: see below for the full story in the Guardian but the short point is that we are getting more and more heavily into a debt we cannot sustain: even the Guardian admits that -
A leading ratings agency has warned Britain to get a tighter grip on its record budget deficit and figures revealed that the slump of the past 18 months was now officially the deepest since the second world war.
Fitch said that the UK needed to "articulate more credible and stronger fiscal consolidation during the course of 2010 to underpin confidence in the sustainability of public finances".
Failure to do so, the ratings agency added, would greatly increase the chances of a debt downgrade, which would increase the cost of servicing the national debt.
Confirmation that the UK is the only G20 nation still in recession sent the pound tumbling to a two-month low against the US dollar, with sterling dipping below the $1.60 level after the ONS announcement.
Officials said they now estimated that the economy contracted by 0.2% in the third quarter following a drop of 0.7% in the three months to June. The ONS said that new data showed that the UK had performed worse earlier in the recession than originally believed, leaving the economy 5.1% smaller at the end of the third quarter of 2009 than it had been a year earlier.

Putting it bluntly we have to live within our means - we just aren't at the moment.

Climate change debate in hexham

Can you be passionate about the environment and climate change and be a Conservative? I think you can.
In hexham there are big changes in our approach to Climate Change: I was lucky enough to meet with pupils at the Queen Elizabeth High School who are passionate about changing their local environment. I went to a meeting in West Hexham with local environmentalists / Greenpeace representatives, all of whom had attended the climate change rally in early december in london. All were passionate and convincing and we had a great discussion as to what we could do locally, in our area and nationally.
We agreed to keep meeting as the months go on but the most interesting thing was the efforts the pupils are making to change things locally. It is those who will have to deal with the problems of climate change who are more passionate about it, I have found.

In the context of the failures in Copenhagen to reach meaningful accords it is clear that if individuals have the choice they will normally try and live their life in an environmentally aware way; we just need to harness the power of these individuals. In these Hexham pupils we have the makings of leaders for sure.

Monday, 21 December 2009

How we will prepare the electoral choices in 2010

All politicians will spend too much of their winter holidays preparing how they will put their case to the public come the election; I know I will; after the turkey is eaten and the diet has started I will be sitting down and trying to set out the issues I want to fight the campaign on.
Even in a recession it is possible, as the Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci put it, to be “a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will”. Despite the economic backdrop, the next election will be won by the party that presents a convincing case for a better future rather than one that boasts about its achievements in the past. As one child said to me on a recent school visit "the past is so old!" He might have had a point - albeit he framed it in a interesting way - mind you he was 11.
Whether it is on climate change, Afghanistan, the economy, schools or hospitals every party must articulate its case for the future. And we must do that locally as well as nationally. There are equally important choices locally that will be influencing how people appraise the parties - particularly in our patch where the local council and the local economy are struggling as they are.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

ID Cards - even the minister forgets her ID card

So ID Cards are not dead after all ...just resting in Liverpool. Or not as the case may be - I attach the following memorable clip from the hapless minister for ID Cards, as reported elsewhere...
Where Are Your Papers?

In a gaffe worthy of Nicola Murray and the DoSaC team from the The Thick of It, the stasi-esque titled Identity Minister, Meg Hillier, turned up to an ID card unveiling in Liverpool without her ID card. As the Liverpool Post reports:
The former journalist and mother patted herself down and checked her handbag for the missing card before putting the slip-up down to the demands of looking after her baby. She then posed in front of the city’s landmark Liver Buildings alongside the vast River Mersey without her card.
What a fantastic advertisement for those simple and effective cards that make life and travel so much easier. Hillier was there to encourage residents of the North West to take up the scheme but in one cock-up has summed up just how pointless it is.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Riding Mill Village Hall + Get Together

Have spent much of last week in Riding Mill: on Thursday I was invited to meet around 50 of the villagers who grilled me for in excess of 2 hours on all subjects from the economy, to local health and care provision. It was a good evening, with lots of the locals keen to get involved in the forthcoming campaign .Then on Saturday we were invited to the opening of the new Village Hall - which has been built largely by Eric, the local master builder, and his son Ben. The quality of the build is amazing and the sense of community as villagers walked around the new facility on Saturday morning was wonderful to see. Eric insited on showing us around - and explaining the porcelain floor and giving us the tour of the bathrooms - of which he is inordinately proud! It is true to say that few hotels have bathrooms / toilets as glamorous or well made as these!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Manors in Prudhoe

Outside the Manors in Prudhoe with key Milecastle board members including Anne Moyle, and Edward Heslop, after being shown round the amazing new Manors facility.
I was lucky enough to go around the Milecastle flagship building the Manors today. It is a brilliant new facility and a great asset for the people of Prudhoe.
The work that they are doing to provide residential and day care facilities is second to none.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Haltwhistle - visiting Tynedale Grange

With Ida Davison [the former warden] and Doreen Harrison at Tynedale Grange, Haltwhistle; was lucky enough to be invited to the Grange for a get together, and some of Ida's amazing cakes. The Grange is full of wonderful people and we had a spirited 20 minute question and answer session at the end. Ian Hutchinson the local councillor came along too.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Tynedale FM Relaunch

Hilary and Mike receive You Tube training from the master...
Regular readers will know how much we are trying to do to help Tynedale FM relaunch; they are continuing their education series at the moment and I spent a fascinating hour with them learning the do and don'ts to the creation of you tube material. I still find it odd that they broadcast from inside the old swimming pool!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Ponteland Catholic Church Meeting

Spent the afternoon as the guest of Father Melia, who is a legend in Ponteland, and around 25 parishioners of his church being grilled generally on all issues catholic and otherwise and discussing all aspects of faith. I am an anglican but am making a real effort to speak to all the different faiths in the lead up to the election.
It was a really interesting 2 hour session and further evidence of the great sense of community that exists in Ponteland

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Hexham debate and Heddon canvassing

Spent the morning doing the Hexham Debate at QE school with the other candidates and then went over to Heddon in the afternoon to continue the extensive Heddon canvass that we are engaged in.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Success in Halton Lea Gate Battle

Over a year ago the team, led by Local Councillors and Residents, started their campaign to stop the open cast mine in Halton Lea Gate. We all looked a lot younger when this was taken!
But on Tuesday night the Northumberland Councillors voted to reject the plan for open cast mining so close the back door of these peoples homes. Both Paul Kelly and Ian Hutchinson gave excellent speeches but the best of the lot was by Nick Kennon - who spoke boldly and with quiet passion. It has been a pleasure to get to him and Jeremy the local resident who has led the fight so well.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hexham Schools and abandoning fear

At the entrance to Hexham Middle School is a large sign that says:
"Abandon fear of failure all who enter here" an invitation to learning and life what could be more apposite - it was put up by the Headteacher and is the schools mantra

This double visit to the Hexham Middle School and Queen Elizabeth Upper School was a great experience, and I learnt a lot from the two very capable and knowledgeable head teachers; spent 4 hours on both sites;

Freeman Hospital

Was lucky enough to meet, talk and then be given the tour of the Freeman Hospital by the Chairman Sir Len Fenwick; a very interesting hospital - featured notably in the news recently with the opening of their Sir Bobby Robson cancer facility. It is wonderful hospital on a number of levels and a credit to the region.